COMMENTARY | The Seattle Seahawks made a few statements in their 29-3 victory over division foe San Francisco on Sunday night.
But the statement that rang loudest, the one that penetrated past lightning and 68,000-plus screaming fans and reached a nationally televised audience: The road to the top of the NFC West, and possibly the Super Bowl, runs through CenturyLink Field this year.
It was only the second game of the season, but there was plenty riding on the first battle between two of the favorites in the NFC. Seattle and San Francisco mirror each other. They are built around the run. They have two of the stingiest, most opportunistic defenses in the NFL. They boast two of the most-talented young arms in Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
So the question leading up to Sunday's showdown was who would give up the first inch in this tug-of-war. By the end of the night, the visiting 49ers had given up a few feet and more.
It didn't look that way at first, as the game started off as a defensive struggle and both teams squandering chances to score thanks to stout defenses and unnecessary penalties. Late in the first quarter, officials stopped the game because of lightning strikes. The teams shuffled back to their respective locker rooms and didn't resume play until an hour later.
Through the rest of the first half, the defenses kept both teams out of the end zone. Then, in the second half, Marshawn Lynch -- coming off a quiet 43-yard performance on the ground in Week 1 -- bruised his way to a three-touchdown performance.
For those counting, that's two consecutive blowout losses Seattle has handed the defending NFC champs, who have been outscored 71-16 in those two games. Chances are the 49ers are happy to be leaving the Emerald City, where thunder and lightning might have been preferable to playing against Seattle and its crowd.
Here are five things we learned from Week 2:
1. Seattle's Defense Could Be The League's Best
A week after Kaepernick used his arm to carve up the Green Bay Packers for 412 yards and three touchdowns, the Seahawks held him to 127 yards in the air with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
Figuring out who specifically gets credit for one of Kap's worst career nights as a pro is debatable, but there's plenty of credit to go around. Seattle's defensive line pressured him all night, collecting three sacks -- including one apiece from free agent acquisitions Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Frank Gore, who has shredded Seattle's defense in the past, was held to 16 yards on nine carries.
But there's also Seattle's physical secondary, which thwarted San Francisco's best chance to reach the end zone early in the first quarter. Coming off an impressive preseason, Walter Thurmond made another big play when he tipped Kaepernick's pass in the end zone, and the ball landed in the arms of Earl Thomas, who ran it out past the 10-yard-line.
The Seattle secondary held Anquan Boldin -- who had 208 yards receiving and a touchdown in Week 1 -- to a single catch that went for 7 yards with about 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Vernon Davis had three catches for only 20 yards.
Scary part? The Seahawks did it without three of its best defenders in Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons, their sack leader and Bruce Irvin, who had eight sacks last year in his rookie season. What Sunday showed is Seattle boasts one of the best and deepest defenses in the league.
2. Beast Mode Is Back, Beastlier Than Ever
With its quarterback sputtering at the start, the Seahawks turned (or returned) to Lynch, who appeared hell-bent on pounding and smashing San Francisco up front.
Though he fell 2 yards shy of 100 rushing yards for the game, Lynch carried his team offensively. He provided a pair of rushing touchdowns and caught another -- all in the second half. Seattle fans might remember his touchdown catch. With Seattle facing a 3rd and goal, the 49ers blitzed. Wilson recognized it and lobbed the ball to a wide-open Lynch, who walked his way into the end zone, literally. He was so wide open he could have eaten an entire pack of Skittles and still scored before a 49er could touch him.
It was a far cry from his Week 1 performance, so credit goes to Lynch for rebounding and Seattle's coaching staff for game planning with him as the centerpiece.
3. It's Nearly Impossible For Visitors To Win At CenturyLink Field
Say what you will about the importance of winning on the road in the NFL, but doing so against the CLink's deafening crowd is another story.
In fact, the 68,338 in attendance actually set a Guinness World Record for loudest stadium on Sunday, reaching 136.6 decibels in the third quarter. Although Kaepernick wasn't as flummoxed by the Seattle crowd as he was last December, he still had to work to communicate with his offense. He had to rely on hand signals and huddles so bunched together they looked more like group hugs.
San Francisco had five turnovers, 12 penalties for 121 yards and ran 21 less plays than Seattle on offense. CenturyLink Field is officially the 49ers' House of Horrors.
But they aren't the only team who hates the CLink. Seattle's crowd frustrates opposing offenses. When fans realize they have gotten to the opposing team, they bring even more noise. And they won't leave on their team early, either. Heck, if an hour-long lightning delay can't deter them, nothing will.
The Seahawks went undefeated at home last year. Consider it a fortress if they're able to secure home-field advantage through the playoffs.
4. Seattle Is Tough, Can Leave You Battered And Bruised
A couple of years ago, the NFC West was considered one of the worst divisions, in part, because its teams lacked physical toughness.
Fast-forward to Sunday, and the Seahawks showed why playing in the NFC West can leave you battered and bruised. Safety Eric Reid left the game with a head injury, and nose tackle Ian Williams left with an ankle injury. Davis left with a hamstring injury.
Seattle's defense is one of the most physical in the league. The secondary is fast and it hits hard. So is its front line. Given its depth at almost every position on defense, it has the ability to wear down offenses while getting them off the field quickly. It showed that Sunday.
5. This Was A Huge Game, No Matter What Either Team Says
The standard-issue answer both teams give when asked about this rivalry is it's simply another game on the calendar. They play in a competitive division so one game isn't more important than any other.
But Sunday night showed that this was a huge game, one with ramifications for the rest of the season. Seattle can use this win as a foundation for its run, while San Francisco has to use the loss as a blueprint for how not to show up in huge games.
As was talked about (almost ad nauseam) leading up to the game, the Seahawks-49ers rivalry is rooted in the relationship between coach Pete Carroll and coach Jim Harbaugh. The latter could be seen saying "Good game" to the former during his post-game handshakes, but this one hurt. Harbaugh and Carroll are alpha males, and neither likes to lose, specifically getting blown out on national television.
Carroll, on the other hand, celebrated his 62nd birthday Sunday with this win. It could go a long way toward who comes out on top of the competitive NFC West.
The Seahawks made a statement to the league and the rest of the world Sunday night that it's up for the challenge.
More from this contributor
- Seattle Seahawks: The Russell Wilson-Colin Kapernick Lovefest Must End Now
- Seattle Seahawks: Five Things We Learned from Week 1
- Seattle Seahawks: Three Things Russell Wilson Must Do in Week 1
- How Difficult Will Richard Sherman's Job Be This Year?
Brent Champaco is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered professional, college and high school athletics in the Northwest. He has worked for several newspapers, including The News Tribune in Tacoma, and was a Senior Local Editor at Patch.com. He lives just outside of Seattle with his wife and two daughters. Follow him on Twitter at @Champacoblog
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