SEATTLE - Richard Sherman celebrated by dancing with cheerleaders, Marshawn Lynch cut, plowed and strolled his way to three touchdowns, and Pete Carroll got one rousing birthday gift.
The awaited NFC West showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers was a one-sided rout.
Lynch scored on touchdown runs of 14 and two yards, and added a seven-yard TD reception in the second half, Seattle flustered Colin Kaepernick into his worst passing game as a starter, and the Seahawks dominated in a 29-3 win Sunday night.
"Every game we feel like we should dominate, and we did," Seattle safety Earl Thomas said.
The game was delayed 60 minutes late in the first quarter when thunderstorms blew through the area. The highly anticipated matchup was sloppy as opposed to sensational, but Lynch more than did his part.
Lynch finished with 135 total yards, including 98 yards rushing, to make up for quarterback Russell Wilson hitting on just two of his first 10 throws and Seattle's receivers struggling to get open. His TD run on the first drive of the second half gave the Seahawks a 12-0 lead. His TD catch pushed the advantage to 19-3 early in the fourth quarter.
"We are dedicated to running the ball and we are going to keep working until we really own it, and we don't own the running right now like we can. We'll get better at it," Carroll said.
This won't be a game noted for efficiency or execution by either side. There were careless turnovers and untimely penalties. But that was expected between these nasty rivals and the favourites not just in their division but as potential NFC representatives in the Super Bowl.
And it was the Seahawks getting an early, important advantage over the 49ers.
"We did what we expected to. I think you guys expected something different. I think you guys expected something a little more Kaepernick-y," Sherman said. "We didn't expect any of that. We expect guys to play discipline ball."
Kaepernick failed to get anything going in the passing game, unable to break down Seattle's stellar secondary. He was intercepted in the end zone in the first quarter when Earl Thomas hauled in a deflected pass intended for Vernon Davis. That was the only time the 49ers threatened to score a touchdown. Kam Chancellor intercepted Kaepernick midway through the fourth quarter, returning the pick to the San Francisco 2 and leading to Lynch's third TD.
Then there was Sherman, Seattle's ultra-confident All-Pro, who intercepted Kaepernick's deep sideline pass for Davis with about 13 minutes remaining. He celebrated his first interception of the season by dancing with the Seahawks cheer squad. Steven Hauschka kicked a 37-yard field goal, and the Seahawks' lead was 22-3 with 11:31 left.
"He should probably stay at cornerback," Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate joked about Sherman. "I don't see a future in that."
And just because Carroll can't stop competing, he challenged and won the Seahawks another turnover following a kickoff fumble with 4:15 left and the Seahawks leading by 26.
Wilson finished 8 of 19 passing for 142 yards, one of the worst games in his young career. Kaepernick was 13 of 28 for 127 yards passing, and he ran for another 87 yards. His three interceptions matched his entire season total from 2012. Frank Gore was held to just 16 yards on nine carries, and Anquan Boldin, who tortured Green Bay last week for 13 catches and 208 yards, was targeted just once in the first three quarters. His only catch came with 9:40 remaining.
Boldin was shadowed most of the night by Sherman. It was a request Sherman made following Boldin's big day a week ago and with the Seahawks minus their other starting cornerback Brandon Browner.
"I asked Coach for the challenge," Sherman said. "I wanted to follow him. There were a lot of things said this week."
The 49ers finished with five turnovers and no TDs in a game for the third time since the start of 1979 season.
"I don't think any of us are proud of our performance," San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Leading 5-0 at halftime after a wacky first half of delays and points coming via safety and a field goal, Seattle started the second half going to Lynch. He carried on the first four plays, and when Seattle faced third-and-12, Wilson scrambled and bought time for Doug Baldwin to get open downfield for a 51-yard reception to the 20. After a penalty backed up the Seahawks to the 14, Lynch took an inside handoff and darted nearly untouched for his first touchdown of the season.
Seattle extended the lead later in the half thanks to a careless personal foul penalty from Aldon Smith, slapping the helmet of Seattle's Breno Giacomini behind the play after Zach Miller and the Seahawks were stopped short on third-and-28. Given another chance, Wilson stayed in the pocket against blitzing safety Craig Dahl on third-and-4 to find Lynch wide open in the left flat. Lynch took a few steps toward the end zone, stopped and waited, and finally crossed the goal line, pushing the lead to 22-3.
"He was saying he just took a couple of seconds off the clock," Wilson said.
Notes: Seattle played the final three quarters without starting left tackle Russell Okung, who was out with a toe injury. Carroll said he didn't know the severity. ... San Francisco lost nose tackle Ian Williams (ankle) and safety Eric Reid (head) to injuries. Davis also injured a hamstring. ... Seattle held San Francisco's three running backs who carried the ball to 13 total yards on 11 attempts. ... The crowd of 68,338 was the largest for a Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.
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