For the Seahawks defense in the wake of the team’s first loss of the season, it was about becoming more aggressive.
For Russell Wilson — and by extension, the Seattle offense — it was about staying in neutral.
The combination of the Seahawks defense blitzing more — as successfully as it has all season — and the offense eliminating the mistakes of last week led to Seattle’s most impressive victory of the season, a surprisingly dominant 37-27 win Sunday over the defending NFC champion 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
OK, it got a little nervous for just a few moments in the fourth quarter, when the 49ers cut deeply into a 30-7 Seattle lead.
But for three quarters, this was the kind of total team effort Seattle will need to make a legitimate Super Bowl run as the Seahawks improved to 6-1 and, thanks to Green Bay’s defeat, again have the best record in the NFC.
Entering the fourth quarter, Seattle had held the 49ers to 112 total yards, while Wilson threw four touchdown passes without an interception — a week after throwing three interceptions for the first time since 2017.
Two of Wilson’s touchdowns went to DK Metcalf, who continued his ascent as one of the best receivers in the NFL after being held to just two catches last week at Arizona with career highs Sunday in receptions (12) and yards (161).
“I’m really fired up about this game for a lot of reasons,’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
That included getting key contributions from a number of young players who had to step in for six starters on the inactive list due to injuries. Rookie running back DeeJay Dallas — officially fourth on the team’s depth chart at that position — scored the first two touchdowns of his NFL career.
But this was mostly about the Seahawks’ three biggest stars all reverting to form.
Wagner “was everywhere,’’ Carroll said, an apt description on a day when the middle linebacker had 11 tackles, three for a loss, including two sacks — his first two of the season — and four quarterback hits.
“Obviously, we still have things to work on,’’ Wagner said, likely referring to how the Seattle defense seemed to let up in the fourth quarter after Nick Mullens came on at quarterback for San Francisco, allowing 239 yards in the final 15 minutes. “But it’s a step in the right direction.’’
Carroll said blitzing more was part of the game plan. Seattle didn’t necessarily want Arizona’s Kyler Murray moving around much last week but wasn’t worried at all about Jimmy Garoppolo running for the 49ers with a high-ankle sprain.
“It was important for us to get the quarterback off the spot and not let him just sit back there and pick us apart,’’ Wagner said.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Seahawks blitzed on 23 of the 49ers’ 45 dropbacks (51%) Sunday, their highest rate since 2010 and more than double the rate they had been blitzing (24%) this season.
Aiding Seattle’s decision to be aggressive was knowing the 49ers were without one of their best receivers, Deebo Samuel.
But Carroll said being more aggressive also was about playing to the Seahawks’ strengths.
“Just wanted to make sure that we’re giving our guys a chance to play the way they want to play and play aggressive and all,’’ Carroll said.
Seattle had three sacks on the day and eight quarterback hits a week after recording zero of each.
Offensively, after two bad series to start the game, it was business as usual for the Seahawks, who scored 30 or more points for the sixth time in seven games.
Wilson and Metcalf got it started with a ridiculous 46-yard touchdown to end the first quarter, when Wilson hit Metcalf on a short crossing route at the 36. Metcalf juked past the 49ers’ Dre Greenlaw and used a block from Jacob Hollister to scamper down the sideline and into the end zone.
Metcalf also caught a 2-yard touchdown from Wilson in the second quarter as Seattle built a 13-7 halftime lead. Metcalf had six receptions for 102 yards in the first half alone.
Seattle got a three-and-out to start the second half, drove for another touchdown, then forced a fumble that led to another touchdown and the rout was on.
Wilson now has 26 touchdown passes in seven games, second most of any NFL quarterback through seven games, behind Tom Brady’s 27 in 2007.
Wilson threw for 388 yards last week despite the loss, and if the defeat was hard for him to take in the moment, he said the key in rebounding from it was to rely on his mantra of staying neutral “and not letting the emotions of the game affect you.’’
Wilson said he realized “shoot man, three plays, that’s it. If I can eliminate those plays, how much better can we be?’’
Said Carroll: “Russell played terrific today. He knew how this game was going to go: We were going to throw the ball quick and a lot of short stuff and all that and have to work it.’’
Then there was Metcalf, who has now gained at least 92 yards in every game other than last week, when Tyler Lockett set career highs with 15 receptions and 200 yards.
This week, as Carroll said, it was Metcalf. The Seahawks indeed proved teams can maybe contain one or the other, but not both.
“What a fantastic game he played,” Carroll said of Metcalf. “Just so tough and so physical, just a dominant player out there today.’’
But the revelation was the defense, which the Seahawks hope proves as reliable as Wilson and Metcalf have been.
There might be some reason for pause: The 49ers are banged up, and Seattle allowed all those fourth-quarter yards.
“It’s just one game,’’ Wagner said. “Has to be consistent, and looking forward to doing that.’’
But Carroll characteristically said he thinks they’ve turned a corner, noting All-Pro safety Jamal Adams should return next weekend, when Seattle also will welcome defensive end Carlos Dunlap, acquired in a trade from Cincinnati on Wednesday.
“We’ve been reeling a little bit with the guys coming in and out,’’ Carroll said, referring to the numerous injuries on defense. “And so we’ve been waiting, and now I think we can really push to get better and really push down the stretch here.
“The halfway point (of the season) is just coming up. And I have all the expectations in the world that we’re going to really be able to complement what this offense is doing and make us tough to beat.’’