The Seahawks who will host the 49ers on Sunday night are not the same team that lost in San Francisco in Week 7. Their consistency is fueling a second-half surge that has them one win from a playoff berth.
Michael Robinson has looked at the rivalry between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers from both sides now.
While Robinson entered the NFL in 2006 as a fourth-round draft choice with the 49ers, he has morphed into a Pro Bowl fullback the past three seasons with the Seahawks. So who better to size up what Sunday night’s nationally televised showdown between the top two teams in the NFC West at CenturyLink Field will come down to?
“I learned a long time ago there’s two things you’ve got to do to be good in this league as a team – you’ve got to know your assignment, know where to line up; and be the same guy every day,” Robinson said. “And that’s talking about consistency.
“We’re maturing and we’re growing up and we’re learning how to be the same guy every day.”
That’s how the Seahawks have managed to win their past three games, and five of their past seven since losing to the 49ers in Week 7 in San Francisco. That’s why they’re the NFL’s No. 3-ranked team in total defense and rushing offense, and second to the 49ers in average points allowed.
That’s why they’ve already won nine games, their most since going 10-6 in 2007 and two more than they won in each of their first two seasons under coach Pete Carroll. That’s why they’re a win away from clinching a playoff spot. That’s why there’s still a mathematical chance – even if it is the slimmest of slim – that they can win the NFC West; if they beat the 49ers on Sunday night and the St. Louis Rams next week, while the 49ers also lose to the Arizona Cardinals in their regular-season finale.
All of this is even more impressive when you consider the contributions they’re getting from so many rookies. From Russell Wilson, who already has set a franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback and thrown more touchdown passes than any rookie QB in the league. To middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who leads the team in tackles. To rush-end Bruce Irvin, who leads all NFL rookies with eight sacks. To Jeremy Lane, who started at right cornerback last week and could be there again against the 49ers. To Robert Turbin, who has rushed for 139 the past two games after taking over for leading rusher Marshawn Lynch in the second half. To J.R. Sweezy, who will play and could start at right guard against the 49ers. To Greg Scruggs, who will step in at tackle in the nickel defensive line after Jason Jones went on injured reserve this week. To Sean McGrath, who was elevated from the practice squad this week to be the No. 3 tight end.
“It just shows some of the leadership on this team,” Robinson said. “Pete really allows the guys in this locker room to take ownership of this team. Whether you’re young, whether you’re new, you come in, you get in line and do the things we’re doing and you’ll figure it out.”
Those things have allowed the Seahawks to be in this position where the rematch with the 49ers is so significant for both teams. While the Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a victory, the 49ers will clinch the division title for the second consecutive season with a win.
The message and the method have not been lost on Wilson, whose consistent improvement is the most obvious reason why the Seahawks’ offense has been playing at a different level since scoring just six points in that seven-point loss to the 49ers in Week 7. After failing to find the end zone in San Francisco, the offense has 3.4 touchdowns in the past seven games – with 14 passing TDs and 10 rushing.
“I think consistency is everything,” Wilson said. “I think the way you approach the week and your preparation, the preparation is in the preparation. And the way you prepare and get your mind right to play at a high level. To be consistent, you want to feel confident in your approach and what you’ve done in terms of preparation. So that allows you to play at a high level and be successful come Sunday.”
This consistency concept carries over even to a hump-game like Sunday night’s matchup. The 49ers are where the Seahawks want to be – atop the division. The 49ers have beaten the Seahawks the last four times they’ve played.
But Robinson won’t concede that it makes this game any bigger than it already is.
“I think it’s important that we win this game, just like it was important we won the last game, just like it was important that we won the game before that,” Robinson said to the reporters gathered around his cubicle in the locker room. “Again, we want to keep it as simple as possible and keep the distractions out. Let you guys worry about that.
“We just want to play football. You can write that: We just want to play football.”
Especially if they can continue to play as consistently well as they have been in a primetime, Christmas- weekend game that is dripping with potential distractions.