SEATTLE – Throwing an interception on the first play? Four offensive snaps in the first quarter? No first downs in the first 24 minutes – and then only by penalty?
This is what the Seattle Seahawks bought with the $35 million they gave Pete Carroll to remake the franchise?
The turnaround may be painstaking, but it certainly wasn’t Sunday afternoon. After watching the NFC West favorite San Francisco 49ers penetrate the Seattle 10-yard line on each of their first three possessions, the Seahawks dramatically flipped both the mood and momentum and stormed to a 31-6 victory at Qwest Field in the opener of season No. 35.
Early in the second quarter, the crowd of 67,044 loudly booed another flubbed Seahawks series. Shortly after halftime, it was aroar to celebrate Marcus Trufant’s 32-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 21-6 lead.
“You think of the college game, but this was louder,” said Carroll, who abandoned USC for a third crack at NFL success. “This was crazier than places like that.
“The crowd was ridiculous for us.”
The ridiculousness didn’t end there. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, noting Seattle’s 14-6 halftime lead after being missing in action on offense for an entire quarter:
“They had to be scratching their heads in the other locker room: ‘How are we losing this game?’ ”
Those first three thrusts into the red zone? The Niners reaped just two field goals out of them, having a touchdown reversed on a Carroll challenge that showed Trufant had driven receiver Josh Morgan out of bounds before he could get both feet down and later seeing quarterback Alex Smith miss a wide-open Morgan Norris on fourth-and-1 from the 6.
San Francisco owned the ball for 20 of the game’s first 23 1/2 minutes – but just a 6-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Hasselbeck – whose first pass was easily picked by the Niners’ Nate Clemens – learned something from the experience. He hit Mike Williams on a pretty out-and-up for 35 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown and, after a Jordan Babineaux interception, Deon Butler on an in-and-up for a 13-yard score – San Francisco corners biting badly on both routes.
Hasselbeck called the early pick “a risky play” by Clements and said: “We were able to come back and sort of capitalize on that a little bit because they were going to squat on our routes and they wanted to gamble like that. They want to go for the big play. Then if we’re willing to take the double move and call it, then we’ll make the big play.”
Trufant’s pick-six essentially broke the game open, though the Seahawks added a smart 60-yard scoring march a few minutes later, with Deion Branch making a tricky catch of a short Hasselbeck bullet for a 28-6 lead. .
But all of that probably doesn’t happen if the Seahawks defense doesn’t dig in first.
“When you have a day where they only had 1 out of 15 on third down, that’s a remarkable day by the defense – and a fourth-down stop and not give up the touchdown,” Carroll said.
Niners workhorse Frank Gore managed just 38 yards rushing, and another 45 on six harmless receptions. Smith never really recovered from the missed TD pass and the two picks.
“We took away his go-to guy, Vernon Davis, and made him find other stuff,” safety Lawyer Milloy said. “If you’re going to beat us, you’re not going to beat us with one guy.”
Niners coach Mike Singletary was remarkably philosophical.
“We played into Seattle’s hands today,” he said. “And, once again, I do want to say ‘thank you.’ I wanted very much so to tell Pete Carroll, ‘Thank you very much’ for kicking our tails. It was good medicine.
“You win four preseason football games and you start to feel pretty good about yourself and maybe you begin to read the press a little bit. Then you think, ‘We got the division locked.’ Obviously, we don’t.”
Seahawks 31, 49ers 6
SF—FG Nedney 23
SF—FG Nedney 23
Sea—Hasselbeck 1 run (Mare kick)
Sea—Butler 13 pass from Hasselbeck (Mare kick)
Sea—Trufant 32 interception return (Mare kick)
Sea—Branch 3 pass from Hasselbeck (Mare kick)
Sea—FG Mare 35
|Total Net Yards||263||242|
|Time of Possession||32:45||27:15|
RUSHING—San Francisco, Gore 17-38, Walker 1-10, Norris 1-1. Seattle, Forsett 7-43, Jones 8-18, Washington 6-12, Hasselbeck 2-4.
PASSING—San Francisco, A.Smith 26-45-2-225. Seattle, Hasselbeck 18-23-1-170.
RECEIVING—San Francisco, V.Davis 8-73, Gore 6-45, Morgan 3-32, Walker 3-27, Crabtree 2-12, Ginn Jr. 1-19, Zeigler 1-10, Byham 1-5, Norris 1-2. Seattle, Williams 4-64, Carlson 3-36, Forsett 3-17, Branch 3-11, Robinson 2-12, Butler 1-13, Morrah 1-11, Obomanu 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.