By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Happy Birthday Jim.
With Christmas two days away, the Seattle Seahawks delivered what amounted to a lump of coal in the stockings of the San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who celebrated his 49th birthday on Sunday.
“I hoped he enjoyed his gift,” quipped the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, when told about his former coach at Stanford’s big day.
After scoring a combined 108 points the past two weeks, Seattle’s offense lit up the scoreboard again in a 42-13 manhandling of NFC West division rival San Francisco.
Even more impressive, Seattle’s effort came against perhaps the best defense in the NFL, the 49ers, amid a steady drizzle at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and his Seahawks exercised some demons in a nationally televised Sunday night game. Carroll earned his first win as an NFL coach against Harbaugh, and is now 1-3 against his former Pac-12 rival.
And the Seahawks got their first win over San Francisco since the 2010 season opener, after four straight losses.
With the victory, the Seahawks clinched at least a wild card berth, and a likely date with the Dallas-Washington winner next week — a game that will decide the NFC East Champion.
The Seahawks also still have an outside shot at the NFC West crown and a first round bye in the postseason.
At 10-5 on the year, the Seahawks trail the 49ers (10-4-1) by a half game. If the Seahawks take care of business at home against St. Louis in the regular season finale, and San Francisco stubs its toe at home against Arizona, then the Seahawks would win their second NFC West crown in three seasons.
Along with those results, the Seahawks would need Green Bay (11-4) to lose at Minnesota to earn a first round bye.
But for a day, the Seahawks will celebrate one of the most impressive, dominant victories over a good team at home in recent memory.
The Seahawks are on a tear historically, scoring 150 points in the last three games. The only team with more in a three-game span is 1950 Rams, who scored 165, according to Elias.
Seattle improved to 7-0 at home, and has a chance to finish undefeated at CenturyLink Field for the first time since the team’s 2005 Super Bowl season.
“We’re doing what we do,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. “We’re going to play tough. We’re going to play physical. We’re going to execute, and whatever the score is, that’s the score.”
After forcing San Francisco into a 3-and-out to start the game, the Seahawks grabbed great field position after a Leon Washington 15-yard punt return, with 15 more yards tacked on because of a personal foul call after the play on San Francisco’s Tramaine Brock.
The Seahawks then took the lead early, on a two-play 35-yard drive. After a 10-yard reception by tight end Zach Miller, Marshawn Lynch ran down the left sideline 25 yards for the score, giving Seattle a 7-0 lead just over a minute into the game.
Lynch rushed for over 100 yards for the ninth time this season, finishing with 111 yards on 26 carries.
Lynch has now rushed for over 100 yards in four games against the 49ers since the 2008 season. San Francisco has only allowed that to happen nines times over the time span.
The Seahawks rushed for 176 yards as a team. The Niners came into the contest only giving up 91 yards a contest — No. 3 in the league.
Lynch also had a 9-yard TD reception later in the opening quarter, giving Seattle a 14-0 lead.
But the play of the game came with 14:05 left in the half.
San Francisco drove deep into Seattle territory, but had to settle for what looked like a 21-yard field goal attempt by kicker David Akers.
However, as executed so well last season, Bryant bulled his way through the middle of San Francisco’s offensive line and got his right hand up, blocking the kick.
Sherman quickly pounced on the loose ball, racing 90 yards for his second touchdown of the year, giving Seattle a commanding 21-0 lead.
Sherman, who missed two days of practice this week to attend his appeal hearing on Friday to contest an alleged violation of the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy, also corralled his team-leading seventh interception.
“That was an enormous moment,” Carroll said. “I think the bell kind of rung there, and we had a chance to beat these guys on this night.”
Bryant said he had one thought in his mind has he watched Sherman sprint toward the end zone.
“I’m like, ‘Run, brother, run,” Bryant said with a laugh.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson continued his impressive streak of play. completed 15-of-21 passes for 171 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception.
The Seahawks converted an efficient 11-of-13 third downs.
Wilson now has 25 touchdowns on the year, one short of the rookie record of 26 set by Peyton Manning in 1998.
Wilson has thrown for 17 touchdown and just two interceptions in his last eight games. And Wilson has spearheaded an offense averaging 50 points in its last three games.
“It’s definitely not easy,” Wilson said. “Especially against a very good football team like that, it’s definitely not easy. You have to work at it during the week. The separation is in the preparation, and we really did that all throughout the week.”
Wilson’s favorite target was Doug Baldwin, who finished with four catches for 53 yards and two scores. Baldwin and Sherman defeated their former coach at Stanford in Harbaugh for the first time as a pro.
“They played well, both of them,” Harbaugh said. “They made a lot of big plays.”