By Tim Booth
The Associated Press
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PLAYER OF THE GAME
Russell Wilson. There were so many candidates, as Richard Sherman had an end-zone interception and returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for a score; Marshawn Lynch had another just-another-day-at-the-office outing with 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns; Doug Baldwin caught two TD passes, including a leaping grab in the south end zone; and the defense kept the 49ers out of the end zone until the final two minutes of the game.
But the rookie QB had another performance that belied his status. He threw four touchdown passes – giving him 25 for the season, one shy of Peyton Manning’s NFL record for a rookie.
He completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards in fashioning a 115.3 passer rating. He ran six times for 29 yards, and ran the 49ers’ defense ragged with his spins, rollouts and other gyrations in the backfield.
He was, quite simply, the player of the game in the Seahawks’ biggest win of the season – and in a game where so many others also were worthy.
“Russell played like crazy tonight, he did a great job,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He kept us alive when he needed to. He made great decisions. And made big plays and threw the shots when he needed to in the red zone. They were great finishes on those drive.”
But don’t just take Carroll’s word for it.
“Really impressive,” 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers said when asked about Wilson. “The guy is athletic. He’s able to scramble, make plays throwing the ball, then he made plays with his feet.”
Asked what had changed about the Russell Wilson of earlier this season and the Russell Wilson who tormented the 49ers on Sunday night, Carroll said, “I can’t tell you, because he hasn’t changed. All he has done is just won us over. Really. We’ve changed, he’s the same. He’s more experienced now with what we’re asking him to do, and he’s had more reps and turns and all of that. So he’s more efficient at everything.”
And now, Wilson also has experienced leading his team into the playoffs.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: With apologies to Lynch’s big-block-aided 24-yard touchdown run and Baldwin’s all-out effort to make his second TD catch, we’re opting for a third-down play that didn’t even produce a first down.
But it was Wilson at his scrambling, dipping-and-juking best. On a third-and-9 play to open the second half, Wilson made linebacker Ahmad Brooks miss twice and linebacker Aldon Smith a third time before he finally settled on a 6-yard gain.
“It had to be almost a 10-second play,” Rogers said. “He kept running, guys kept moving.”
Said Wilson, through a large smile, “Sidney Rice told me late in the game, with about five minutes left, he said, ‘When we get the ball back, let’s just put you in there and let you scramble for five minutes.’ I started to laugh. It was just a play where I was looking downfield. … Just trying to get something positive out of the play, and we did a good job. I think that was the one third down we didn’t get.”
Defense: Sherman’s end-zone interception. It came after the 49ers had driven to the Seahawks’ 3-yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter, and on third-and-goal, Colin Kaepernick’s pass found Sherman instead of Michael Crabtree.
“I loved what Richard did tonight,” Carroll said.
Special teams: Red Bryant’s field goal block that Sherman returned for the score that made it 21-0 early in the second quarter. Brandon Mebane helped clear a lane for Bryant, Heath Farwell gave him a push and Bryant batted David Akers’ 21-yard attempt with his right hand.
“The play of the game for me was Red,” Carroll said. “Red knocking that ball down on that field goal, and then Sherm scooping and scoring on that thing for 90. That was an enormous moment. I think the bell rang right there – we have a chance to beat these guys on this night.”
None were reported after the game, although the Seahawks continued to play without cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond – who remained sidelined with hamstring injuries that have forced them to miss four (Trufant) and two (Thurmond) games.
“We’re going to get Tru in, we’re going to get Walter back next week,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks’ 150 points in their past three games ties for the third-largest total in NFL history behind the L.A. Rams (165 in 1950 and also 163 in 1950).
Wilson became the fourth rookie since 2008 to pass for four TDs in a game, joining the Lions’ Matthew Stafford (five in 2009), the Colts’ Andrew Luck (four this season) and the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III (four twice this season).
Sherman’s 90-yard return is the third-longest in league history with a blocked field goal. Bobby Smith of the L.A. Rams had a 94-yarder against the Packers in 1964 and Bracy Walker of the Lions had a 92-yarder against the Bears in 2004.
The 49ers have allowed seven 100-yard rushing performances since 2009 and Lynch has three of them – 111 on Sunday night, 103 in the Week 7 games this season and 107 last December.
Bobby Wagner led the Seahawks with nine tackles, pushing his season total to a team-leading 130 – the second-highest in franchise history for a rookie behind the 136 Terry Beeson had in 1977.
With his 111 yards, Lynch has 1,490 for the season. The only backs to rush for more in franchise history are Shaun Alexander (1,880 in 2005 and 1,696 in 2004) and Chris Warren (1,545 in 1994). Lynch also has scored 12 touchdowns, one shy of his career-best total from last season.
