SEATTLE — Hands down, the biggest hit of Sunday’s Seattle-San Francisco game was delivered by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.
And the late first-quarter play turned out to be a turning point — for a lot of reasons.
Though Seattle led 14-0 at the time, San Francisco was driving for a possible touchdown that would have cut the deficit to seven points. On a third-and-6 play from the Seahawks’ 20, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick passed 13 yards to tight end Vernon Davis on the right sideline.
Davis made the initial catch, but a vicious hit from Chancellor knocked the ball loose.
Three penalty flags came out and Chancellor was called for an unnecessary roughness personal foul, prompting boos from the fans at CenturyLink Field. But even with the penalty, it turned out to be a huge play.
For starters, San Francisco lost Davis, who sat out the rest of the game with a concussion.
Also, the incomplete pass meant the 49ers did not get a first down at the Seattle 3. The penalty yards gave San Francisco a first down at the 10, but the 49ers failed to reach the end zone and ended up attempting a field goal that was blocked by Seattle’s Red Bryant and returned 90 yards for a touchdown by teammate Richard Sherman, giving the Seahawks a 21-0 lead on their way to an eventual 42-13 victory.
After the game, Chancellor said he thought the play “was an honest legit hit. … The refs told me I lunged. I didn’t think I lunged, but I know they’re targeting me because of my past.”
Chancellor was referring to last season when he was twice fined by the NFL for similar hits. He will wait to see if he draws a fine for Sunday’s hit on Davis.
“It’s frustrating during the moment,” Chancellor said of the penalty, “but after the play you have to move on and keep going.”
Chancellor said he looked for Davis after the game, “but he was gone.”
Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin used three of his four limbs to bring in a pass midway through the first quarter.
With Seattle facing a second-and-3 at its own 21, quarterback Russell Wilson dropped back and spotted Baldwin racing downfield with single coverage from 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers. With inside position, Baldwin got both hands on the ball, but it squirted out and bounced off his right knee before he caught it again while falling to the ground.
Though it looked like Baldwin might have used his knee to tap the ball back to his hands, it was nothing more than a lucky bounce, he admitted.
“It was a miracle dropping into my arms,” he said with a smile, “and it just bounced perfectly.”
The play gained 43 yards and set up Seattle’s second touchdown.
Seattle offensive lineman John Moffitt was a surprising addition to the team’s inactive list for Sunday’s game. According to head coach Pete Carroll, Moffitt was a healthy scratch, with rookie J.R. Sweezy getting the start in Moffitt’s place at right guard.
With Seattle’s offense playing so well the last few weeks, punter Jon Ryan is getting fewer chances to kick.
“I feel kind of like the Maytag repairman,” Ryan said with a laugh. “Not a lot of work.”
Ryan punted just once against the 49ers on Sunday, twice against Buffalo last week, and three times against Arizona two weeks ago.
“Six punts in the last three weeks,” he said. “I won’t complain, but I’m glad I get to hold (for place-kicker Steven Hauschka) so I can at least get out on the field a little bit and get into the action.”
And with all the scoring the Seahawks are doing — 150 points in the past three weeks — “I’ve had a lot of (holding) practice, that’s for sure.”
Looking ahead, “there will be a time when I’m called upon (to punt) and they’ll need me to pin (the opponents) deep. I’m waiting for that to happen. It hasn’t happened the last three weeks, but that’s fine with me.”
Wearing a target
Seahawks rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane was a target on San Francisco’s first play from scrimmage, just as he was last week against Buffalo.
Both teams went deep on their first play from scrimmage, trying to break a wide receiver free against Lane, who is starting in place of suspended Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner and injured cornerback Walter Thurmond.
Neither team succeeded, and there’s a good reason for that, said Seattle’s Richard Sherman, the team’s other starting cornerback.
“(Lane) is a tremendous talent,” Sherman said. “He’s a starting caliber corner.”