The hype, the page clicks, the social-media machine — that’s Marshawn Lynch’s domain. The running back’s return to the Seahawks has spawned a wave of intrigue that Seattle’s sports scene hasn’t seen in years.

But beloved as Beast Mode may be around here, he won’t be the central figure in the Seahawks’ game vs. the 49ers. That role is reserved for Russell Wilson.

This isn’t the biggest game the Seahawks quarterback has ever played in, but there has never been more on the line for him in the regular season. A division title vs. second place. A home game vs. one on the road. It’s a potential chapter for the Legend of No. 3 if he has enough ink in the quill.

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It’s hard to define what kind of season this has been for Wilson without knowing the outcome of Sunday’s game. It’s ovation-worthy regardless of the result, but only a victory would make it a standing one.

Through the first nine games of 2019, Wilson was the favorite for NFL MVP. His team was 7-2, he led the league in passer rating, and really only had one game (Week 7 against Baltimore) that was anything short of majestic.

The media would prod Seahawks coach Pete Carroll about why his team continued to win close games, and after praising the players’ mental toughness, he’d basically borrow from James Carville: It’s the quarterback, stupid.


And it was. Then, the next seven games  happened — when only once did Wilson’s passer rating crack triple digits. He was a non-factor in the 16-point loss to the Rams, and was equally absent in last Sunday’s defeat at the hands of Arizona.

Yes, Wilson is still having one of the better seasons of his likely Hall of Fame career, but it’s starting to look like a film that was Oscar-worthy through the first 90 minutes before dragging for the next 60.

But a premier performance in a win over San Francisco Sunday would erase most of those second-half struggles.

First off, it’s the 49ers. The Seahawks have history with every team in the NFC West, as all four squads have won the division title in the past seven years. But San Francisco is the rival. Players and coaches will tell you that they don’t treat one team any differently than the other, and that’s probably true. But the battles they’ve had with San Francisco over the years — in the regular season and the playoffs — automatically. spike the intensity.

Second, the 49ers have Richard Sherman at cornerback. The former Seahawk hasn’t been shy about trash-talking Wilson — whether it has been yelling “you suck!” after picking him off in practice, or noting times that he has thrown five interceptions with the press. And though the two exchanged jerseys after Seattle’s overtime win in the Bay Area last month, it’s hard not to think there isn’t still tension there. At some point, Wilson is going to take a shot against Sherman down the field, and the result of that shot may be the difference in the game.

Third, there are injuries everywhere. Particularly on offense. Gone are running backs Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise, which paved the way for the Lynch signing. Gone is Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. And with Josh Gordon also out due to suspension, most of the offensive firepower that spanked the Panthers two Sundays ago has evaporated.

Which sets the stage for Wilson. Obviously, these aren’t ideal circumstances. But in a way, this is  the type of situation that 11-year-olds dream about when they’re playing touch football in the street. Offensively speaking, this is pretty much all on Russell, which is startling and stirring all at once.

Sunday, No. 3 has to carry the Seahawks. He will have to provide a wondrous  performance to beat the favored 49ers.Before kickoff, all the chatter will be about Marshawn Lynch. But if the Seattle wins, it is Wilson’s name that will be on people’s tongues.