By Dave Thomas

Coming into their Thursday Night Football battle with rival San Francisco, the Seattle Seahawks needed a defining win that would get them back into playoff contention in the NFC. By the looks of things, they did that and then some.

Playing with an enthusiasm (especially on the defensive side of the ball), Seattle (3-4) kept Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco (2-5) offense at bay for most of the evening, coasting to a 20-3 win on the road.

Now with the extra time off before their next game (Sunday, Nov. 1 at Dallas), the Seahawks can continue to get healthy and work on the fourth quarter miscues that cost them four games to date this season.

For head coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, Thursday night’s decisive victory should be just the shot in the arm the two-time defending NFC champions need.

Offense: (B+)

Seattle’s problem for the most part this season has been maintaining leads, something it had no problem with in front of a nationwide audience. On the evening, quarterback Russell Wilson was 18-of-24 for 235 yards, one TD and a pair of interceptions. Sure, not the kinds of numbers that will blow anyone away. but they were more than enough against one of the worst defenses in the league. The big story on offense was a healthy Marshawn Lynch ripping the Niners’ defense for 122 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Having missed a pair of games recently due to a hamstring injury, a healthier Lynch should strike fear in the eyes of opponents. On the receiving end, rookie Tyler Lockett had a nice evening with five catches for 79 yards and one score, a 43-yard connection with Wilson in the second quarter. One down side for the night, Seattle’s offensive line allowed Wilson to be sacked five times.

Defense: (A-)

No one is going to confuse San Francisco’s offense with that of New England’s or Green Bay’s, but quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still a threat with his feet, not to mention having some weapons to work with in the likes of Carlos Hyde (11 carries, 40 yards) and Vernon Davis (four receptions, 61 yards). On this night, however, neither was truly a factor, as Seattle’s ‘D’ never let Kaepernick and Co. feel like they had a solid chance of winning the game. The Seahawks, who had three players in double figures in total tackles last weekend in the loss to unbeaten Carolina, were led on this evening by Earl Thomas (seven total tackles, five solo), and Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner with five total stops each. For Kaepernick, he was mired in a night of 13-for-24 for 124 yards, this all while being sacked six times.

Special Teams: (B)

While some aspects of Seattle’s game (notably strong offensive line play and portions of the defense) has been absent at times in its four losses this season, the kicking game for the most part has been sound. On this evening, kicker Steven Hauschka did nothing to disappoint, going 2-of-2 on field goals (49, 46 yards) and adding a pair of extra points. Meantime, punter Jon Ryan averaged nearly 47 yards on his punts, keeping San Francisco from really getting any solid ground on returns.

Coaching: (B+)

Whether it was a little extra motivation from Carroll or just some of the veterans on this proud Seattle squad speaking up, the Seahawks looked on this evening like a team that could compete once again for the NFC crown. Some may have questioned Carroll’s decision-making skills in the team’s four losses to date, but the old master was nearly on top of his game against the Niners. If Lynch can stay healthy, the offensive line improves its play and gives Wilson the time he needs to operate, plus Seattle’s defense comes up with more efforts like it did on this night, look out rest of the NFC the remaining nine games of the regular season.

With the extended break due to a Thursday night game, Seattle can sit back now and prepares for its trip to Dallas a week from Sunday.

The Cowboys, who are coming off a bye week, visit rival New York this Sunday afternoon.

The Giants all but had the game won in Dallas to open the season, only to see Tony Romo and Co. rally in the final seconds for a wild 27-26 victory.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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