SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On the field, before the game in which the Seattle Seahawks outcoached, outhustled, outsmarted and outpunched the San Francisco 49ers, Richard Sherman was taunting the 49ers' crowd. He pointed to some of them, who were taunting him first. It didn't stop there.
After the Seahawks shut down the 49ers offense on one early series, Sherman went to the Seattle bench and began pointing and jawing again at some of the fans behind it. After he intercepted Colin Gabbert—er, Colin Kaepernick—he sprinted about 10 yards from his teammates, while still on the field, to taunt the 49ers fans again.
The Seahawks were emotional, fiery and, well, mean as hell. The 19-3 final score didn't show it, but this was a total beatdown. The president pardoned the wrong turkeys.
After every big stop, the Seahawks defenders would jump, high-five and celebrate. They'd do so excessively, particularly after stopping a runner or embarrassing Kaepernick, which was often.
When a 49ers receiver made a catch on the Seattle sideline, one of the inactive Seahawks players, not even in uniform, started jawing at him. When a 49ers fumble happened near the Seattle sideline in the second quarter, again one of the inactive Seahawks players—also not even wearing a uniform—almost jumped on top of the pile, but an assistant coach grabbed him before he could.
Running back Marshawn Lynch got a penalty for taunting. It was probably the most he's talked in 20 years.
They were mad. They were ornery. They are back.
It's official now: The Seahawks are the most dangerous team in the NFC.
"Sometimes, you should let sleeping dogs lie," Sherman said of 49ers fans taunting him, "Or you're gonna get this."
Seattle's schedule down the stretch is so brutal, it's still possible they might not make the postseason. But they will make this final stretch interesting. The way they throttled the 49ers and intimidated one of the most physical teams in football says a great deal.
The 49ers' performance was so bad that the team's owner, Jed York, sent out this tweet:
Wow. An owner making a statement like that directly after a loss is highly unusual and speaks volumes, none of it good. In speaking to several NFL team executives around the sport after the game, the belief is that Jim Harbaugh's tenure, due to the brutal loss, has reached its most critical time, and none believe he will be back next season.
This is uncharted territory for this San Francisco regime. The 49ers' five losses are already the most under Harbaugh.
"I don't know anything about the tweet," Harbaugh said. "What matters is what we do, how we respond as a football team."
The biggest criticism of Harbaugh is that not only has Kaepernick not improved with this coaching staff, he's actually regressed.
The score should have been at least 20-0 at the half instead of 13-0. But in that first half, the Seahawks had almost as many penalty yards (65) as the 49ers had total offensive yards (71). That first half was so bad that thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of 49ers fans left at halftime and didn't come back.
This isn't to say Seattle is the best team in the NFC. But it is, right now, maybe the scariest. Because the Seahawks have regained their ability to physically dominate. They are playing like a bunch of crazed dogs again. When the Seahawks are like this, they are incredibly hard to beat.
Some Seahawks, after denying there was friction in their locker room, are now admitting there was. Safety Earl Thomas told the NFL Network after the game that the friction led to recent togetherness. You can see that something is different with this team from earlier in the season.
What was stunning to see was how the Seahawks atomized Kaepernick physically and—more impressively—rewired his synapses so his receivers appeared cloaked.
The Seahawks shut down the San Francisco running game and put the contest on Kaepernick's shoulders. And the 49ers QB looked lost, especially in the first half. The statistics are mind-numbing. At one point late in the first half, he had a 7.6 passer rating. When throwing outside the numbers, Kaepernick was 1-of-7 for 16 yards, and the 71 total offensive yards was the second-lowest in a first half under Jim Harbaugh.
The 49ers' three points were the fewest at home since Week 6 of 2012, when they lost 26-3 against the Giants. In five career starts against Seattle, Kaepernick is 1-4 with just two touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Remarkably, maybe because it was Thanksgiving, the Seahawks only led 16-0 in the third quarter.
While Kaepernick's play was putrid, Wilson's was at times spectacular. What the moronic Wilson critics continue to fail to grasp is that his game is versatility. That in itself makes him weaponized far more than his critics want to admit.
One play in particular typified Wilson's game. It came in the first half on 3rd-and-9. When none of his receivers were open and 49ers players started to close in after blitzing, Wilson took off. Dontae Johnson closed in. Missed. Wilson cut to his right. Next up for the attempt were two more 49ers players. Miss and miss. Wilson then completed a pass to Tony Moeaki, who because of Wilson's scrambling was wide open. Moeaki then went 63 yards.
Later, again against the 49ers blitz, Wilson completed a pass to Robert Turbin for 34 yards. Wilson had another unbelievable scramble late in the game where two 49ers tackled air.
Those are the types of plays Wilson makes that are equally as debilitating as a pocket passer completing a 40-yard deep ball.
Sherman got another interception in the fourth quarter. After that second pick, he bounced and skipped in front of the 49ers' sideline, taunting them. Then, again, he told the fans (the few that were left) to be quiet, making a whisper gesture. On that play, Seattle's Tharold Simon was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. He was taunting 49ers players.
One 49ers fan threw a bottle at Seahawks players as they left the field. Both the 49ers and their fans were ugly.
After the game, Sherman carried a gigantic turkey from the NBC set, where he did a postgame interview, into the locker room. It was odd watching Sherman carry a large bird 70 yards, but after the splendid game he played, he can do whatever he wants.
The Seahawks have a right to talk. A right to their swagger.
Because they're back.