By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SAN FRANCISCO — After spending most of last week talking about how much football was left to play, the Seattle Seahawks needed only one Sunday to take the 2008 season back into their own hands.
That’s right: the Seahawks went from last place to controlling their own destiny Sunday afternoon.
A 34-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers might not have saved Seattle’s season, but it made the possibility of a fifth consecutive NFC West title a little more realistic.
The Seahawks (2-5) are now tied for second place and trail division-leading Arizona (4-3) by just two games. Seattle has two upcoming games against the Cardinals, who lost to Carolina on Sunday, leaving their fast start suddenly looking less like that of Usain Bolt and more like the one that the hare put on the tortoise.
“I think a win like this can spark us,” said fullback Leonard Weaver, the star of Sunday’s blowout win after scoring two long touchdowns in the second half. “We’re just going to take it day-by-day, week-by-week, and we’ll just see what happens.”
The division title, of course, is still a long way away. And the Seahawks’ season is still on thin ice. What Seattle did Sunday was take advantage of another NFC West have-not, thereby putting itself back in the playoff picture.
“This is a crazy division,” said Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, who had two sacks Sunday. “You never know how it’s going to fall. There have been seasons when we felt like we had it sewn up from the very beginning, and then it comes down to the last week. So you never know.”
The Seahawks spoiled the debut of new 49ers coach Mike Singeltary and may have ended the starting career of San Francisco quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan. Two O’Sullivan turnovers, including an interception that Josh Wilson returned 75 yards for a touchdown late in the first half, allowed Seattle to take a 20-3 halftime lead.
Shaun Hill took over for O’Sullivan and gave the 49ers a little lift early in the second half, but another big play essentially put the game away. Weaver’s 43-yard catch-and-run gave Seattle a 27-6 lead with 1:50 left in the third quarter to put another nail in the Niners’ coffin. Weaver added a 62-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter to cap off a stellar day.
“I can’t remember the last time I caught two touchdown passes in one game,” he said. “It’s a true blessing.”
Playing without injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the Seattle offense did enough to keep the 49ers at bay — and at times the angry home crowd sounded ready to throw them into the San Francisco Bay.
The Seahawks scored the first 13 points of the game and led by double digits for almost the entire afternoon.
While Weaver was the star of the day, Wilson might have made the game’s most important play.
San Francisco (2-6) was making its best push late in the second quarter, a touchdown away from cutting the Seattle lead to three points, when Wilson brought back momentum for good.
Trailing 13-3, the 49ers went into a two-minute offense and started driving into Seahawks territory. But O’Sullivan’s pass — it would be the last one he would throw all day — was picked off by Wilson in stride. Wilson returned his first NFL interception 75 yards to put the Seahawks ahead by 17 points at the break.
“That took the wind out of them a little bit,” Seahawks defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “The momentum swung. They were driving down the field, looking to score, and Josh put a big end to that.”
It was undoubtedly the Seahawks’ day, but by no means have they turned their season around. The game was reminiscent of a 37-13 win over St. Louis five weeks ago, and that victory was followed by three consecutive losses.
“We can’t afford anymore losses, especially in our division,” running back Julius Jones said. “We need to try to catch up, and (Sunday’s win) was good for us.”
What the game provided was a glimmer of hope, and that’s something the state of Washington hasn’t had for a while — not in football, and not in any of the major sports that call the area home.
The Seahawks ended a three-game losing streak and ran their division record to 2-1. In order to challenge Arizona for the NFC West title, Seattle would likely have to beat the Cardinals twice — on Nov. 16 and Dec. 28.
There is indeed a lot of football left to be played. But at least for now, the games involving the Seahawks might be meaningful again.
“We forgot what it was like to win,” Jones said.
Linebacker Leroy Hill was among the players trying not to make too much of the win.
“To us, we’re 2-5,” he said. “We’re still toward the bottom of the division.”
When informed that the Seahawks were actually tied for second, Hill shrugged.
“I haven’t really been looking at it,” he said. “All I know is that we’re not at the top of the division, and that’s where I want to be.”
Offensive lineman Sean Locklear said the Seahawks felt like the upcoming Arizona games could decide the NFC West champion — even after Seattle got off to the 1-5 start.
“That’s our division, and that’s a part of it,” he said of still being in the thick of the race despite the awful start. “We’re not going to complain about it.
“We knew it would come down to (the games against the Cardinals). Arizona had a good start to the season, but we kind of knew it would come down to that. We control our own destiny now.”
As improbable as it sounds, the lowly Seahawks are back in control.