In what has become one of the NFL's most heated new rivalries, the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the San Franciso 49ers on Sunday night, 29-3.
In front of a historically loud crowd at CenturyLink Field (literally), Pete Carroll's squad moved to 2-0 behind a truly dominant defensive performance, holding the Niners (1-1) to just 207 total yards and forcing five turnovers.
Marshawn Lynch added the offensive spark, compiling 135 total yards and three touchdowns.
The highly anticipated quarterback battle between burgeoning superstars Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson fell somewhat flat thanks to both defenses. Kaepernick threw for 127 yards and rushed for another 87, but accounted for four turnovers. Wilson, meanwhile, managed the game en route to 142 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Despite the first half featuring just five total points and a 60-minute weather delay, it was a darn exciting opening 30 minutes of play.
Many might point to the underwhelming first-half box score—just 203 total yards of offense and a couple of meager lines from the QBs—and assume that it was a half marred by sloppy play or bad offense. In fact, jokes such as this one from CBS Sports' Will Brinson were common on the Twittersphere:
This is by far the best Mariners-Giants game I've ever watched.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 16, 2013
But great defense creates bad offense, and that was the case for both teams for the opening 30 minutes.
There was indeed a bit of sloppy offense, but what really stood out was both teams flying to ball and playing the tough, fast, physical defense that has helped skyrocket them to the top of the NFL West over the past couple of years.
What stood out was Richard Sherman mauling Anquan Boldin at the line of scrimmage and holding him to zero first-half catches on one target, Aldon Smith abusing Seattle's line (racking up two sacks and three QB hits), San Francisco's blocked punt, and Seattle forcing a holding call on Bruce Miller in the end zone for a safety—and the first two points of the game.
The Seahawks would add a field goal following a Kaepernick fumble in Seattle's territory, and the strange first half would end with the 'Hawks ahead, 5-0.
The 49ers/Seahawks game is the 6th since the merger and first since 1992 with a 5-0 halftime score.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 16, 2013
Both offenses seemed to awake from their slumber in the third quarter.
Seattle took the ball first, and shortly after a 51-yard completion from Wilson to Doug Baldwin, Lynch slashed through the Niners defense for a 14-yard score, capping a 10-play, 88-yard drive to make it 12-0:
Kaepernick responded, though, leading San Francisco down the field to set up a 21-yard field goal for Phil Dawson.
But the fourth quarter was all Seattle. Wilson found Lynch for an easy seven-yard score to start the period, and Richard Sherman followed with a beautiful interception. He celebrated the only way he could:
Steven Hauschka subsequently added a field goal to put the Hawks ahead, 22-3.
Safety Kam Chancellor added another interception of Kap on the next drive, returning it to the three and setting up another Lynch touchdown. A fumble from Perrish Cox on the ensuing kickoff then put the ball back in Seattle's hands, and the 'Hawks would run out the clock to finally put a cap on the thorough beatdown.
Players of the Game
Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks: A+
It's not often that Sherman leaves his usual LCB role and shadows a particular receiver. While he didn't always move out of that position on Sunday night, he followed around Anquan Boldin—who shredded the Green Bay Packers for 208 yards last week—for a majority of the game.
The result? One catch on four targets for seven yards for Boldin.
Richard Sherman is playing like he's the best CB in the NFL.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 16, 2013
Oh yeah, then Sherman notched a gorgeous pick in the fourth quarter while matching up with tight end Vernon Davis.
Some may not enjoy the confident corner's yapping on and off the field, but he turned in an elite shutdown performance.
Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers: A
It doesn't get much more scary than Aldon Smith.
That's pretty obvious considering he recorded 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the NFL, but the man who was mostly a situational pass-rusher as a rookie is showing flashes of being a more complete player each and every week.
On Sunday, Smith tallied another two sacks (ho-hum), but he also hit Wilson three times and compiled seven combined tackles (six solo and four for loss). Smith was seemingly in the Seattle backfield all game long.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks: A
At this point, the 49ers must just be happy they only have to face Lynch twice per season.
A dominant defense that tends to thwart every running back it faces, the Niners' unit just can't find a way to contain Beast Mode.
Lynch turned in two 100-yard performances against SF last year, and he's off to a good start in 2013, tallying 4.4 yards per touch and three touchdowns against a really stingy defense.
The undefeated Seahawks will host the winless Jacksonville Jaguars (oh, the humanity), while the Niners will look to get back on track at home against the 1-1 Indianapolis Colts.