Russell Wilson is singlehandedly keeping the Seahawks' offense afloat, but how much longer can they keep this up with an imposing schedule on the horizon?
1. Defense was adequate … for now
What’s left of Seattle’s decimated defense proved stout enough to hold up against the 49ers. But this win also came against a team that has one win in 11 games this season. So what does that really say about Seattle?
That there’s reason for concern down the road with tough games looming against the Eagles (who boast the NFL’s best record, 10-1), the AFC South-leading Jaguars and the NFC West-leading Rams in the coming weeks.
With Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Shaquill Griffin all out with injuries, the Seahawks started Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell at cornerback — the same combination they finished with against Atlanta on Monday – and Bradley McDougald and Earl Thomas at safety.
They held the 49ers to 197 passing yards almost held them without a touchdown until Jimmy Garoppolo came off the bench for an injured C.J. Beathard in the final minute and tossed a 10-yard touchdown to Louis Murphy as time expired.
Aside from that, the Seahawks defense did fine without their stars. K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and even Neiko Thorpe each had a pass defensed. Seattle also sacked 49ers rookie quarterback Beathard thrice and hit him 13 times, which went a long way toward keeping the 49ers off balance until the Seattle offense was able to get on track.
2. The unusual suspects
The Seahawks most important offensive drive of the game came early in the third quarter, when they finally broke out of a slump and mounted a 6-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to – you never would have guessed it – Nick Vannett, the second-year tight end from Ohio State.
Vannett’s touchdown was set up by a big pass from Russell Wilson to Tanner McEvoy, who broke a tackle on his way to a 24-yard pick up. It was only McEvoy’s third catch of the year.
McEvoy also caught a 7-yard pass in the fourth quarter to finish the game with two receptions for 31 yards – double the receptions he’s had all season.
Vannett had two receptions for 29 yards and played a bigger role than normal against the 49ers because veteran tight end Luke Willson left the game in the first quarter with a concussion and did not return. The 17-yard score was Vannett’s first career touchdown, and that touchdown seemed to spark the Seattle offense.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Seattle’s offense put together its best offensive drive of the game. This time, tight end Jimmy Graham was the beneficiary of Seattle’s 11-play, 63-yard drive that extended Seattle’s lead to 21-7 to finally put some distance between the Seahawks and the 49ers.
But running back J.D. McKissic gets the best supporting cast member nod, with his 12-yard pickup on second down, complete with a nifty spin move to avoid a defender and extend the play.
With Mike Davis inactive with a groin injury sustained against Atlanta, McKissic and Eddie Lacy split running back duties. They did…OK. Lacy had 17 carries for 46 yards and caught three balls for 15 yards, while McKissic showed his versatility with four rushes for 22 yards and four receptions for 24 yards.
Those numbers aren’t going to light the world on fire, and they don’t even necessarily give Seattle a viable running threat. But given the problems Seattle has had in finding a reliable feature back, it’s better than some performances the Seattle tailbacks have put on this season. (We know, the bar is now set appallingly low.)
3. But also the usual one
In a season in which the Seahawks’ defense has lost stalwarts Cliff Avril, Sherman and Kam Chancellor, weathered through a revolving door on the offensive line, and haven’t managed to establish a viable run game, Wilson is showing once again why he might be the most indispensable quarterback in the NFL.
On several occasions, his ability to extend the play and evade the rush turned potential sacks for loss into positive offensive plays. For instance, on the drive that ended in Graham’s touchdown, San Francisco’s Tank Carradine came barreling down on Wilson and tried to tackle him by launching high and wrapping his arms around Wilson’s shoulder pads. Wilson shook him off and managed to throw the ball away to make it second-and-10 instead of second-and-17.
On the next play, Wilson faked the handoff to McKissic and kept the ball, changing direction and scrambling upfield for an 11-yard gain.
Wilson also scored Seattle’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run and was heavily involved in all three Seattle touchdowns.
Wilson went 20 of 34 for 288 passing yards with two passing touchdowns, and also had six runs for 22 yards.
He’s singlehandedly keeping the offense afloat.