It was tough to tell which were bigger, Richard Sherman’s two interceptions, his constant, head-bobbing woofin’ at the San Francisco 49ers’ receivers and sideline — or the 20-plus-pound turkey he and Russell Wilson were gnawing on. They carried that on a platter into the Seattle Seahawks’ roaring locker room after this rout.
Marshawn Lynch was dancing side to side and playfully rapping to teammate Doug Baldwin along the bench as music blared during a fourth-quarter time out.
Ultra-intense Earl Thomas ran with his helmet off 10 yards down the sideline to greet Wilson coming off the field following the quarterback’s scramble in the fourth quarter that set up Steven Hauschka’s fourth field goal.
Yes, the Seahawks’ fun, championship vibe — and defensive domination — is back.
Sherman’s fourth career two-interception game, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett sacking and harassing San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick into his second-worst passing game of his career, and Lynch’s 104 yards rushing punctuated the Seahawks’ 19-3 stream-rolling of the 49ers on Thursday night.
Wins over NFC West rivals Arizona (had been 9-1) and San Francsico (was 7-4) in a span of four days in which the Seahawks (8-4) have allowed a grand total of six points and 368 yards combined suddenly has this team feeling like last year. Especially on defense.
“Suffocating football,” Thomas said.
“We’re confident,” Baldwin said. “We’ve been confident before, but obviously we’re clicking on all cylinders right now.
“It’s a good feeling in the locker room.”
That locker room was booming with bass after this domination at new Levi’s Stadium. The game looked, felt — and in fact was — far more lopsided than the final score. It was the Seahawks’ first win on San Francisco’s home field, since Oct. 26, 2008.
Seneca Wallace was Seattle’s starting quarterback and Maurice Morris was the lead back that night.
They sure aren’t now.
Avril said this “most definitely” feels like the vibe and play of last season’s Super Bowl champions.
Or — gasp! — even better.
“It’s a lot more fun that it was even last year, actually, to be honest. We’re just letting it loose on defense,” the rush end said after he, Michael Bennett and the rest of the Seahawks’ defensive front ruined Kaepernick’s holiday and San Francisco’s night. “We’re out there not caring. It’s us against the world. That’s the mentality we’ve got right now.
“I think the biggest thing that’s changed the last two weeks is we are having fun. We trust each other.”
Now they get the spoils of playing two games in four days: 10 days between now and their next test, at the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) on Dec. 7.
Seattle currently holds the sixth seed as a wild card in the NFC playoff race. The Seahawks have the same record as Dallas, but the Cowboys currently have the fifth seed as the first wild card because they won at Seattle last month.
Wilson completed 15 of 21 passes for 236 yards, including a touchdown pass to Turbin of 13 yards that made it 10-0 in the first quarter. Seattle squandered three of four trips inside the San Francisco 20 and amassed 14 penalties for 105 yards — including one on Turbin for offensive pass interference that negated a touchdown catch by rookie Paul Richardson in the third quarter that had coach Pete Carroll simmering afterward.
But with the defense swarming and thumping like this, with Bobby Wagner back healthy at middle linebacker and healthier Kam Chancellor flying again at strong safety anchoring a previously shaky unit, who needs offense? Who cares about flags?
Not the Seahawks the past two weeks.
“These guys have really joined together and recaptured, really, what it was that we played with last year,” Carroll said. “It took us some time to figure it out but we have — and it’s only as good as the next time out.
“There’s been no question in the last two weeks that we have elevated our game.
“They’ve touched what it is, and the special attitude with intensity, the toughness that it takes.”
Seattle’s zooming defense limited Kaepernick to 121 yards passing — his second-longest completion was for 14 yards on the final play. He completed 16 of 29 passes. He got sacked four times and threw the two interceptions for a passer rating of 36.7. That’s the second-lowest of his career, just better than his 20.1 night on Sept. 15, 2013, — at Seattle.
Sherman’s interceptions bookended the route, coming in the first and fourth quarters. The second one came after Sherman had been heckling the 49ers’ sideline that “if you throw it toward me I’m going to end the game.”
It was Sherman's second and third interceptions of the season and 22nd and 23rd of his four-season career. That is the most in the NFL since 2011.
Just like Sherman did when he tipped Kaepernick’s final pass into the end zone to teammate Malcolm Smith in January’s NFC title game to send Seattle to the Super Bowl, Sherman got the last laugh on the 49ers’ quarterback.
“He said he was throwing to the open man; he didn’t care who was out there,” Sherman said, recalling Kaepernick’s words to San Francisco’s media on Monday when asked if he’d throw to Sherman again.
“I was the open man.”
The Seahawks gained 272 of the game’s first 343 yards and had been inside the 49ers’ 20-yard line four times — yet led only 16-0 midway through the third quarter. Then two defensive-holding fouls, the second on Sherman on a third-down incomplete pass, extended San Francisco’s first scoring drive of the game. That ended in a field goal to cut the Seahawks’ lead to 16-3 entering the final quarter.
Wilson went into his escape and improvisational mode in the second quarter, escaping two sacks on one play and throwing just before the line to left-alone Tony Moeaki. The recently signed tight end rumbled like a dump truck with no brakes 63 yards down the sideline to the 49ers 1.
The Seahawks went inside spread formation on first down before Lynch got stopped for a loss of 1 inside. Then they brought 285-pound fullback and former 49er Will Tukuafu into the formation — but tried a roll-out pass by Wilson, who gained a yard back trying to run.
On third-and-goal, the Seahawks again spread out the formation with four wide receivers, and Wilson's short pass to the goal was tipped down at the line. They settled for Hauschka’s second field goal and that 13-0 lead at the half.
Another improv play by Wilson after escaping the 49ers‘ pass rush gained 32 yards on a dump-off pass to Turbin. But the drive stalled when on second down reserve running back Christine Michael ran short of the line to gain by a yard after a catch, and then Turbin got stopped on third-and-1. The Seahawks settled for another field goal by Hauschka for a 13-0 lead instead of more.
The total yards at the half were: Seattle 197, San Francisco 71. The 49ers gained just 45 yards on their first 24 plays —1.9 yards per play.
All players and coaches in Seahawks gray and blue went into halftime thinking it should have been 21-0 instead of 13-0, or left for Seattle late Thursday thinking the final score should have been 28-3. That’s because of just one touchdown in four red-zone trips.
Seattle has 52 drives inside the opponent’s 20-yard line this season. The Seahawks have just 25 touchdowns on those trips, a 48-percent success rate that remains the offense’s biggest issue.
But with the defense suddenly 2013 dominant again, who needs red-zone offense?
As Carroll said describing these two, season-turning wins in four days, “everything is better.”
Thomas called it “real.”
“We’re being real with each other. We’re being authentic. We’re being ourselves,” Thomas said. “And it’s working for us.
“We’re really absorbed in each other out there. And it’s nothing but love.”