The Seahawks’ turnaround was nothing short of shocking Sunday afternoon.
Seattle can only hope that’s a sign of things to come under Pete Carroll.
In his first game as Seattle’s head coach, the Seahawks chased away the memories of last season’s death spiral with a stirring 31-6 victory against a San Francisco 49ers’ team many considered the division favorite in the NFC West.
No one could have seen this one coming. Not with the way the Seahawks started. Seattle didn’t gain so much as a single first down for the first 24 minutes, looking every bit as hapless as the team that went 9-23 over the previous two seasons.
The Seahawks trailed 6-0 before they scored 28 points in an 8-minute span, an avalanche that began toward the end of the first half and continued in the second half.
Four touchdowns, two interceptions and a brand new beginning for a franchise that changed just about everything this offseason, maybe even the fortunes of this franchise.
Matt Hasselbeck was intercepted on the first play of the game, but he completed 16 of his next 20 passes, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Safety Jordan Babineaux intercepted a pass from 49ers quarterback Alex Smith to set up a 13-yard touchdown pass to Deon Butler at the end of the second quarter to put Seattle ahead 14-6 at halftime. Cornerback Marcus Trufant picked off a pass he returned 32 yards for his first career touchdown in the third quarter and the rout was on.
It was impossible to see that kind of turnaround coming after the first quarter and a half, which was nothing short of awful for Seattle.
Nate Clements intercepted the first pass of the game, putting the 49ers in scoring position. The Seahawks’ first three offensive possessions produced just 11 yards of total offense and no first downs.
The fact that Seattle trailed only 6-0 was a compliment to its defense. San Francisco was inside the Seattle 10 three different times in the first half yet scored only six points.
The 49ers appeared to have a touchdown on their first possession when receiver Josh Morgan caught a ball in the corner of the end zone. The officials ruled it a touchdown, but Carroll challenged the ruling, which determined Morgan’s elbow came down out of bounds before he touched his second foot down. The 49ers ended up kicking a field goal.
Seattle didn’t stop San Francisco on fourth-and-1 the next possession so much as the 49ers stopped themselves at the Seattle 6. The 49ers ran a play-action pass, and fullback Moran Norris was wide open heading into the end zone, but he turned awkwardly, the pass was high and the result was a turnover on downs.
The 49ers kicked a field goal and got as far as the Seattle 1 on the next possession, but again settled for a field goal.
At that point, San Francisco led 6-0 and had held the ball for 19:58 of the first 23:37 played.
That changed suddenly. In the final 5 minutes of the first half, Seattle scored two touchdowns by gaining 77 yards and forcing a turnover.
The momentum built gradually. First, the Seahawks got a first down when Clements was penalized for holding Deion Branch on third-and-4. It was Seattle’s first first down of the game.
The second first down came two plays later when tight end Cameron Morrah caught a pass from Hasselbeck for an 11-yard gain.
At that point, Seattle had the ball, first-and-10 at the San Francisco 39. The Seahawks total offense was 31 yards. On second down, Hasselbeck pump-faked toward Mike Williams, getting Clements to bite forward. That left Williams wide open, he caught the ball ran back inside and got all the way to the 1.
Hasselbeck scored on the next play, a 1-yard run, and just like that Seattle had the lead.
San Francisco’s next possession became another opportunity when Smith’s third-down pass bounced off Michael Crabtree and was intercepted by safety Jordan Babineaux, who returned the ball 20 yards to the San Francisco 13.
On first down, Hasselbeck threw to Butler in the corner of the end zone for his first NFL touchdown. The second half was simply a continuation of the avalanche that started in those final 7 minutes of the first half. On third down, Smith’s pass was intercepted by Trufant for his touchdown.
Deion Branch scored on a 3-yard pass on Seattle’s next possession, and the team that looked so lifeless halfway through the second quarter led 28-6. That score stood until Olindo Mare tacked on a final field goal with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter.