SEATTLE -- The quarterback of the offense and the quarterback of the defense combined to carry the Seahawks to a blowout victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner carried their units to a 43-16 win over the 49ers. Wilson tossed four touchdowns passes while Wagner had a 98-yard interception for a touchdown and a forced fumble and fumble recovery to lead the defense.
The win continues to allow Seattle to make a push toward the playoffs. If they win their remaining games against NFC foes San Francisco, Arizona and Minneosta, with the trip to the Bay Area serving as the only remaining road trip on the schedule, the Seahawks will almost certainly return to the postseason after a one year hiatus.
The Seahawks are a better team than the 49ers and did exactly what they should have done against an inferior opponent. Next Monday's game against the Minnesota Vikings should not be as clear-cut a result and is potentially the single most important game remaining on the team's schedule.
But before turning the page to the Vikings, here are the takeaways from the 43-16 win against the 49ers:
1. Bobby Wagner is having another gem of a season.
He may be the only star left playing every week for the Seahawks defense, but Bobby Wagner is continuing to show he's a potential Hall of Famer in the making.
Wagner filled up the stat sheets during Sunday's win over the 49ers. He had a stat in every defensive category tracked for the official league game books recorded each week: 12 tackles, eight solo and four assisted, a sack for a 9-yard loss, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, two passes defended, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception which he returned franchise-record 98 yards.
"You can’t talk about this game unless you talk about Bobby Wagner," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He just had a phenomenal game. There’s not many more things the guy could do. He had 10 tackles. He took the ball away from them on a fumble. He had a sack. He had an interception for a touchdown, all-time ever longest play in the history of the franchise. Just did another marvelous job of taking care of all the leadership stuff that he does, too."
On a defense without Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and K.J. Wright (outside of three games this season), Wagner has continued to excel in every facet of his game. Wagner is averaging nine tackles a game and has been the cog that has kept Seattle's defense from completely falling apart.
Wagner jumped in front of a pass from Nick Mullens to running back Jeff Wilson Jr. and outraced the pursuing 49ers offense for a 98-yard score that put an exclamation point on the win. Brandon Browner's 94-yard pick-six against the New York Giants in 2011 was the longest interception in team history prior to Sunday.
“I kind of watched on film that when they have two by two, or whatever, if he didn’t have anything he might try to throw it to the (running) back," Wagner said. "So, I was trying to make it look like I didn’t see the back and when he threw it to the back or threw it to the guy in the middle, I just broke on it, caught it, and tried to score and make sure I didn’t get caught by the quarterback because I would never hear the end of that, for the rest of the year."
2. Russell Wilson looks to be fully back to his peak form.
Russell Wilson completed 11 of 17 passes for 185 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday's win over the 49ers.
At one point in the first half, Wilson had completed four passes and three of them resulted in touchdowns.
"Russell’s doing a phenomenal job with our offense. I love the way it’s fitting together. We have to keep going," Carroll said.
Wilson is quietly on pace to throw the most touchdowns of any season in his seven-year NFL career. Wilson's career-high for touchdowns is 34, which he accomplished in both 2015 and 2017. Last season, his 34 touchdowns was the most of any quarterback in the NFL. With 29 touchdowns in 12 games, Wilson is on pace to throw 38-39 touchdowns (38.6) over a full 16-game schedule. He's managed to accomplish that while throwing just five interceptions all season. His career-best in interceptions was seven in 2014, which he's on pace to match as well.
It's not that Wilson ever devolved into being a poor starting quarterback. Far from it. However, when the full weight of the Seattle offense was thrust upon him over the previous two seasons, he was prone to making far more mistakes than he used to.
Wilson hasn't been asked to carry as much of the workload this year since the Seattle rushing attack allows the Seahawks to remain balanced. But when Wilson has been asked to throw it, he's generally performed at a stellar level.
And the really encouraging part is he's only getting better as the season goes along. Wilson has thrown at least two touchdowns in every game since the team's 20-17 win over Arizona on Sept. 30. He's posted a passer rating of over 100.0 in seven of the team's last eight games.
The bad sacks have been significantly reduced and he's moving efficiently within the pocket without bailing backwards. He also continues to be among the best deep ball throwers in the NFL, cashing in on a 52-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett against the 49ers.
