By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SAN FRANCISCO — In a stadium that has housed countless chants for Montana, Rice and Young, the words coming out of the mouths of hundreds of fans in blue-and-green apparel were entirely unfamiliar.
Most of the players from both teams had jogged off the turf at Candlestick Park and headed to the underground locker rooms for post-game emotion. But several fans gathered near the field’s only exit and waited for their star.
Only when a Seattle Seahawks fullback came around the corner did the fans of visiting team break into cheer.
“LEO-nard WEA-ver,” they chanted, with rhythmic claps in between. “LEO-nard WEA-ver.”
The Weaver believers were out in droves. And deservedly so.
“Never have heard that in my life. I wanted to cry,” the Seahawks’ Weaver said a few minutes later, following a performance that included four receptions, 116 receiving yards and two long touchdowns in a 34-13 win. “It’s nice to know that people love you through the good times and the bad.”
Sunday was definitely the best of times for the Seahawks’ 26-year-old fullback. After seeing his role morph from big-play preseason back to behind-the-scenes blocker, Weaver burst onto the scene again at Candlestick Park.
“One thing I learned from the great Mack Strong,” he said, referring to the longtime Seahawks fullback the preceded Weaver, “is: ‘Your job is to block, and that’s what you do. If you get a catch or a run, and they give you a bone, you take it and do the best with it.’”
Weaver did that and more Sunday, scoring twice in the second half.
He grabbed a short Seneca Wallace pass two yards past the line of scrimmage and turned it into a 43-yard touchdown in the third quarter and added a 62-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter to cap off the scoring.
“He can do it all,” said teammate T.J. Duckett, who scored the Seahawks’ only other offensive touchdown with a 1-yard plunge in the first half. “Anytime you’ve got that good of a player on the field, you’ve got to take advantage of him.”
Weaver came into the game with just 97 yards of total offense — and no touchdowns — for the entire season. He had only six receptions for 43 total yards in the first six games combined.
But Weaver became a big part of the game plan in the second half, breaking open a game that the Seahawks led from start to finish.
With Seattle holding on to a 20-6 lead late in the third quarter, Wallace escaped a San Francisco blitz and dumped a pass to a crossing Weaver just past the line of scrimmage. Weaver caught the ball in stride in the middle of the field and sprinted through the open field toward the left sideline. As receiver Koren Robinson held off a defender up field, Weaver rambled all the way to the end zone, scoring a 43-yard touchdown for the second-longest play of his NFL career.
“I knew the blitz was definitely there,” said Weaver, who took over Strong’s starting job just over a year ago. “I didn’t know the middle of the field was going to be as open as it was. I thought No. 51, Takeo Spikes, would be there, and when he wasn’t, I just tried to use my speed to beat those nickel backs.”
During a relatively meaningless fourth quarter, Weaver outdid himself by scoring on an even longer play in similar fashion. Wallace bought time again before finding Weaver, who wasn’t the primary receiver, on the left sideline. The fullback caught the ball and sprinted up the sideline, 62 yards for his second score of the season — and the third of his career.
“They call me the church van because they don’t think the church van can move fast,” Weaver said. “It just so happened that I had room to run and some great blocks downfield.”
Weaver didn’t do it all by himself. Robinson had touchdown-springing blocks on both touchdowns, while Wallace’s ability to keep the play alive with his feet also helped create room for big gains.
“Seneca set up both plays,” coach Mike Holmgren said, “because both plays were not thrown exactly on time. The quarterback moved just a little bit, created something, and we got the play.”
Holmgren added that it was nice to see his blocking fullback take advantage of the opportunities.
“It’s good,” he said. “He does the dirty work. He’s blocking most of the time, so when (players like Weaver) that are unselfish get a chance to touch the ball and have some fun, I feel that much better.
“Clearly, (Sunday) he had a big game.”
Not that the Seahawks were overly surprised.
“We know that he has it in him,” teammate Bobby Engram said. “He did a good job of finishing. You get those short passes like that, the defense comes at you, and he did a good job of making guys miss.”