The 49ers’ Aldon Smith entered the game with 19.5 sacks to share the league lead, and left the game with 19.5 sacks.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I did. It was happy birthday, and I hope he enjoyed our gift.” – Sherman when asked if he had wished 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh – also his coach at Stanford – a happy 49th birthday
Clare Farnsworth, seahawks.com
Getting a 10th win on Sunday night and a trip to the postseason was special to the Seahawks' big defensive end.
"Who has been playing better than us the last few weeks?" Bryant questioned. "This is the National Football League and you don't get any gimmies. We work hard to win. ... It's hard to win in this league."
Russell Wilson threw a career-high four touchdown passes to move into second place for most TD passes by a rookie, Marshawn Lynch scored two first-quarter TDs, and the Seahawks routed the San Francisco 49ers 42-13.
Richard Sherman returned Bryant's blocked field goal 90 yards for another touchdown as the Seahawks (10-5) jumped to a 21-0 lead. That only added to an already hyped crowd on a typically cold and rainy December night, with noise echoing off the walls and overhanging roof of CenturyLink Field that might have been heard all the way across Puget Sound.
No one appeared to care about the weather, not with the performance they were seeing on the field. And not with a ticket to the postseason guaranteed thanks to Seattle's first 10-win season since 2007.
"We knew we were capable of doing this. We had no doubt. Even in Week 1, we knew that we had the talent to do what we're doing now," said wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who had two touchdown receptions.
"It took time because we're a young team. We had to mature. We had to grow together, build that chemistry, build that trust out there on the field. That's the most important thing."
Seattle surged into the playoffs on the strength of its sixth win in seven games, putting up dizzying offensive numbers that no one thought would continue against the top scoring defense in the NFL but did.
Seattle has outscored its last three opponents 150-30. The 42 points were the most allowed since Jim Harbaugh took over the 49ers, and the most San Francisco yielded since giving up 45 to Atlanta in 2009. It was the perfect way for Seattle coach Pete Carroll to snap a three-game losing streak against his rival.
"We just try to play really good football and see what happens at the end," Carroll said. "We have been scoring and doing a nice job of it, and it would be great If we can keep it rolling."
Seattle will likely be the No. 5 seed in the NFC. There remains a slight chance of winning the NFC West, if the Seahawks beat St. Louis in the season finale and Arizona can upset the 49ers in San Francisco.
The Seahawks, 7-0 at home, delayed San Francisco (10-4-1) from celebrating a division title. They turned Harbaugh's 49th birthday into a miserable evening.
"If you had told me this would be the outcome, I wouldn't have believed it," Sherman said. "I would say you're making this up."
Wilson hit Lynch on a 9-yard TD in the first quarter, Anthony McCoy for a 6-yarder late in the first half, and Doug Baldwin on 4 and 6 yard TDs in the second half.
Wilson has 25 TD passes, one behind Peyton Manning's NFL rookie record of 26. He finished 15 of 21 for 171 yards. His only incompletion in the first half was a deflected pass that Patrick Willis intercepted.
Wilson's counterpart, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, had already proven himself capable of winning on the road with victories in New Orleans and last week in New England.
But Seattle is a different beast, widely regarded by players as the loudest venue in the NFL. His inexperience playing in such an environment showed. He was flustered and disorganized at the line of scrimmage, letting the noise from Seattle's fans affect him.
Kaepernick's forgettable night was capped when Sherman stepped in front of his pass intended for Randy Moss at the back of the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter for his seventh interception of the season.
Kaepernick was 19 of 36 for 244 yards with an 18-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker with 1:40 left. Frank Gore had just 28 yards on six carries after rushing for a season-high 131 when the teams met in Week 7.
"Every time you are on the field you are learning something," Kaepernick said. "We just have to take what we can from this game and move on to next week."
San Francisco played without defensive tackle Justin Smith due to an elbow injury that ended a streak of 185 starts. The 49ers lost tight end Vernon Davis in the first quarter with a concussion sustained when he was knocked off his feet on a huge hit along the sideline from Seattle safety Kam Chancellor that looked legal but drew a penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver.
San Francisco wide receiver Mario Manningham went down with a left leg injury early in the third quarter when he was tackled low by Leroy Hill and fumbled.
The loss of Smith affected the entire defense. Aldon Smith was left stuck on 19 1/2 sacks after being locked up by Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung.
"We can't make excuses," 49ers' safety Donte Whitner said. "We understand: We lost the football game; we lost an ugly football game."
NOTES: Lynch finished with 111 yards on 26 carries, his third straight game over 100 yards vs. the 49ers. ... Seattle was 11 of 13 on third-down conversions, a season-high. ... The 49ers were held to 82 yards rushing.