ATLANTA — As the Seahawks quieted the Georgia Dome Sunday, they also sent maybe their loudest message yet about what this season can be.
“It’s a great statement across the board,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said after the Seahawks ran through, passed over and shut down Atlanta 33-10 in a rematch of their divisional playoff loss to the Falcons here last January.
Indeed, Carroll and many of Seattle’s players later called it their most complete game of the season as they led from start to finish, gained a season-high 490 yards, (including 211 rushing, their second-most this year) and held Atlanta to 226, the third-fewest they have allowed.
The blowout came in the wake of two closer-than-expected wins over St. Louis and Tampa Bay, performances that the Seahawks realized were good enough for now, but not good enough to achieve their lofty goals — games that Carroll said led to a little bit of soul-searching during the week.
“And the guys answered the call,” Carroll said.
Seattle scored on seven of its first eight drives and blew the game open with a 17-point explosion in the final 5:33 of the first half that included a highlight-reel double-pass touchdown from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, and a similarly memorable one-handed scoring grab by Golden Tate.
They then put it away with a grinding second half in which Marshawn Lynch gained 78 of his season-high 145 yards while the defense ensured the Falcons never made it a game.
“Although last week we were 8-1, we felt like we could play so much better,” said Tate, who led Seattle with 106 yards receiving on six catches. “And we still feel like we can play so much better, and I think that’s important. We’re excited for the future. We have something special.”
Seattle’s defense, after allowing 405 yards rushing combined against the Rams and Bucs, held Atlanta to 64. It stifled Steven Jackson, who had just 11 yards on nine carries.
Linebacker K.J. Wright said Carroll held “a little private meeting” with the defense this week in which he told the players that “this run thing, it’s got to get corrected. ... Let’s get this done and show who we are.”
Safety Earl Thomas said the tough love was welcomed.
“Of course,” he said. “Because the coaches expect a lot out of us, and they should. We have a great group, so you definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity because you never know what could happen next year or whenever.”
Seattle also got four field goals from Steven Hauschka, who is now 22 for 23 on the season. His first two kicks made it 6-0 before the Falcons managed their only scoring drive of the first half to cut the lead to 6-3 with 6:30 to play in the second quarter.
Lynch, though, then brought Seattle to the Atlanta 43 with a 37-yard run. On the next play, he took a pitch out and ran left before passing back to Wilson, who found Kearse in the end zone.
Wilson said an earlier pitch out to Lynch had convinced them the play would work.
“The key was the run sell,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to sell the run — it doesn’t work if you don’t do that.”
Atlanta then punted and Seattle responded with Hauschka’s third field goal.
Atlanta punted again on its next possession and Tate returned it from the Seattle 8 to the 40 with 1:03 left. Seattle reached the 6-yard line with eight seconds left. On third down, Wilson threw to Tate on a fade route, who cradled the ball in with one hand while getting both feet barely in bounds.
That made it 23-3, and more than a few among the listed attendance of 70,309 headed out for a sunny afternoon, never to return.
“It was a great finish to the first half,” Carroll said.
After an Atlanta touchdown made it 26-10 in the third quarter, the Seahawks then unveiled the type of drive they have talked about wanting to see for weeks now — a 12-play, 80-yard march that included 11 runs, capped by a 1-yard scoring jaunt by Lynch.
And when it was over, Seattle was 9-1 for the first time in franchise history. Just as important, for the first time in a while, the Seahawks felt they played a game worthy of their lofty standing.
“That’s really what the approach and the language was about (this week),” Carroll said. “That we are ready to step up to this level of play. The last couple of weeks we found that we played harder as the game went on, as we needed to. And that’s not good enough. We wanted to play from start to finish with the same intensity that we are capable of because we are going to need it as we finish the year. No time like now.”