They’ll remember the noise. They’ll remember the talk. They’ll remember the taunts.
Most of all, San Francisco will remember Sunday night’s final score.
"There's levels to this game," said Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who shut down 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin (one catch for seven yards) and also intercepted a pass, to NFL.com afterwards. "And I think we showed that we're on another level."
Them’s sound like fightin’ words, considering that the 49ers were NFC Champions last season and fell short to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXLVII. Not that All-Pro Sherman has ever had a problem talking—or backing up his own words.
The 49ers, though, stumbled in Seattle a second straight season, this time just a week after besting Green Bay to open the 2013 campaign.
"We're certainly not proud of the way we played or coached," said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who coached Sherman at Stanford University, to the San Francisco Chronicle.
It actually started off well enough for the visitors, who were upended at Century Link Field in Seattle by a 42-13 score in December.
A mysterious whistle caused several Seahawks to relax on what turned out to be a blocked punt, and the 49ers eventually drove to the Seattle 5-yard-line before Colin Kaepernick’s deflected pass was picked off by Earl Thomas to snuff San Fran’s initial threat.
Following a first-quarter weather delay that wouldn’t have fazed the old Seattle Kingdome, it all began to slowly but surely unravel for San Francisco.
Down by a baseball score (5-0) at halftime, the Niners turned the ball over four times on the night, and ultimately surrendered 17 points in the final quarter before a stadium-record crowd of 68,338 that also set a Guinness world record by reaching of level of 136.6 decibels, according to the Seattle Times.
Marshawn Lynch didn’t crack 100 yards rushing for the first time in four games against the Niners, but still ran for 98 yards and two scores for the Seahawks, who have won nine straight home games. He also caught a pass from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (8-of-19, 142 yards, TD, INT) and then took his time stepping into the end zone.
It wasn’t the first such taunting incident of the game, which featured a total of 22 penalties and more than a little after-whistle jawing and shoving. Several injuries were also suffered: San Francisco's Ian Williams, Eric Reid, Vernon Davis and Ray McDonald, and Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung.
No, these two teams do not like each other. Not even a little.
Just before the two-minute warning in the first half, Seattle’s Sidney Rice caught a 13-yard pass for a first down and then promptly spun the ball at the feet of a San Francisco defender to earn himself 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
In the end, it was just a footnote.
The Seahawks only led by five at the half, thanks to a safety and a field goal, but went ahead 12-0 in the third on Lynch's first scoring run, this one from 14 yards out.
It was all Seattle needed to put this one away, its second straight win over San Fran after a string of four straight defeats. The Seahawks now also lead the all-time series that began in 1976, 15-14.
Kaepernick led San Francisco with 87 yards on the ground, but was just 13-of-28 passing for 127 yards. He was a little better than Wilson through the air, at least completion-wise—but he was also intercepted three times, sacked another three, and lost a fumble.
He also lost an eyebrow as part of a bet he made with Wilson, according to USA TODAY.
"We're not going to win games if I play like that," said Kaepernick to the Chronicle.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, a San Francisco native who turned 62 Sunday night, may have rubbed a more than a few grains of salt into the 49ers multiple wounds when he challenged a ruling on a fumble with 4:15 left and Seattle up by 26 points. The red flag worked and the Seahawks got the ball back to complete the contest, with Wilson taking two knees in the final minute of play.
That was nice of them—nah, not really.
“If we were to combine the scores of the last two games, how much of it is real and how much of it is fake?” cornerback said Sherman to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “That’s real.”
Three years ago the NFC West was the worst division in the NFL. Now it’s one of the best, largely due to the Seahawks-49ers rivalry, which only figures to get more intense. The road to the 2013 division title will almost certainly go through California or Washington, although two games obviously do not make a season.
Neither does one, no matter how dominating a fourth quarter.
"They're a very good team," said Carroll to the Chronicle. "They almost won the Super Bowl. He (Harbaugh) couldn't beat his brother (Baltimore's John Harbaugh)."
Thanks, Coach—we think. Jim Harbaugh and Carroll have never been best friends, but at least they were civil at game's end Sunday night. This time.
The Seahawks will "join" the AFC South over the next four weeks as they meet Jacksonville, Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee in succession, before facing NFC West foe Arizona on Oct. 17. The 49ers host Indianapolis on Sunday, then go to St. Louis.
Seattle and San Francisco won't face off again until Dec. 8 at Candlestick Park, perhaps for the final time at that soon-to-be-demolished venue.
After Sunday night, though, if the 49ers didn’t already have that rematch date circled on their calendars, well, it’s doubly circled now. They achieved last year what the Seahawks now want—the division and conference titles—and will be loathe to give them up. Especially for the last time at their long-time home.