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Seahawks look like contenders, 49ers pretenders

SEATTLE -- Late in the first quarter Sunday night, the San Francisco-Seattle game was delayed more than an hour due to a thunderstorm and lightning strikes at CenturyLink Field.

The 49ers would have been wise to board the team bus and head straight to Sea-Tac International Airport.

If there is an early favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, it's surely not San Francisco, at least not after what the 49ers showed a national NBC audience Sunday night.

It might be Seattle, which flummoxed the 49ers defensively and squeezed out just enough offense to come away with a 29-3 victory in the marquee game of the early season in the NFL.

"We played like a championship team tonight," overstated Seattle coach Pete Carroll, whose bitter personal rivalry with San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is well-documented.

The Seahawks certainly played at a championship level on the defensive end, holding the NFC West-rival 49ers to 12 first downs and 207 yards total offense.

"We don't want to just be the best defensive team in the league," Seattle end Michael Bennett said. "We want to be the best defensive team of all-time, like the 1985 Chicago Bears."

Seattle's defense was epic good Sunday night, sending San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick to one of his worst games as a pro. Kaepernick got loose for 87 yards on nine rushes but threw for only 127 yards, was intercepted three times and was sacked three times.

"We had a great night on the defensive side," Carroll said, singling out new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who spent the last two years a D-coordinator at Florida after serving as D-line coach with the Seahawks in 2009 and '10. "Dan did a fantastic job in preparation. He deserves a lot of credit. We're really excited about where we're going there."

It was shocking how bad San Francisco's offense was in this showdown of NFC heavyweights. In their season-opening 34-28 victory over Green Bay a week ago, Kaepernick completed 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. Anquan Boldin made his 49er debut unforgettable, snagging 13 passes for 208 yards and a score.

On Sunday, Kaepernick, who rarely had receivers open, looked like a rabbit in a greyhound kennel, chased from sideline to sideline by Seattle defenders.

"The D-line and linebackers did a great job creating pressure and making sure Kaepernick was uncomfortable the whole game," said Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who had a fourth-quarter interception. "We had a great game plan, and guys executed it to a T."

Sherman, inspired by some alleged trash talk from Boldin during the week, asked to cover the three-time Pro Bowler. Boldin had one catch for seven yards with Sherman shadowing him much of the game.

"A lot of things were said this week," Sherman said. "I didn't really appreciate it. A lot of people said, 'Do (the Seahawks) live up to the hype?' We do exactly what we're supposed to do.

"He had a great game last week, and there was a lot of talk about me (not) being an elite corner. I wanted to negate that. He's physical, and I matched his physicality."

Seattle matched San Francisco's offensive inefficiency through a first half that saw the Seahawks go into intermission with a baseball-like 5-0 lead. Quarterback Russell Wilson didn't complete a pass until the second quarter and was 2 for 10 passing at halftime.

But Seattle managed 172 yards on the ground, led by Marshawn Lynch (28 carries, 98 yards, two TDs). And Wilson -- who was only 8 for 19 for 142 yards -- went deep to Doug Baldwin for 51 yards, found Lynch on a flare that covered 35 yards and another to the veteran tailback for seven yards and a third score.

"I missed on a couple of throws early I don't normally miss on," Wilson said. "But we just kept battling on offense, playing it one play at a time."

Off its season-opening 12-7 win and Sunday's less-than-overwhelming offensive showing against the 49ers, the Seahawks have plenty of work to do at that end.

"We're not nearly as good as we can be or will be," Carroll proclaimed.

But Seattle's defense looked in postseason form Sunday.

"The defense did a great job for us," Wilson said. "They played smart and physical. They forced turnovers.

"When the defense made some plays, I wish we would have capitalized a little better, but we were going against a tough defense. We knew it was going to be like that -- back and forth. The team that could stay mentally strong and make the plays when they needed to would win."

That certainly wasn't the 49ers, who had five turnovers, 12 penalties for 121 yards, a 25-percent third-down efficiency (3 for 12) and the look of a team not headed for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.

Even so, the ebullient Carroll tossed out plenty of verbal bouquets to the vanquished foes.

"They're a tremendous team," he said. "They have won a ton of games every year since Jim has been there. We respect them tremendously.

"To get a win against a really good club, we understand the importance. But for us, it's just 2-0. And they're going to win a bunch of games this year."

Even with Seattle stuttering on offense, a record CenturyLink Field crowd of 68,338 was eating up the rout of the hated 49ers up on a night when Seahawk fans accomplished a goal of setting the world record for noise level. At one point in the first quarter, the din was measured at 131.9 decibels on the sound meter. According to one report, that's louder than a chainsaw (hope that information gets to Oregon State officials).

It all made for a delightful evening for Seahawk owner Paul Allen, who shook my hand near game's end, smiled broadly and offered, "Football!"

And a nightmarish few hours for Harbaugh, whose tightly wound demeanor often makes for great theater after a loss.

How did he feel about his team's performance?

"It wasn't good enough," Harbaugh said. "We didn't make enough plays to play good football."

How was the Seahawks' pass coverage?

"They did a good job in a lot of phases, including that one."

How did the crowd noise affect the game?

"They do a good job," he said. "It's loud. Makes it hard for the offense to communicate."

Did the 49ers lose their composure?

"We made it harder on ourselves, yes."

How did he rate Kaepernick's performance?

"I don't think any of us are real proud of our performance tonight," he said.

After losing to Seattle 43-14 late last regular season, the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl. Will he choose to remind his players of that?

"We're going to bounce back," he said. "We have to bounce back in a big way."

The Seahawks have now won nine in a row at home. San Francisco was the last team to beat them there, 19-17 on Dec. 24, 2011.

But in their last three games against Seattle -- including a 13-6 home win last year -- the 49ers have managed two touchdowns. The Seahawk defense has done a nice job containing Kaepernick and shutting down his teammates. They'll meet again at Candlestick Park on Dec. 8, presumably with plenty on the line.

Sherman smiled when asked if he felt the Seahawks own a real advantage over a 49er team that has some soul-searching to do.

"What are the combined scores of our last two games with them?" he asked. "That's real."

We'll know more as the season plays on. But the Seahawks drew some serious blood on Sunday night.

"We came out with a huge win at home in an NFC West game," Wilson said. "That's exactly what we needed to do."

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