More than just the interception, Wagner collected his 100th tackle of the season on his eighth and final of the game, which led the Seahawks.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — So, teammate Sheldon Richardson was asked, how good was Bobby Wagner’s diving, tumbling interception that led to a second-quarter touchdown Sunday for the Seahawks?
“Top five of all time,’’ Richardson said.
Of all time, all time? Like the entire history of football all time?
“Of all time,’’ Richardson insisted. “The dude caught it and came in and took it from him at first. I thought it was a fumble at first. Then I looked up and said, ‘That’s an interception.’ ’’
OK, so assessing whether it was really one of the best interceptions ever is pretty impossible to prove and a matter of much subjective debate.
What is becoming an empirical fact, though, is that Wagner proved again he is playing as well as any defender in the NFL this season.
The middle linebacker, in his sixth year with Seattle, had a game-high eight tackles. Seven were solo, two for a loss, as well as two quarterback hits. And according to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just a 30.6 passer rating on six pass attempts that came his way.
“I think it’s as good (a season) as a defensive player can have,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “I think he’s on top of everything.’’
But to Carroll, the most impressive part of what Wagner did Sunday is what he hadn’t done throughout the week leading into it — practice.
Wagner had been officially listed as questionable while dealing with a hamstring injury and hadn’t done any onfield work all week.
“He was able to only work out with the trainers a little bit,’’ Carroll said. “And to come through that and have another big game, a play of the game for the defense, it’s just the way he’s been doing it.’’
Wagner called not practicing all week and then playing, “Pretty hard. You have to make sure you focus. You have to watch all the film. You don’t get to see the reps and see how the guys are playing in front of it.’’
Then he smiled and thought about the positive side of it.
“I played well and I didn’t practice,’’ he said. “You may want to tell Pete that.’’
What Wagner could rely on the most, of course, is the years of work he already has put into the game and his natural instincts.
The interception was a combination of both as Wagner sniffed out a short pass to Trent Taylor and then let God-given ability take over.
“I just saw 81, he tried to set down (in the zone),’’ Wagner said. “Then they threw the ball, he didn’t have much control so I just took it away. … I kind of seen him he was kind of bobbling it around. I was like, ‘Might as well just take it from him because he didn’t want it.’ ’’
The play came at a key time in the game with the Seattle offense struggling and the game tied at zero a minute into the second quarter.
“We felt like the offense needed a little bit of help,’’ Wagner said. “We felt like a turnover or something at that moment in the game would be big for us. It was.’’
Wagner already has scored on a fumble return for a touchdown and a safety this season and hoped initially he had added to that when he got up and ran into the end zone following the interception. Instead, he was ruled down at the 16.
But Seattle scored two plays later and never trailed again, though it wasn’t until a couple of touchdowns in the second half that the Seahawks finally put the 49ers away.
Wagner said the big plays are proof he’s playing as well as he ever has in his career, one that already includes three Pro Bowl honors and two other All-Pro first-team awards.
“I definitely feel like it’s as well as I’ve played,’’ he said. “I feel like I’m on it. I can see the routes, I’m running the defense well and making some big plays.’’
But he was just as proud of what the moments are adding up to when it comes to his career — Wagner’s eight tackles gives him 100 for the season, marking a sixth consecutive year in which he has had 100 or more.
“It means a lot,’’ he said. “I talk about consistency all the time and I just want to be a player that whenever I am done they say he was very consistent and very productive. So that’s kind of an unwritten goal for me to kind of reach that point each year. So it’s good, but there is more to be done.’’