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November 27, 2014 at 11:25 PM

Postgame impressions of Seahawks’ win over 49ers

Here are three impressions from beat writers Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta on Seattle’s win over the 49ers Thursday night. First from Jenks:

1, Bobby Wagner hasn’t missed a step. Wagner, Seattle’s middle linebacker, returned from injury two games ago after more than a month off. And he has played at nearly the same level as he did before the injury, when many thought he looked like a Pro Bowl linebacker. Wagner’s presence in the middle of the Seahawks’ defense was again blatantly obvious, and his speed can make up for some of Seattle’s other deficiencies on defense. He closes on running backs up the middle so fast, and he can get to wide receivers over the middle or in the flat before a four-yard gain becomes 10 yards. He might be the biggest reason Seattle’s defense looks like the group from a year ago.

2, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor set the tone. Richard Sherman’s two interceptions will carry the headlines, but Thomas and Chancellor really set the tone from the start. Chancellor delivered a big hit on Michael Crabtree on the first series of the game that left him pounding the grass in pain, and Thomas flew all over the field, throwing his body into receivers and ball carriers. Just as noticeable, they were celebrating with each other (and with other teammates) after nearly every play. I asked Thomas if he and Chancellor were trying to set the tone with their energy and physical effort: “And we do. I’m not scared to say that because of the work we put in. We understand what we need to do. It’s just great to see the guys show you love back. That’s the thing that fulfills me and gives me inner peace. I love winning and losing, but it’s the relationships I’m starting to love more.”

3, The Seahawks cut off San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s legs. When Kaepernick has burned the Seahawks in the past — and there have been times when he has been a thorn for Seattle’ defense — he has done so largely with his legs first and his arm second. He carried the ball only three times for 17 yards on Thursday, and he had only a few rare opportunities to escape the pocket, run and make a big throw down the field. The Seahawks got good enough pressure to make him uncomfortable, but they also were disciplined enough to force him to remain in the pocket. “We understood it. They tried it already against us in the past. We learned from our mistakes. Even when we fail, we’re going to get better.”​

And from Condotta:

1. Tony Moeaki is looking like a really nice free agent find: Given his recent injury history and lack of any real playing time since 2012, it was hard to know what to expect when the Seahawks signed Moeaki on Nov. 4. But it’s proving to be another really well-timed acquisition by the Seahawks, who desperately needed some tight end help after the injury to Zach Miller. Moeaki has six catches for 98 yards in three games, none more interesting than his 63-yard catch and run Thursday night which came at a pretty key time in the game. Seattle led 7-0 at the time and was facing a third-and-nine early in the second quarter. Obviously, the main part of the play was made by Russell Wilson to get away from the rush. But Moeaki showed he knows how the offense works with Wilson — to be aware at all times that the ball might come. The play helped put Seattle up 10-0, and the 49ers were never within a touchdown again.

2. Will the red zone issues eventually catch up to Seattle? For the second straight week, the Seahawks went 1-5 in the red zone, leaving a lot of points on the board. It seems sort of odd, given how well Seattle runs the ball. Penalties have obviously contributed — the holding call on Jermaine Kearse last week, for instance and the pass interference tonight on Robert Turbin. Seattle is now 25-53 in the red zone, a percentage that ranks near the bottom of the NFL (Seattle was 25h coming into the game). Hard to imagine that can continue if Seattle is to get to, and win, another Super Bowl.

3. Seattle is living up to “it’s all about the ball.” Pete Carroll will say whenever asked that turnover margin is the most important stat in football. And while the turnovers still aren’t coming at quite the same rate as last year, the margin is beginning to creep up. Seattle was  plus-two tonight and now is plus-six for the season. That includes being plus-five in the last three games. Most critical to that is zero offensive turnovers in that time. Seattle now has had six games this season without a turnover.



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