SEATTLE Reduced to a slower, more reachable quarterback by his sprained ankle, Russell Wilson now had his left knee crumple under him.
San Francisco’s Eli Harold grabbed the back of his shoulder pads and yanked down Seattle’s franchise cornerstone onto his left leg. And all of the Pacific Northwest gasped.
“My heart dropped,” Seahawks No. 1 wide receiver Doug Baldwin said.
Wilson left the game, put on a brace -- and watched undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin throw his first career touchdown pass, to Baldwin.
Baldwin’s eight catches for a career-high 164 yards, Christine Michael’s career bests of 20 carries, 106 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns, Jimmy Graham’s re-arrival in the offense with his first touchdown in a year and another dominant Seattle defense against Chip Kelly’s offense led the Seahawks’ 37-18 runaway from the 49ers on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
But Wilson’s newer injury trumps all.
Coach Pete Carroll says it’s a sprained ankle. Wilson will be getting an MRI. But both he and Wilson, who missed one play then the final 21 minutes of Sunday’s win, expect the indispensable quarterback to make his 78th consecutive regular-season and postseason start to begin his career next Sunday when the Seahawks (2-1) play at the New York Jets (1-2).
“I’m fortunate. I don’t think it’s severe as it may have looked,” Wilson said of his contorted knee. “Thank God.”
He left after the play, for which Harold got a penalty for a horse-collar tackle. Wilson missed one play, then returned -- on his own -- to finish the third-quarter drive. He completed a 10-yard pass to Baldwin on no healthy legs before Steven Hauschka kicked a field goal to put Seattle up 27-3.
Carroll said had the game been closer Wilson would have gone back in it. Instead, the Seahawks took his helmet from Wilson after that. He spent the final quarter-plus in a cap with a huge, beige wrap over a black brace on his left knee. He fidgeted and flexed the knee. He got on the exercise bike to ride to nowhere behind the team’s bench, while Boykin, the undrafted rookie from TCU, threw his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
"Most likely, he's going to be fine,” Carroll said. “That's just how he operates. ... He’s half-crazy about these things."
Graham had six catches for 100 yards -- all in the first half. That was two more catches, two more targets and 47 more yards than he had in the first two games of this season combined.
He talked to Seahawks owner Paul Allen after the game, then, while still in full pads, walked into a side room, off-limits to the media and didn’t speak publicly.
“Blessed to feel alive again,” Graham tweeted over a photo of his touchdown.
Michael played four seasons without an NFL touchdown. He had two in the first 11 minutes Sunday.
Decisively cutting once and then GOING, Michael romped with lead back Thomas Rawls out with a bruised leg. Michael had 82 of his yards in the first half when the Seahawks did what Michael was doing: Steamrolling San Francisco.
Wilson also did something he’s rarely had time to do in Graham’s two, truncated seasons with Seattle: He just chucked the ball up for the 6-foot-7 former University of Miami basketball player to go get. It was on a free play, after San Francisco jumped offsides to begin a second-quarter play, but the lesson is one Wilson can use throughout this season now that Graham is all the way back from his major knee injury. Graham leaped and ripped the ball from San Francisco’s Eric Reid for a 40-yard gain.
That set up Steven Hauschka’s 33-yard field goal to make it 24-3 Seattle at halftime.
“He’s like 6-9. Just throw it up to him,” Wilson said, showing he’s still learning about how lethal a weapon Graham can be for Seattle’s offense. “Just try to give him a chance and he came down with it. That was huge.”
Wilson completed 14 of 19 passes in the half, for 233 yards, the TD to Graham and 132.1 rating.
The Seahawks had 311 yards in that runaway half. San Francisco had just 102.
The Seahawks’ defense did mostly what it did the previous time it played Kelly’s no-huddle, spread offense, in 2014 at Philadelphia: Seattle started in nickel (five defensive backs), mostly stayed in nickel -- and throttled it. The 49ers gained 132 yards and had three points in the first three quarters, before two garbage-time touchdown runs by Carlos Hyde. Their only points in that span, a short field goal, came in the second quarter after Graham fumbled at the end of a catch at Seattle 30.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor was his most thudding self so far this season. He knocked tight end Vance McDonald, San Francisco’s biggest weapon in the passing game this early season, out of the game with a hit early. In the third quarter he KO’d McDonald’s backup, Garrett Celek, with a crunching hit in the tight end’s back immediately after a catch to stop him short of the first down and force another 49ers punt.
San Francisco’s Blaine Gabbert, the NFC’s third-lowest rated passer coming in, completed 14 of 25 passes for 119 yards and an interception, by Bobby Wagner. That was Seattle’s first takeaway this season. Gabbert had a meager 51.9 passer rating. He ran five times for 22 yards.
Asked about the challenge of trying to contain Gabbert, Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett said: “There is no challenge. He threw for 100 yards.”