SEATTLE - In what may have been the ugliest Seahawks football game this side of Seahawks at Browns in 2011 or Seahawks at Rams last September, Seattle managed to squeak out a 12-9 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the home opener on Sunday.
The Seahawks offense was sloppy and disjointed at times and continued to be incapable of pushing the football into the end zone until Paul Richardson's 9-yard touchdown with 7:06 remaining. The game featured multiple drops, errant throws from Russell Wilson, leaky run defense and a missed extra point.
"Ugly as hell," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "Very ugly. But we did enough."
Seattle held the 49ers without a touchdown and earned their first victory of the season. It wasn't pretty, but it achieved the needed result. Now the Seahawks will have to find a way to clean up the edges before a road trip to face a solid Tennessee Titans team next Sunday.
Here are four takeaways from the Seahawks 12-9 win over the 49ers:
1. Chris Carson appears to have usurped starting running back job.
While Thomas Rawls started the game for Seattle, it was Carson that took over as the lead back as the game wore on.
With the way Carson performed the rest of the game, it may be a role he won't relinquish any time soon.
Rawls was held to just four yards on five carries as Carson handled most of the rushing duties in the second half of the game. All five of Rawls' carries were the first quarter. Meanwhile, Carson finished with 93 yards on 20 carries for Seattle.
"I think we got something," Carroll said of Carson. "I think he's a really good football player.
Carson contributed heavily to the Seahawks sealing the victory in the closing minutes. Seattle took possession with 4:47 remaining and needed to string a few first downs together to run out the clock. He rushed for 41 yards on five carries on the drive and converted three first downs on the drive to enable the offense to kneel out the final two minutes of clock.
"It was a blessing just to have that trust from the coaches and I didn't want to miss that opportunity," Carson said.
Carroll said they wanted to limit Rawls' snaps in his first game back from a high-ankle sprain. But it's also clear that Carson was the more effective back against the 49ers. With Eddie Lacy being a healthy scratch before the game, Carson had a chance to make a splash and made the most of it.
“He’s the real deal, he’s the real deal,” Baldwin said. “I’ve been telling y’all that since training camp, he is the real deal. There’s an aspect to him mentally that you don’t find in football players; it’s very hard to find that aspect mentally in a football player, and Chris Carson has it. He’s going to be a phenomenal running back in this league for as long as he wants to be."
2. Costly drops by C.J. Prosise and Tanner McEvoy nearly derailed victory
A usually sure-handed football team, drops in the rainy conditions at CenturyLink Field on Sunday nearly cost Seattle dearly.
Running back C.J. Prosise and receiver Tanner McEvoy each dropped potential touchdowns on Seattle's first two offensive series of the game. Prosise droped a pass at about the 4-yard line that he could easily have score on had he made the reception. McEvoy also dropped a pass in the end zone from Wilson on the next possession.
Instead of an early 14-0 lead, Seattle had to settle for a 6-0 lead.
Both players also had drops on third downs later in the game as well.
"We did a couple things that are uncharacteristic for us," Carroll said. "I thought we didn't catch the ball as well as we normally do. We gave away a couple touchdowns early that would have really been a whole difference in this football game."
"We missed the touchdown pass and we missed the touchdown pass. So, that's 14 points right there that would have made a difference. So, unfortunately, that's it. What's the mystery to it? There's no mystery. We have to catch the football better than that."
Prosise dropped a swing pass on a third-and-3 late in the second quarter, which gave the ball back to San Francisco. The 49ers would tie the game on a 37-yard Robbie Gould field goal before halftime having regained possession.
McEvoy dropped a wide open pass over the middle from Wilson that would have netted a first down on third-and-6 in 49ers territory. Instead, of a drive to get points and re-take the lead, Seattle had to punt instead.
"We usually are (sure-handed)," tight end Luke Willson said. "It's not an excuse but I don't think the rain helped. It's kind of weird but in certain rain games - I'm not a weather guy - the type of rain kind of messes with catching and throwing and that was just enough today whether everything seemed very sleek and you've really got to look that ball in. Again, it was uncharacteristic for us but it happened. We were still able to find a way."
3. Run defense allowing a handful of big plays gave 49ers life.
We pondered back in the preseason if some decent showings by Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings and Kareem Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs would be something to keep an eye on when it came to Seattle's run defense for the regular season.
The addition of Sheldon Richardson and a strong showing in Green Bay last week seemed to quiet those possible concerns, but Carlos Hyde managed to break loose for a pair of long runs that helped lead to 49ers points.
A 61-yard carry by Hyde led to a Gould 40-yard field goal and a 27-yard run, combined with a 15-yard facemask penalty on Cliff Avril, set up the tying score before halftime.
"We had two errors in there and other than that, I thought we played terrific," Carroll said. "I thought it was a fantastic day playing run defense. The guy ran for 60 yards or something on the one carry and we just made a horrendous error on that play. And then he's good and fast and he maxed that play out. So, I think other than that we did pretty good."
On the 61-yard run by Hyde, it appeared the "horrendous error" made was defensive end David Bass losing contain on the backside of the play. He was hooked inside by tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk kicked out cornerback Jeremy Lane to create the big hole for Hyde. (On a second look, it could also have been Lane getting caught outside by the Juszczyk block as Kam Chancellor appeared to be waiting for the run to be strung out laterally toward him.)
The 27-yard run was a draw pass on third-and-12 that sprung for big yardage after a missed tackle by Kam Chancellor.
Hyde finished the game with 124 yards on 15 carries. Matt Breida also had 35 yards on four carries for the 49ers.
Like in the preseason, it's not something to be alarmed about, but it is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
4. Is it time to put Jimmy Graham on a milk carton?
Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham has just four catches for nine yards through the first two games of the regular season.
Carroll had said Graham had a "hard game" last week in Seattle's loss to the Green Bay Packers. Graham had three catches for eight yards on eight targets against the Packers. If that was a "hard game," Sunday's win over the 49ers would be worse.
Graham caught just one pass on two targets in the game. He was mauled as a blocker on several occasions and dropped a pass in the first quarter when pressured by safety Jaquiski Tartt. Graham also briefly had to leave the game with a knee injury after being rolled up from behind by 49ers safety Eric Reid.
While Carroll fawned over how strong an offseason Graham was having and noted he is fully healthy again after working back from a torn patella tendon last season, Graham has been downright invisible through two games. Two of his four catches this season were dump off throws behind the line of scrimmage from Wilson.
Graham and the Seahawks offense have seemingly been mismatched pieces at times. While he's had huge games for Seattle and broke several franchise receiving records last season for a tight end, it still feels like the two sides are struggling to get the most out of each other.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Wide receiver Tanner McEvoy #19 of the Seattle Seahawks can't complete the pass during the third quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on September 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)