SANTA CLARA, Calif. — If Quandre Diggs had put together a pregame wish list, these elements would have been near the very top:

  • A victory, of course.
  • Third-down stops, obviously.
  • An interception, please.
  • And extra defensive backs on the field, if you don’t mind.

And, indeed, all those eventually came to pass for the Seahawks and their rejuvenated defense in a 28-21 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon.

The Seahawks (2-2), in fact, won their first game against an NFC West divisional rival largely because their defense kept the game close in the first half, a remarkable about-face a week after Seattle’s staggering performance in a loss at Minnesota.


“We love adversity,” said Diggs, the Seahawks’ veteran free safety. “When our backs are up against the wall, that’s when we play our best.”

Diggs had the Seahawks’ first interception of the season, off Jimmy Garoppolo in the first quarter, and in perhaps their most important development of the game, the Seahawks stopped the 49ers on 12 of their 14 third-down plays.

The 49ers took a rather easy lead on their opening drive — going 81 yards on eight plays — but the Seahawks essentially stopped the Niners on eight consecutive drives after that.


“We got stops,” Diggs said, “and that’s what we needed.”

The biggest adjustment for Seattle’s defense?

For the first three games, the Seahawks mostly stuck with their base defense and often used their “bear” front, featuring five defensive linemen.

They changed it up Sunday, much to Diggs’ liking, and regularly turned to their dime package with six defensive backs. That included a new starting cornerback in Sidney Jones — pushing Tre Flowers to the bench — and called for more playing time for versatile safety Ryan Neal, who came through with one of the best games of his NFL career.

Neal snuffed out a screen pass in the second quarter — a play that had given the Seahawks all kinds of trouble in the loss to the Vikings — and finished with four tackles and one pass defensed.

“Any time you get a guy like Ryan (on the field), you know he’s going to give you everything he’s got,” Diggs said. “I love having six DBs on the field. It’s something I’ve been able to do my whole career, and I know how much a different dimension that brings to a defense. Ryan is always ready when his number’s called. He had a heck of a day, and that’s what’s expected of him.”

An undrafted free agent in 2018, Neal was elevated from the Seahawks’ practice squad early in the 2020 season and emerged as a capable fill-in when Diggs and Jamal Adams were injured last season. Neal has made his mark with the Seahawks on special teams, but he made a strong case Sunday for the Seahawks to continue to find ways to employ him on defense.


“I can get the job done whenever my number is called,” Neal said. “You know what you’re getting — you know you’re getting Ryan Neal, a guy who can fly around making plays and just loves to play the game. I would run through a wall for anybody, and my teammates know that.”

Jones, meanwhile, took some lumps in his first start with the Seahawks. The former Husky was beat on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to tight end Ross Dwelley on the 49ers’ opening drive, and coach Pete Carroll indicated it was Jones who was out of position in the busted coverage that left Deebo Samuel wide open for a 76-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

Jones said he will learn from those.

“I have to do a better part of my job of recognizing the formations and plays and clean that up,” said Jones, who finished with seven tackles and one pass defensed. “I have super-high expectations of myself. It was a good start, but a lot to fix, a lot to correct.”

And not a lot of time to make those fixes.

The Seahawks have a short turnaround this week before they host the Los Angeles Rams in another key NFC West showdown Thursday night at Lumen Field.

“We’ve got to take care of our bodies and be ready to go,” Diggs said. “We know it’s going to be a heavyweight battle on Thursday.”