SEATTLE — Fueled by its deafening home crowd, the Seattle Seahawks locked up their spot in the postseason Sunday night.
They also reinforced the notion that no one in the NFC wants to see them when the playoffs begin, even if they are a wild card.
Russell Wilson threw a season-high four touchdown passes to move into second place for most TD passes by a rookie. Former Cal star Marshawn Lynch scored two first-quarter TDs, and the Seahawks blew out the 49ers 42-13.
Richard Sherman returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for another touchdown as the Seahawks (10-5) jumped to a 21-0 lead. That only added to an already-hyped crowd on a typically cold and rainy December night, with noise echoing off the walls and overhanging roof of CenturyLink Field that might have been heard all the way across Puget Sound.
“That crowd was crazy. They were great,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Seattle will likely be the No. 5 seed in the NFC. There remains a slight chance of winning the NFC West, if the Seahawks beat St. Louis in the season finale and Arizona can upset the 49ers in San Francisco.
The Seahawks, 7-0 at home, delayed San Francisco from celebrating a division title. They turned Jim Harbaugh’s 49th birthday into a miserable evening.
Sherman, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford, had a special birthday gift for his former college coach: “I did it with a 90-yard touchdown.”
San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick had already proven himself capable of winning on the road with victories in New Orleans and last week in New England. But Seattle is a different beast, widely regarded by players as the loudest venue in the NFL. His inexperience playing in such an environment showed.
Kaepernick finished 19-of-36 for 244 yards and a late TD pass, but his forgettable night was capped when Sherman stepped in front of his pass for Randy Moss at the back of the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter for his seventh interception of the season.
“I think we could have done better,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think there was any part that we can really feel good about right now.”
San Francisco (10-4-1) played without defensive tackle Justin Smith due to an elbow injury that ended a streak of 185 starts. The 49ers lost tight end Vernon Davis in the first quarter with a concussion sustained when he was knocked off his feet on a huge hit along the sideline from Seattle safety Kam Chancellor that looked legal but drew a penalty.
The injuries kept coming when starting cornerback Tarell Brown was on the ground clutching his right knee early in the second quarter and had to be helped off the field. Brown returned in the second half.
San Francisco wide receiver Mario Manningham went down with a left leg injury early in the third quarter when he was tackled low by Leroy Hill and fumbled.
This was probably the only game in QB Colin Kaepernick’s reign as starter where you could say Alex Smith might have been better. But it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Kaepernick was 19-of-36 for 244 yards with a TD and interception, but also looked rattled at raucous CenturyLink Field. The run game was irrelevant after Seattle went up big early. Grade: D+
Since leading 31-3 late in the third quarter against the Patriots on
Dec. 16, the Niners yielded 59 points over the next three-plus quarters, albeit one TD came on special teams. QB Russell Wilson threw for four TDs and RB Marshawn Lynch was his beastly self with 111 yards rushing. He scored twice in the first quarter. Grade: D
Don’t blame K David Akers for the blocked FG. Seattle defenders jumped high to block Akers’ second-quarter kick and Richard Sherman returned it 90 yards to make it 21-0 and take away any momentum the Niners were hoping to get back. Grade: C-