The pulsating bass from the victory soundtrack wafted through the wall separating the Seahawks locker room from the adjacent interview room. Earlier, whoops of elation could be heard as the team poured in, triumphant in a game that at one perilous juncture appeared headed toward another gloomy ending.
This time, though, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll did not exit his postgame session prematurely, as he had, grim-faced, after a crushing loss to Arizona the last time the Seahawks played at home. This time, improbably, and imperfectly, the Seahawks got it right. It hasn’t happened often this season, so it was a moment to savor.
In the midst of a joyless season, the Seahawks finally found their happy place. In a game that the network deemed so unappealing they flexed it out of prime time, the Seahawks delivered a sloppy masterpiece of entertainment, defeating San Francisco, 30-23, Sunday at Lumen Field.
“A lot of crazy stuff happened this game,” Carroll said, and truer words were never spoken.
At one time not so long ago, when games between the Seahawks and 49ers meant everything, this would have been enshrined as one of the classics of the series, remembered forever. Now it might be regarded by the 49ers as a game that threw them off their playoff path, and by the Seahawks as one that showed, if nothing else, what pride can achieve.
Carroll began his news conference by jokingly asking for 33 seconds of silence to celebrate the fact the Seahawks finally possessed the ball longer than their opponent, reversing a season-long trend.
But that’s a rather mundane achievement on a day when the Seahawks had a fake punt morph into a 73-yard touchdown romp by Travis Homer. And had future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, in his first game as a Seahawk, tie the legendary Jim Brown with his 126th career touchdown. And had Carlos Dunlap, trying to adjust to a reduction in playing time, turn his first full sack of the season into a vital safety. And had Dunlap blow up a last-ditch effort by the 49ers to pull out the game, batting down a Jimmy Garoppolo pass from Seattle’s 3-yard-line. And became one of the few NFL teams to cough up two turnovers inside the opponent’s 5-yard-line — both courtesy of tight end Gerald Everett — and still win the game.
It almost certainly won’t be enough to steer the Seahawks, now 4-8, back toward the playoffs. But it was enough for Carroll to feel confident that the team’s commitment and, especially, its leadership, hasn’t wavered through the monumental disappointment of this season.
Carroll and several team members cited a team meeting Saturday night, led by Tyler Lockett, as galvanizing the Seahawks. Dunlap called it “one of those hard talks” in which players delved deep into their psyche to convey their motivation for persevering.
“It was basically an open floor for everybody to communicate their why, and why we sacrifice what we do for this game, why we continue to work and fight for this game when the season’s going the way it is,” Dunlap said.
It was also a game of rejuvenation for beleaguered quarterback Russell Wilson, who started slowly before regaining the rhythm and touch that have marked his career but seemed to have disappeared since his finger injury.
Put another way, Russell Wilson finally looked like Russell Wilson again. He completed 30 of 37 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns — one of them an impeccably thrown ball to Tyler Lockett that resulted in an equally exquisite catch in the end zone. It broke a 23-all tie and stood as the game winner. Wilson could have had two more TDs if not for Everett’s miscues.
The Seahawks got the sort of early boost it could have only dreamed of when, facing fourth-and-6 from their own 27 in the first quarter, Homer took a direct snap and raced for the end zone. He was sprung by a block from special-teams ace Nick Bellore and punctuated his score by flipping into the end zone.
“(Homer) was so kind to slow down a little bit so I could get out in front of him,” Bellore said.
What was Bellore’s reaction when the fake punt, long in the arsenal, was finally called?
“Pure panic,” he joked. “You don’t envision it working that well, but it’s always great to see.”
Bellore also had a hand in springing the touchdown by Peterson, whose mere presence was cited as an inspiration surpassing the 16 yards on 11 carries he provided on the stat sheet. Running as a fullback out of the I-formation, Bellore was out front on the 1-yard score — not that Peterson knew who his benefactor was.
“He’s probably was wondering who I was because I haven’t actually got to meet him yet,” Bellore said. “I was just glad to kind of help out any way I could to get him in the end zone, because I think he passed somebody for touchdown runs, which is awesome (Note: Peterson’s run moved him into a tie for 10th place all time with Jim Brown). … I’m really old. He’s even older.”
The early part of the game was filled with blunders by the Seahawks, but the 49ers kept bailing them out with mistakes of their own. San Francisco turned the ball over three times, including two interceptions of Garoppolo. The Seahawks defense, after giving up 23 points in the first half, pitched a shutout after intermission.
That’s why they were in position to prance jubilantly off the field when Dunlap thwarted Garoppolo’s fourth-down, last-gasp effort to add to the litany of painful finishes for the Seahawks this season.
“There’s nothing more thrilling than those opportunities to end the game,” Carroll said. “Everything, every fiber of your body, is cranking those guys out. We’ll never forget those four plays. … It was a sensational moment. For our fans, too. They deserve it so much. I’m so glad they got to have the fun of seeing that happen.”
The word “fun” hasn’t been attached to the Seahawks very often this season, which is why they seemed to be savoring every second of it.