SEATTLE — While running out to the best start in franchise history and becoming the last unbeaten team in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks knew the reality of where they stood wouldn’t come until they started division play.
It took one week for that reality to slap Seattle with a reminder how tough it will be to navigate the NFC West. And a second dose will arrive this Sunday when San Francisco visits Seattle.
“That last game helped us out a lot with just being able to get a perspective back right,” Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett said.
Seattle took its first loss of the season last week in a 37-34 overtime setback to Arizona. The Seahawks had multiple opportunities in regulation and overtime to get out of the desert with a victory, but instead lost for the first time with Russell Wilson at quarterback and holding a lead of four or more points at halftime.
The Seahawks have thrived in those late-game situations, especially this year, whether it was the goal-line defensive stand to beat New England or the last-second touchdown to beat Minnesota. But the loss to Arizona was a reminder how thin is the margin Seattle is playing with.
When Wilson isn’t perfect and a defense is underperforming, the Seahawks seem vulnerable despite their record.
“You know there’s going to be highs, there’s going to be lows throughout the season. But I always expect way more highs than lows,” Wilson said.
San Francisco can reinsert itself into the division race if it can win for a second straight year in Seattle. A season ago, the 49ers made a goal-line stop on the final play to escape with a 26-21 win in Week 17 and the division title.
The 49ers can condense the division race even more if they win in Seattle for a second straight year. Doing so would mean overcoming a continuing run of significant injuries. San Francisco will be without wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. against the Seahawks after each was injured in last week’s 33-6 rout of New England.
Despite the injuries, the 49ers know they’re in a much better place than a few weeks ago when they were coming off consecutive losses.
“I feel like all that noise outside the building is irrelevant in our building, especially to our group,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said. “We know exactly what we’re capable of and we’re just going to continue to work every single day, every single week to get better. We’re not worried about that outside noise at all.”
SLOWING DOWN RUSS
The Niners have put together stellar defensive performances in back-to-back weeks against the Rams and New England, allowing only 22 points and intercepting five passes in the two games. Doing that this week will be much harder against Wilson. Seattle leads the league with 33.8 points per game, including an NFL-best 22 TD passes from Wilson.
“They’re one of the best offenses in the league,” Warner said. “You got Russ, who’s obviously had an MVP season thus far. We’ve obviously got to try and eliminate the explosive plays because that’s what their bread and butter has been so far. It’s going to be difficult.”
ON THE WAY
Seattle has help for its beleaguered defense coming soon. The latest move was the acquisition of pass rusher Carlos Dunlap from Cincinnati this week. Dunlap won’t be cleared through COVID-19 protocols in time to play Sunday, but could help as soon as Week 9. The Seahawks previously signed Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Mychal Kendricks to the practice squad with the expectation both will be elevated to the active roster soon.
Seattle safety Quandre Diggs said the activity is a clear indication about how the front office views this team.
“It definitely sends a message that we want to win and we want to go get this thing now,” Diggs said.
IGNORE THE NUMBERS
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan sees the prolific numbers opposing offenses are putting up on Seattle’s usually stingy defense, but he doesn’t put a lot of stock into them. He credits much of the success teams have had moving the ball to taking more chances in order to keep up with Seattle’s high-powered offense.
“I know their numbers are real bad, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story,” he said. “I see some good players. We know how good their coaches are. I just think that’s how it’s gone a little bit with the balance of their games.”
When Raheem Mostert went down with a knee injury early in the season, Jerick McKinnon picked up the rushing load for San Francisco. With McKinnon worn down and Mostert hurt again, Wilson delivered 112 yards and three TDs last week at New England. Now Wilson is out for a couple of weeks and undrafted rookie Jamycal Hasty might have to carry a big load. Hasty is averaging 5.2 yards per carry so far this season.
Seattle could be facing similar questions at running back after starter Chris Carson (foot), and backups Carlos Hyde (hamstring) and Travis Homer (knee) all picked up injuries last week against Arizona.