RENTON, Wash. (AP) — When the Seahawks needed their stars to be great, they delivered.
No matter how many different ways there are to break down the reasons behind Seattle's 27-24 overtime win over San Francisco, it came down to that simple fact.
Whether it was Russell Wilson continuing to build his MVP-caliber resume, or Jadeveon Clowney having his most impactful game since arriving via trade from Houston, the Seahawks found a way to change the scope of their entire season because their brightest players shined.
Seattle now sits at 8-2 going into its bye week. The win over San Francisco turned the NFC West into an actual race for the division title instead of just an eventual coronation of the 49ers. Seattle actually has the upper hand now, as winning out the rest of the way — which would include a Week 17 win over the 49ers — would give Seattle the division title.
No one expects that to happen, especially with the schedule Seattle still must face over the final six games. But the wild momentum swings from Monday night that eventually ended with Jason Myers' game-winning kick provided Seattle a chance to think big.
They're not just in a fight for a playoff berth. They can be a division champ. They can have a home game in the postseason. The Seahawks can even dream of having home-field advantage.
"We need the challenges. We need the big moments and we need to understand how to deal with them and I thought last night was plentiful," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Wilson was again outstanding minus his interception early in overtime. Clowney was a stats machine with five tackles, five QB hits, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and his second touchdown of the season. But there were plenty of others such as Shaquill Griffin, Jarran Reed, Jacob Hollister and newcomer Josh Gordon all making significant contributions in Seattle's win.
"We have a lot of season left," Wilson said. "We're looking forward to it. We're looking forward to our journey."
After weeks of waiting, Seattle's defensive line was dominant. Whether it was the stage of playing on Monday night or just favorable matchups, the Seahawks managed to make it miserable for Jimmy Garoppolo to sit in the pocket and throw downfield. Seattle's five sacks matched the season high set in Week 1. The 10 quarterback hits were a season high. Also added in, the Seahawks limited San Francisco to just 87 yards rushing and 3.2 yards per carry. The 49ers were averaging 171 yards per game on the ground.
Clowney was the most disruptive but the return of Quinton Jefferson from injury, and the interior rush from Poona Ford, Al Woods and Jarran Reed all played a role in what Seattle was able to accomplish up front.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Not protecting the ball will drive Carroll crazy. Seattle fumbled five times, losing three of them. There were plenty of guilty parties. Wilson lost one. Chris Carson lost one. Rashaad Penny lost one. Even right tackle Germain Ifedi lost one. Seattle is third in the NFL with 18 total fumbles, although they've only lost 11.
"We won't have a chance if this keeps going on. You can't win like that," Carroll said.
Just a few weeks ago Hollister was stuck on the practice squad wondering if he would get a chance to be a contributor for the Seahawks. In the past four games, Hollister has 17 catches and had eight receptions against the 49ers including his third touchdown in the past two games. With injuries piling up at the position, Hollister has become a reliable option for Wilson to look for in the pass game.
Paging Ziggy Ansah? Mr. Ansah? The defensive end was the star acquisition of Seattle's dabbles into free agency last offseason, but he continues to be a disappointment. Ansah played just 14 snaps against the 49ers, and while Clowney was being a star, Ansah was again mostly invisible. He failed to earn a defensive statistic and seemed to be bypassed by Shaquem Griffin in Seattle's pass rush rotation. Griffin also played 14 snaps after not playing a defensive snap all season.
Tyler Lockett will remain in the Bay Area one more night because of swelling in his lower leg from a severe bruise suffered in the game. Carroll said the initial reports appear to be positive and because of the bye week Lockett may be able to play against Philadelphia in two weeks. Seattle will need to make a decision at tight end depending on how long Luke Willson will be out because of a hamstring injury. Carroll called Willson's injury "legit," always a sign it has some significance. Seattle has Ed Dickson waiting to be activated from the injured reserve list and may need to finally do so if Willson will miss any time. Hollister is the only other tight end on the roster.
6-0 — Since Wilson became the starting quarterback at the start of the 2012 season, the Seahawks are 6-0 in games against teams who are at least eight games over .500 at the time of the matchup. The list includes three wins over the Cardinals in 2014-15, a 2017 win over Philadelphia, a victory over Kansas City last year, and Monday's win.
If there was ever a well-timed bye week, it's this one for Seattle. Whether it's dealing with injuries or just the emotional exhaustion from the win over the 49ers, the Seahawks won't need to get ramped up for another game until Nov. 24 when they travel to Philadelphia.