After five weeks of unrelenting calamity, the Seahawks won again, a 34-13 get-well gift provided by the dilapidated San Francisco 49ers franchise.
SAN FRANCISCO — They call him Church Van. Leonard Weaver is so religious he’d thank God for a new chinstrap, so the burly fullback’s teammates tagged him with the ingenious nickname.
On Sunday, the Seahawks learned what happens when the Church Van floors it. The Church Van can move from merely blocking to scoring two touchdowns faster than the time it takes J.T. O’Sullivan to fumble.
“They didn’t know the Church Van could go that fast,” Weaver said, laughing.
We didn’t know the Seahawks were still capable of laughter.
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After five weeks of unrelenting calamity, they won again, a 34-13 get-well gift provided by the dilapidated San Francisco 49ers franchise. For the first time since their Week 3 victory over St. Louis, the Seahawks played a team that made their woes seem like luxuries. The Niners have replaced the Rams as the team with the rattiest situation in the NFL.
Interim coach Mike Singletary, the hard-edged Hall of Famer known for his stare, kicked his starting tight end off the field during the third quarter. He also benched O’Sullivan, his starting quarterback, whose initialed first name must stand for Just Turnovers.
The Seahawks forced O’Sullivan to fumble twice, including one that Patrick Kerney scooped up and returned 50 yards to set up an Olindo Mare field goal. Then, with the 49ers driving late in the second quarter, O’Sullivan threw an interception that cornerback Josh Wilson returned for a 75-yard, plague-lifting Seahawks touchdown.
After the second half turned into Weaver’s wonderland, with touchdown receptions of 43 and 62 yards, victory returned to this woebegone football state.
It was not only the first time the Seahawks had won in five weeks, but it was also the first time the Seahawks, Washington Huskies or Washington State Cougars had triumphed in five weeks.
The SeaCougSkies, the three biggest pigskin pariahs in the area, were a combined donut-for-11 since the third weekend in September, when the Cougars and Seahawks both won.
So, at last, the conversation has changed. The misery is, well, on hold.
“I’m very happy for the players,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “As hard as they work, they deserve a little ice cream.”
That’s a great way of putting it. This was just a treat, only a taste of success. The Seahawks didn’t prove anything other than they still know how to pound a lifeless team. But the stabilizing process had to begin somewhere.
Their fortunes changed when O’Sullivan fumbled the first time. It happened on the opening drive, when Kerney stripped the quarterback. Darryl Tapp should’ve recovered the loose ball, but the Seahawks had to settle for making San Francisco lose 16 yards on the play.
At first, it felt like another missed opportunity for a defense that has struggled to force turnovers. The Seahawks saw it differently, however. They remembered the frustration of sacking O’Sullivan eight times in their Week 2 loss to the Niners and never stripping him of the ball. Although Tapp missed a chance at a touchdown by muffing the fumble, momentum was still with the Seahawks.
“Tapp was kind of upset with himself,” linebacker Julian Peterson said. “If he would’ve bent his knees and got it instead of trying to scoop it up on the run, it would’ve been six. But that play gave our defense confidence.”
Their scouting report on O’Sullivan was working in their favor now. They knew he had small hands and was susceptible to turnovers. They told themselves they just had to keep applying pressure, and he’d give them the ball.
On the Niners’ second drive, the Seahawks’ beliefs were confirmed. Peterson stripped him, and Kerney picked up the football and ran 50 yards, a play that resulted in a 6-0 lead.
“That’s what we’re talking about right there,” Peterson said. “That’s our style of defense.”
While preparing for this game, his final Bay Area homecoming as the Seahawks coach, Holmgren expressed a clear objective to his players: “Let’s go all out.” He vowed to not play it safe. He vowed to turn his players loose. After three straight losses and a 1-5 record, there was no use being conservative.
Holmgren didn’t employ a daredevil game plan, but he took some risks. The most prominent came late in the first quarter, when he elected to go for it on fourth-and-six at the San Francisco 35-yard line. Koren Robinson caught a 6-yard pass to move the chains, and the Seahawks went on to score a touchdown.
“I think it was big,” said quarterback Seneca Wallace, who threw for 222 yards. “I think him showing confidence in us, it goes back to him saying, ‘We’re going to let it all hang out.’ It meant a lot.”
They probably could’ve beaten the 49ers simply by letting a few fingers and toes hang out, but that wouldn’t have been much fun. We would’ve missed the Church Van.
The joy is back. In case you’ve forgotten how to react to happiness, simple advice: Savor it.