Seattle coach Pete Carroll and his merry band of Seahawks insisted all week they weren't worried. They still believed they were a championship-caliber team despite a 2-4 record.
On Thursday night, they played like champions. Seattle dispatched the rival San Francisco 49ers 20-3, and it didn't feel that close. The Seahawks sent a message with a 12-play touchdown drive to start the game that included nine Marshawn Lynch runs. The thesis of that statement drive: We are the toughest team on the field.
After a sluggish start to the season, Lynch looks like his old self again. He broke tackles and showed great lateral explosion on his way to 122 yards rushing and a touchdown. Lynch's angry runs combined with Seattle's suffocating defense gave this game an entirely familiar feel. The Seahawks won 19-3 in San Francisco on Thanksgiving night last season, and have now beaten the 49ers six of seven times in the Colin Kaepernick era.
Any progress that Kaepernick made over the last two weeks was undone Thursday. He was tentative throwing the ball, and wildly inaccurate at times. Some of his passes landed in the old Candlestick Park.
The 49ers struggled to gain yards on early downs, and Kaepernick increasingly looked overwhelmed on third down because of Seattle's pass rush. Five of San Francisco's first 10 plays were negative plays. The team had more punts (9) than first downs (8), which is hard to do. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril combined for five sacks and four tackles for a loss, yet another reminder they are among the most underrated and undervalued duos in the NFL.
The score could have looked a lot uglier if not for two Russell Wilson interceptions. Seattle out-gained the 49ers 269-55 in the first half, the third game this season where the 49ers weren't remotely competitive. Wilson played very well except for those two picks, like he has most of the season. His 43-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett was one of the prettier passes we've seen all season.
Now 3-4, the Seahawks finally have a road win this season. They need to prove they can win tough games in the fourth quarter, but there's every reason to believe they will go on a run down the stretch. The defense looks good as ever and three of their losses were tight games to squads that are currently undefeated. Their pass protection remains the biggest concern for the third straight year.