SEATTLE — The first message:
Marshawn Lynch could have taken the easy route into the end zone for the first Seahawks touchdown. He could have cut to his right and tiptoed across the goal line.
Instead he went looking for trouble, looking for someone to hit, looking for a way to show San Francisco that this Sunday night was going to be the kind of brawl the 49ers couldn’t win.
He found cornerback Tarell Brown near the left pylon and lowered his shoulder into Brown as they tumbled into the end zone.
“Seeing that was everything to us,” said right tackle Breno Giacomini. “He got us off to a great start. To see the pictures of that run on the sidelines, to see that hit, that’s a great feeling.”
The second message:
Safety Kam Chancellor perfectly timed his hit on Vernon Davis later in the first quarter, launching himself into the San Francisco tight end and separating Davis from the ball deep in Seahawks territory.
A flag was thrown on Chancellor, a personal foul for a hit on a defenseless receiver. It was a bad call, but that hit served as another first-quarter warning to San Francisco that nothing was going to come easily.
“I think it was an honest, legit hit,” Chancellor said. “I know they’re targeting me. It’s frustrating during the moment, but after the play you have to move on. We all played disciplined. We all played aggressive, physical the whole game.”
Chancellor’s footsteps resounded the rest of this remarkable night.
The third message:
David Akers lined up for a chip-shot field-goal attempt. Three points that might have breathed a little air into swooning San Francisco.
But Red Bryant bulled up the middle, blocked the attempt and Richard Sherman — of course it was Richard Sherman — picked up the football and sprinted the 90 carefree yards that gave the Hawks a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Seahawks didn’t just beat San Francisco 42-13 in this playoff-clinching win, they punished the Niners.
“We were definitely tired of hearing how great they are and how great their secondary is and their safeties are,” said Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. “I don’t want to take any credit away from them, but we have a great team in Seattle.”
They aren’t just beating teams, they’re beating up teams.
They’re throwing roundhouse punches at teams, the kind of demoralizing punches that suck the want out of teams. They’re punishing opponents and then taunting them, just to make sure the messages are being received.
“When everything’s working for us, it’s hard to beat us,” Thomas said. “We’re one of the best teams in the league and we showed it tonight.”
What’s their deal, man?
“I wouldn’t say this was a statement, man. This is just the way we’re playing now,” Chancellor said. “We’re doing exactly what we do in practice and we carry it over to the game. We’re still not going to get any respect, but who cares.”
Chancellor’s wrong about that. The Seahawks are becoming the NFL’s newest, hippest team.
On Sunday night, Football Night in America, the only game left to play, the Seahawks let America know they are the one football team nobody really wants to play next month.
“Look, don’t jump on the bandwagon now,” Thomas said. “It’s too late. We’ve still got a chip on our shoulders and we play with that. It showed tonight.”
Seattle is the new malevolent force in the league. The Seahawks are very bad and really good. What can’t they do?
They’ve scored 150 points in the past three games. Sherman turned a Niners’ field-goal attempt into seven points. He intercepted Colin Kaepernick in the end zone, another one of those statement plays. Lynch gained 111 yards. Russell Wilson threw for 171 yards and four touchdowns. Leon Washington returned a kickoff 42 yards.
What’s their deal, man?
This is the kind of win that establishes the Seahawks and the NFC West-leading 49ers as equals. A rivalry was born Sunday night. After this ill-tempered shellacking, there is no doubt that these two teams don’t care for each other. It’s the kind of rivalry the Hawks really haven’t had since they left the AFC West.
In the fourth quarter, with the game securely tucked away, the Hawks marched 80 yards, a withering, irresistible force of a drive that ended with a 6-yard laser of a pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin.
The fourth-and-final message.