Coming off a disappointing loss last week to the Arizona Cardinals, the popular narrative in Seattle this week was that the Seahawks must get back to the tried and true formula which helped the team win back to back NFC Championships.
It was Seattle's rookies and not the veterans who shined brightest Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, however, with running back Thomas Rawls and wide receiver Tyler Lockett sparking Seattles 29-13 victory with two touchdowns, apiece.
Called upon to start with Marshawn Lynch a surprise inactive, Rawls responded with a staggering 209 rushing yards, which ranks second in franchise history to the 266 Shaun Alexander ran for against the Raiders back in 2001.
Rawls energized CenturyLink immediately with shifty darting maneuvers, soft hands out of the backfield and the physical, determined running that has earned him comparisons to Lynch dating back to training camp.
This was Rawls' fourth start of the year. He's rushed for 100+ yards in three of those games, including the mega-performance Sunday which included three catches for 46 yards and another score.
Rawls was the engine that drove Seattle's offense but Lockett provided the fuel, zipping past the 49ers to haul in a perfectly thrown touch pass from Russell Wilson to give the Seahawks a statement touchdown on its first drive of the game. After absorbing a lot of negative attention in the media this week, Wilson responded with arguably the best game of the season, completing 24 of 29 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers.
Lockett set a new career high with his second score of the game a quarter later, slipping inside tight end Jimmy Graham and fighting through two would-be tackles to culminate a 13-play drive that began at Seattle's nine-yard line. The score gave Seattle a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter and at that point it was just a matter of the Seahawks hanging on.
Defensively, Seattle did a nice job of containing a plucky 49ers squad. Blaine Gabbert completed 22 of 33 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown, showing more composure and accuracy than Colin Kaepernick had in prior games against Seattle. He had his most success targeting Anquan Boldin (five catches for 93 yards) and tight end Vance McDonald, whose four catches for 65 yards, included a 19-yard touchdown just before halftime.
Cary Williams didn't drop an interception in this contest but that may have been due to a lack of playing time. Williams has started all 10 games opposite Sherman for the Seahawks this season but was benched in favor of DeShawn Shead midway through the third quarter.
The Seahawks sustained several injuries in the second half while attempting to salt away the victory with wideout Doug Baldwin, all three interior offensive linemen Justin Britt (LG), Patrick Lewis (C), and J.R. Sweezy (RG) and backup inside linebacker Nick Moody each going down. Britt and Sweezy returned to action and it appeared as though Baldwin could have had the game been closer. Lemuel Jeanpierre performed well in Lewis' place.
The Seahawks, now 5-5, will host the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday at CenturyLink.