Happy Birthday, Jim.
With Christmas a day away, the Seattle Seahawks delivered what amounted to a lump of coal in the stocking of the San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who celebrated his 49th birthday on Sunday.
“I hope he enjoyed his gift,” quipped Richard Sherman, when told about his former Stanford coach’s big day.
After scoring a combined 108 points the past two weeks, Seattle’s offense lit up the scoreboard again in a 42-13 manhandling of NFC West Division rival San Francisco.
Even more impressive, Seattle’s effort came against perhaps the best defense in the NFL, the 49ers, amid a steady drizzle at CenturyLink Field.
Coach Pete Carroll and his Seahawks exorcised some demons in a nationally televised game. Carroll earned his first win as an NFL coach against Harbaugh, and is now 1-3 against his former college rival.
And the Seahawks got their first win over San Francisco since the 2010 season opener, after four straight losses.
With the victory, the Seahawks clinched at least a wild-card berth, and a likely date in January with the Dallas-Washington winner next week, the game for the NFC East championship.
The Seahawks also still have an outside shot at the NFC West crown and a first-round bye in the postseason.
At 10-5 this season, the Seahawks trail the 49ers (10-4-1) by a half game. If the Seahawks take care of business at home against St. Louis in the regular-season finale, and San Francisco stubs its toe at home against Arizona, then the Seahawks would win their second NFC West crown in three seasons.
Along with those results, the Seahawks would need Green Bay (11-4) to lose at Minnesota to earn a first-round bye.
But for a day, the Seahawks will celebrate one of the most impressive, dominant victories over a good team at home in recent memory.
The Seahawks are on a tear historically, scoring 150 points in the past three games. The only team with more in a three-game span was the 1950 Rams, who scored 165, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Seattle improved to 7-0 at home, and has a chance to finish undefeated at CenturyLink Field for the first time since the team’s 2005 Super Bowl season.
“We’re doing what we do,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. “We’re going to play tough. We’re going to play physical. We’re going to execute, and whatever the score is, that’s the score.”
After forcing San Francisco into a 3-and-out to start the game, the Seahawks grabbed great field position after Leon Washington’s 15-yard punt return was advanced 15 more yards because of a personal foul call on San Francisco’s Tramaine Brock.
The Seahawks then took the lead early, on a two-play 35-yard drive. After a 10-yard reception by tight end Zach Miller, Marshawn Lynch ran down the left sideline 25 yards for the score, giving Seattle a 7-0 lead just over a minute into the game.
Lynch rushed for more than 100 yards for the ninth time this season, finishing with 111 yards on 26 carries.
Lynch has now rushed for more than 100 yards in four games against the 49ers since the 2008 season. San Francisco has only allowed that to happen nines times over the time span.
The Seahawks rushed for 176 yards as a team. The Niners came into the contest only giving up 91 yards a contest – No. 3 in the league.
Lynch also had a 9-yard reception later in the opening quarter, giving Seattle a 14-0 lead.
But the play of the game came with 14:05 remaining in the half.
San Francisco drove deep into Seattle territory, but had to settle for what looked like chip-shot, 21-yard field goal by kicker David Akers.
However, as he executed so well last season, Bryant bulled his way through the middle of San Francisco’s offensive line and got his right hand up, blocking the kick.
Sherman quickly pounced on the loose ball and raced 90 yards for his second touchdown of the season, giving Seattle a commanding 21-0 lead.
Sherman, who missed two days of practice this week to attend his appeal hearing contest his four-game suspension for an alleged violation of the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy, also corralled his team-high seventh interception.
“That was an enormous moment,” Carroll said. “I think the bell kind of rung there, and we had a chance to beat these guys on this night.”
Bryant said he had one thought in his mind has he watched Sherman sprint toward the end zone.
“I’m like, ‘Run, brother, run,’ ” Bryant said.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson continued his impressive streak, completing 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
The Seahawks converted 11 of 13 third downs.
Wilson has 25 touchdowns passes this year, one short of the rookie record of 26 set by Peyton Manning in 1998.
Wilson has thrown for 17 touchdowns and two interceptions in his past eight games. And Wilson has spearheaded an offense averaging 50 points in its last three games.
“It’s definitely not easy,” Wilson said. “Especially against a very good football team like that, it’s definitely not easy. You have to work at it during the week. The separation is in the preparation, and we really did that all throughout the week.”
Wilson’s favorite target was Doug Baldwin, who finished with four catches for 53 yards and two scores. Baldwin, also of Standford, and Sherman defeated their former coach for the first time as a pro.
“They played well, both of them,” Harbaugh said. “They made a lot of big plays.”
The most touchdown passes in a quarterback’s rookie season:
Player, team, yearTD passes
Peyton Manning, Colts, 199826
Russell Wilson, Seahawks, 201225
Charlie Conerly, N.Y. Giants, 194822
Cam Newton, Panthers, 201121
Dan Marino, Dolphins, 198320
Andy Dalton, Bengals, 201120
Andrew Luck, Colts, 201320Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams