Marshawn Lynch stopped inches short of the end zone and waited. He stood there so long he could’ve consumed an entire bag of his beloved Skittles.
It was the best delay of a game that had an hourlong pause because of stormy weather.
Eventually, Lynch would walk in, untouched, and score on a 7-yard touchdown reception, making the San Francisco defense look as silly as possible. He wasn’t trolling. He was strolling. On a night of delayed pleasure, it was the signature moment in a marquee matchup that never quite reached the level of its billing.
It wasn’t a showdown, after all. It was a lightning show, then a downer. It was a beatdown, again. You anticipated this game the entire offseason and made it seem like the closest you can get to a Super Bowl in Week 2. Instead, it felt like last December.
Through the bad weather, through the delay, through injuries and spotty quarterback play, the Seahawks proved the more resilient and rugged team in a 29-3 victory before a record crowd of 68,338 at CenturyLink Field that also set a Guinness World Record for loudest stadium.
Last December, the Seahawks broke through and beat the 49ers 42-13, Pete Carroll’s first victory over Jim Harbaugh in the NFL. This time, the Seahawks weren’t as dominant, but they looked like the more complete and versatile team.
“What’s the combined score of the last two games?” cornerback Richard Sherman asked. “Anybody? Anybody?”
That would be 71-16, Richard.
“How much of it is real, and how much of it is fabricated?” Sherman wondered aloud. “That’s real.”
It’s as real as a Cliff Avril sack and strip of Colin Kaepernick. It’s as real as Seattle’s secondary blanketing the 49ers all game and intercepting Kaepernick three times, the same number of picks the young quarterback had thrown in his entire NFL career before Sunday. It’s as real as Lynch, the Seahawks’ bedrock, rumbling for 98 yards to offset Russell Wilson’s struggles.
This wasn’t a game for Wilson and Kaepernick to showcase why they’re two of the great young quarterbacks blessing the NFL. Kaepernick finished with a 20.1 quarterback rating; Wilson had a lowly 63.9. It was an imperfect night for all, but the Seahawks handled it best by staying true to what makes them an elite team: their defense and running game.
With defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Avril running all over the field, with Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas all intercepting passes, the Seahawks held Kaepernick, who had thrown for 412 yards in Week 1 against Green Bay, to just 127 passing yards. He rushed for 87 yards, but many of those came after the game was out of reach.
The 49ers had only 207 yards of offense a week after gaining nearly 500 against Green Bay. San Francisco’s top receiving targets, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, couldn’t impact the game. Boldin, who had 13 receptions for 208 yards last week, caught just one pass for 7 yards. Davis had three receptions for 20 yards.
“We’re not that defense that was on the field last week,” Thomas said, unblinking.
“We didn’t look at their stats like everybody else looks at them,” Bennett said.
The Seahawks just played their game, and despite some hiccups and uneven play, they made a clear statement on “Sunday Night Football.” They’re ready to be the front-runner in the NFC. Until the 49ers are beaten when it matters, they’re still the team to beat. But in this four-month race, Seattle has taken an early lead, and now San Francisco must stay composed while it chases.
There’s no such thing as a dominant team this early in the NFL season, and we saw that clearly in this game. Still, the Seahawks proved that they have the talent and balance to win even when you take away their dynamic second-year quarterback.
Wilson completed just one of his first nine passes, but Lynch and the defense were there to stabilize the team. The offense lost All-Pro left tackle Russell Okung to a foot injury on the last play of the first quarter, and the Seahawks had trouble blocking Niners linebacker Aldon Smith for the rest of the game. But even with their quarterback struggling and their left tackle ailing, they turned a close game into a rout.
“We have a chance to do something great,” Thomas said. “That’s all it says. Every game, we feel like we should dominate, and that’s what we did.”