Russell Wilson capped an 82-yard drive with a 9-yard TD pass to Paul Richardson as the Seahawks avoided an 0-2 start with a 12-9 win over the 49ers.
First, Paul Richardson got sewn up.
The ring finger on his right hand, to be precise, on which he suffered a dislocation through the skin when he tried to catch a Russell Wilson pass that bounced on the ground in front of him early in the first quarter.
Then, he and Wilson helped stitch together a play that gave the Seahawks a win on a day when it was tempting to wonder if the season was already coming apart at the seams.
Richardson’s 9-yard touchdown catch of a Wilson pass on third-and-seven with 7:06 left proved enough for the Seahawks to escape with a 12-9 win over a 49ers team that came into the day as 13-point underdogs.
“Pretty good stuff,’’ said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll of Richardson’s effort.
Richardson shrugged, saying he viewed it as just another day at the office.
“I mean, we had a game to win,’’ he said of returning to play.
Few noticed Richardson sneak into the locker room after the injury, which occurred on a play with 11:30 left in the first quarter.
Richardson said he asked trainers when he could return to playing.
“They said, ‘We are about to take care of it and you should be right back out there in like 10 minutes,’ ’’ he said. “So I said, ‘OK, cool.’ ’’
It took longer to heal a Seattle offense that until Richardson’s score had gone 112 minutes and 54 seconds into the season without a touchdown.
The Seahawks dropped five passes, including two potential first-half touchdowns that Seattle coach Pete Carroll said “would have been a whole difference in this ballgame.”
They also saw Wilson uncharacteristically misfire on a few throws. Maybe the rain, the first of any significance the team has had to play in since training camp started, factored in.
But that could hardly be blamed for what was again a balky running game. Seattle had just 50 yards rushing on 23 carries after three quarters, with their tailbacks managing just 38 yards on 19 carries to that point.
And when San Francisco’s Robbie Gould kicked a 34-yard field goal to put the visitors ahead 9-6 with 11:36 remaining, a potential season-altering disaster seemed in the offing.
But Wilson and Carroll insisted there was no panic, if mostly because they’ve been there many times before: Wilson has now led 22 fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks in 94 career games.
“He was right in his element,’’ Carroll said.
It might have helped that the Seahawks also then went more up-tempo on offense. On three of the next seven plays, they went without a huddle.
And while Wilson denied it, it was also another time when he seemed to save his most aggressive running for last.
Wilson had four carries for 12 yards through the first three quarters.
But with the game on the line, he took off four times on the first seven plays, good for 27 yards as the Seahawks moved as they hadn’t all day, needing nine plays to move from their 18-yard line to the San Francisco 9.
A second-down pass to Chris Carson then went awry, though, setting up a third down as pivotal as can be this early in the season — fail and Seattle would have to settle for a field goal and a tie game and more throat-tightening; convert, and the game might finally be in hand.
The play began disastrously with San Francisco’s Arik Armstead blowing past guard Mark Glowinski and forcing Wilson to run.
That put in force the team’s scramble rules. With Wilson running to his left, Richardson ran with him, eventually finding himself near the front of the end zone and the sideline.
“When Russell started scrambling, the defensive back (Rashard Robinson) at first tried to push me out of bounds,’’ Richardson said. “Then I faked one way and came out.’’
Wilson, who also saw Tyler Lockett sprinting that way, decided to throw it to Richardson. As he did, he was grabbed from behind by San Francisco’s DeForest Buckner. Just an eyelash from a sack, Wilson got the ball off.
“I saw him escape and throw it,’’ Carroll said. “And then I couldn’t see anything.’’
Richardson said he had just one thought as the ball came his way.
“Get feet in, get feet down,’’ Richardson said. “I know whenever you leave your feet early, the DB doesn’t leave his feet and gets discouraged. So I just hopped and made sure I had enough room to land inbounds. Got two feet in and started doing my happy dance.’’
There was still the matter of finishing the rest of the game. But that came surprisingly easy, given the previous 3½ quarters.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and when the offense got the ball back with 4:47 left, it used five straight running plays by Carson to gain 41 yards and earn three first downs to run out the rest of the clock.
“Running in the NFL is hard, and in the beginning of the game it’s going to be tough to break long runs,’’ said center Justin Britt. “But by the end of the game, it’s all about toughness and who’s going to fight longer.’’
Maybe the Seahawks also just turned desperate with an 0-2 record staring at their collective faces.
Doug Baldwin later called the win “ugly as hell,’’ a description that undoubtedly also fit what Richardson’s finger looked like.
Wilson, though, decided that ultimately there was beauty in the struggle, deciding to leave for another day if the fact the Seahawks had to go to such lengths to beat the 49ers portends doom down the road.
“Sometimes it’s good to get a win like that,’’ Wilson said. “It tests your composure and tests your faith in the system and what we are doing and everything else. We were able to stay composed and really believe in it, and at the end of the day any time you win is a good thing.’’
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|*End of game or half.|