3. Defense made key turnovers but teams keep moving the ball against them.
Bobby Wagner forced two turnovers and special teams contributed a third that helped limit the 49ers to just 16 points on Sunday. However, Nick Mullens - a third-string quarterback at the beginning of the season - became just the 11th quarterback to throw for at least 400 yards against the Seahawks in a game in franchise history.
"We gave up a lot of yards, but taking away the ball gave them extra chances and stuff, so I didn’t worry about that so much," Carroll said. "But, we didn’t tackle as well as we need to. We missed some tackles, and some of their guys did a nice job of running in the open field."
The Seahawks defense has been struggling to slow down opposing offenses for much of the last month. San Francisco gained 452 yards against Seattle's defense on Sunday. It was the third time in the team's last four games they've allowed an opponent to gain over 400 yards. The Carolina Panthers gained 476 yards last week and the Los Angeles Rams put up 456 yards three weeks ago. It was the first time in five games an opponent didn't score at least 24 points against them.
Against the San Francisco 49ers? Meh. No big deal.
Against the Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs or any team Seattle might face in the playoffs, potentially a much bigger problem.
Mychal Kendricks can return from the suspended list this week. The hope is K.J. Wright will begin progressing after being out of town for knee treatments last week. But without turnovers to bolster the group or key situational stops on third and fourth downs like a week ago in Carolina, the Seahawks defense appears to be supremely vulnerable at times.
Even as Bobby Wagner continues to do his thing at a standout level.
4 Special teams comes through for Seattle, minus Sebastian Janikowski.
Michael Dickson has been a massive weapon for the Seahawks this season in being able to flip field position with his booming punts.
Dickson was again solid in his performance on Sunday against the 49ers, averaging 49.8 yards on four punts and with one landing inside the 20-yard line. A 56-yard punt by Dickson was also mishandled by returned Richie James Jr. and recovered by Neiko Thorpe for Seattle's third turnover of the game alongside Bobby Wagner's two turnovers.
Six plays after the Thorpe recovery, Wilson's 1-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin gave Seattle a 20-0 lead late in the second quarter.
Maurice Alexander made two terrific tackles on special teams as well. Tyler Lockett also took the opening kickoff back 84 yards to setup a one-play touchdown drive as Rashaad Penny scored on a 20-yard run to make it a 27-3 game early in the third quarter.
The only negatives on special teams for Seattle was one 42-yard kickoff return by James and two missed extra points by Sebastian Janikowski.
Janikowski missed the first extra point try of the game wide left and a mishandled snap on the final extra point of the game contributed to Janikowski missing that one short and left.
Janikowski has now missed six kicks on the year, four field goals and two extra points.
5. D.J. Fluker's injury could be a significant development.
Maybe the most influential development from Sunday's win over the 49ers was the injury to the hamstring of right guard D.J. Fluker.
Fluker was injured in the fourth quarter of the victory and did not return to the game. He needed help to get to his feet, assistance from teammates and staff to get to the bench, and eventually took a cart ride from the sidelined to return to the locker room.
"He pulled him hamstring," Carroll said. "I don't know how serious it is but we'll have to get all the reports back and all that. It was pretty significant though. He felt it clearly in what it was."
Brandon Mebane was lost for the season in 2014 when he sustained a torn hamstring in November. If Fluker has also sustained a tear, it could very well be an end to his season as well. Fluker was engaged in a block of defensive tackle Earl Mitchell when he fell to the turf.
Fluker has been one of the biggest positives of the season for the Seahawks. His presence on the offensive line has helped bring an edge back to the group and allowed the team to find success in its commitment to the running game. Whether Jordan Simmons or Ethan Pocic can adequately replace him should his season be over will be something significant to keep an eye on over the final month of the season.
"I don’t know what the extent of his injury is but I’m praying for him," left tackle Duane Brown said. "He’s a big part of our offense and a big part of our team. That’s his mentality outside of his performance. Hopefully, everything works out for him."
After Joey Hunt played one snap, Simmons took over at right guard for the remainder of the game.
Running back Chris Carson left the game with a finger injury. However, he said it was a dislocated finger and he will be fine. He expects to get it stitched up and that it won't be an issue.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 02: Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers attempts to tackle former teammate Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks in the third quarter at CenturyLink Field on December 2, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)