By GREGG BELL
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — He’s a two-time All-Pro. He’s been selected to the Pro Bowl three times. He’s won a Super Bowl and led a historically stingy defense.
But is this Bobby Wagner’s best season yet?
Sure looked like it again Sunday.
The veteran middle linebacker made the play his Seahawks needed to get going Sunday against woeful San Francisco, a steal of an interception he made by ripping the ball from Trent Taylor while rolling over the 49ers wide receiver’s back.
“The dude caught it, and he came in and took it from him,” Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. “I thought it was a fumble, at first. I looked up and said, ‘That’s an interception.’
The Seahawks scored the game’s first points on Russell Wilson’s touchdown run two plays later. Wagner also had a game-high eight tackles, two for lost yardage. He added two quarterbacks hits and a pass defensed in the 24-13 win over the 49ers that wasn’t that close.
Just think if he had practiced leading up to the game. Wagner missed workouts all week to rest a sore hamstring.
“I played well and I didn’t practice,” he said. “You may want to tell Pete that.”
“Pete” was in a mood to give Wagner more days off.
“He’s an incredible player,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He did not practice this week. He was able to only workout with trainers. And to be able to come through like that and have another big game, a significant game, a play of the game for the defense, it’s just the way he’s been doing it.”
Carroll said he thinks Wagner is having a season “as good as a defensive player can have.”
The interception was the eighth of his six-year career — and second in two games this season against the 49ers. He also has a sack for a safety, earlier this month against San Francisco. His 100 tackles after 11 games leave him third in the NFL, 10 behind Washington’s Zach Brown. Wagner is on pace to have 145 tackles this regular season. That would be the second-most of his career behind the Seahawks-record 167 he had last season.
“Pretty damn good season,” Richardson said.
Wagner dominated much of Sunday’s game up front and consistently wrecked 49ers plays. Yet he was raving about Wagner.
“The guy’s relentless, man,” Richardson said. “I feel like that’s the only reason why MY stats ain’t higher, because of him. But it’s all great fun. Friendly competition, nothing wrong with that.
“We set the bar high.”
Lacy shows a spark
Eddie Lacy, Seattle’s 250-pound running back, started Sunday because Mike Davis was out (strained groin). Lacy gained 46 yards on 17 carries, 6 yards below his season high.
“He ran hard. He ran tough,” Carroll said. “I liked it.”
Still, Seattle’s sickly running game isn’t cured. The Seahawks ran for just 90 yards on 30 carries against the NFL’s 31st-ranked rushing defense. That was 65 yards on 23 carries if you take away five scrambles and two called runs by quarterback Russell Wilson.
Running back Thomas Rawls played just one play and didn’t touch the ball six days after being a healthy inactive against Atlanta. Rawls has been a healthy inactive for two games and played just one snap without getting the ball in two other games this season.
Bennett, eight others sit
Defensive end Michael Bennett again sat during the national anthem, after standing for the past two games when Seattle and Arizona hosted “Salute to Service” nights. Eight of Bennett’s teammates joined him in sitting Sunday. Left tackle Duane Brown and defensive end Branden Jackson kneeled beside them in front of the bench on the Seahawks’ sideline.
“The last couple weeks we wanted to honor the military, so that was really good,” Bennett said.
Then he pulled out of his shaving kit at his locker a unit coin from the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division. He said he got that on the field following Sunday’s game from a veteran of the Vietnam War.
“He was telling me about half his battalion (becoming) POWs and missing in action,” Bennett said. “This is an honor for me.”
On the opposite sideline during the anthem, 49ers players Eric Reid, Eli Harold and Marquise Goodwin kneeled.
Walsh misses again
The Seahawks’ 7-3 lead at the half would have been larger but Blair Walsh missed his fifth field goal in the past four games.
His 48-yard try at the end of the opening drive was a weird line drive that slid wide left of the upright.
Walsh began his first season in Seattle season 12-for-13 on field goals through seven games. He was 17-for-23 after Sunday’s miss, then made his only try of the second half.
Lane plays banged up
Jeremy Lane was active and started at cornerback, after all.
The Seahawks added Lane to the injury list as questionable Saturday with a knee injury. But Lane started at left corner for the second straight game since Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles’ tendon Nov. 9 at Arizona and went on injured reserve.
Byron Maxwell was at right cornerback replacing rookie Shaquill Griffin. Griffin was out after getting a concussion six days earlier in the home loss to Atlanta.
Griffin and Kam Chancellor were on the field in team sweats during early pregame drills. Griffin jogged in the end zone while Chancellor stretched and talked to teammates.
Carroll said Friday Chancellor’s status related to his neck-stinger issue would gain “clarity” soon.
Defensive end Dion Jordan was out Sunday, further thinning the weakened defense. His emergence since debuting this month was part of the reason the Seahawks released future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Dwight Freeney last week.
The Seahawks promoted rookie wide receiver David Moore off the practice squad to take Freeney’s place on the roster. But Moore was inactive for his first NFL game.
Right guard Oday Aboushi’s shoulder injury meant rookie Ethan Pocic started at right guard. Pocic had been the left guard for the five games Luke Joeckel missed following his knee surgery last month. Joeckel returned Sunday and started at left tackle.
Tight end Luke Willson left the game in the first quarter with a concussion and did not return. Carroll said Willson was “lucid” but in the league’s concussion protocol. … Jon Ryan had a 74-yard punt with a great bounce late in the second quarter. It came on his 36th birthday. His career long was at San Francisco on Sept. 11, 2011, 77 yards.
Garoppolo makes Niners debut
Jimmy Garoppolo drew roars from the few remaining fans with 1:07 remaining in the game when Tom Brady’s former New England backup made his San Francisco debut. That was after C.J. Beathard left injured, having completed 22 of 38 passes for 201 yards.
“I thought that was rude,” Bennett said of the fans cheering Beathard getting hurt so Garoppolo could play.
Garoppolo threw for San Francisco’s only touchdown on the game’s final play, making the final score closer than the game was.
“I’m glad they didn’t put him in earlier,” Bennett said.