On a Sunday evening that started with a 60-minute weather delay, the Seahawks’ defense took the 49ers by storm for the game’s 60 minutes in pacing a 29-3 victory before a record crowd at CenturyLink Field.
As Richard Sherman entered the interview room at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night, the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback placed a football on each side of the podium.
One was the pass he intercepted during the Seahawks’ impressive 29-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The other was the Sunday Night Football Player of the Game ball NBC presented him for his efforts against the defending NFC Champions.
And why not? The Seahawks and a CenturyLink Field-record crowd of 68,388 had a ball from start to weather-delayed finish during the team’s highly anticipated home opener.
“We did what we expected to do,” Sherman said after the Seahawks had started 2-0 for the first time since 2006 to claim sole possession of the AFC West lead. “We expect guys to play disciplined ball. … We had a great plan and guys executed it to a T.”
Or a W, as it turned out.
Even 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had to concede, “They are a good football team. You have to give them credit. They played very well tonight, in all phases.”
And whatever the 49ers wouldn’t give them, the Seahawks took.
In addition to Sherman’s pick, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor also had interceptions off 49ers’ QB Colin Kaepernick. Leo end Cliff Avril, in his first game for the Seahawks, forced a fumble with a sack that was recovered by linebacker K.J. Wright – who also had a sack. Cornerback Walter Thurmond, who was starting for an injured Brandon Browner, batted the pass that Thomas intercepted. Linebacker Malcolm Smith forced a holding penalty against 49ers fullback Bruce Miller in the end zone for a safety. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, playing his second game in his second stint with the Seahawks, also had a sack. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had a team-high seven tackles.
In case you lost track, that’s eight defensive players who made pivotal plays in this pivotal game.
So while Sherman came away with the SNF game ball, it was obvious that the Seahawks’ defense came to play ball on this evening – which included a 60-minute weather delay in the scoreless first quarter as a thunderstorm rolled through downtown Seattle.
“It was fantastic,” Sherman said when asked about the number of defenders who made plays. “I was excited because the new guys made plays. You had Cliff Avril making a sack/forced fumble. You had Mike Bennett getting a sack. You had K.J. getting a sack. There was pressure all day.
“I think the D-line and the linebackers did a great job creating pressure and making sure Kaepernick was uncomfortable the whole game. That helped us get turnovers.”
The offense, meanwhile, took advantage of the field position provided by all the big plays from the defense. Marshawn Lynch scored three touchdowns – two rushing, as he ran for 98 yards; one receiving, as he also had a team-high three receptions.
“I say this every time about Marshawn, he’s the type of guy who makes you want to play harder.” All-Pro center Max Unger said. “You see how hard he runs, it makes you want to run that much harder and block that much better. He’s a machine and we’re trying our best to keep guys off of him.”
But the talk in the locker room kept coming back to the number the defense did on a 49ers’ offense that had put up 34 points and 494 yards on the Green Bay Packers in their season-opening victory. Sunday night, it was three points and 207 yards.
“We played the short field most of the game,” Unger said. “Our defense played a hell of a game. They really, really played well. They gave us a short field and we were able to punch it in a couple of times.”
Anquan Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards against the Packers in Week 1. Against the Seahawks, who used Sherman to cover him much of the evening, Boldin caught one pass for 7 yards.
A statement-making effort? Only if you’re talking about the one-game-at-a-time approach that coach Pete Carroll preaches and his players embrace with both arms.
It’s a mantra that carried the Seahawks to a much-closer victory in their season opener against the Panthers in Carolina last week. It’s an attitude that will serve them well as they come off the high of Sunday night’s big win and start preparing for next week’s game against the 0-2 Jacksonville Jaguars at CenturyLink Field.
“I think the guys, they are very prideful of this game, because they know that’s a really good football team,” said Carroll, on his 62nd birthday. “We take the “next up” (mentality). Who’s coming in next week, and away we go. I was really excited about it and we had a great time tonight.”