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Thomas Rawls' monster game carries Seahawks past 49ers

SEATTLE -- In mid-August, running back Thomas Rawls appeared far from a guarantee to make the Seattle Seahawks' roster.

Three months later, he carried the offense in a must-have game, piling up 255 yards on 33 touches in the team's 29-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

On the Seahawks' first possession, Rawls caught a ball in the flat and turned it upfield near the right sideline. He could have easily gone out of bounds, but instead lowered his shoulder and ran over San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock, causing players on the Seahawks' sideline to erupt.

Coach Pete Carroll has said previously he wants a running back who is physical and seeks out contact. Rawls, an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, appears to be just that. He entered the game averaging a league-best 2.73 yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And Rawls fought through 49ers tacklers all game long.

He showed he can be effective in short yardage, converting an early 3rd-and-1. But maybe more importantly, Rawls showed he can be a home run threat also. He totaled four plays of 20-plus yards -- three runs and a catch. In the fourth quarter, the Seahawks ran a play-action throwback to Rawls. He fought off 49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite in the open field and raced to the end zone for a 31-yard score.

Rawls carried 30 times for 209 yards and caught three balls for 46 yards.

With Marshawn Lynch banged-up and set to turn 30 in April, it's impossible not to think about the Seahawks' future at running back. Lynch had missed one game in the previous five seasons combined. This year, he's missed three games and battled through neck, calf, hamstring and abdominal injuries.

The Seahawks tried and failed in the past to find Lynch's eventual replacement, trading Christine Michael and waiving Robert Turbin before the season. Rawls still has a relatively small body of work, but with another impressive performance Sunday afternoon, he's making the most of every opportunity.

One reason to get excited: In addition to Rawls, rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett had a big game, catching four balls for 48 yards and two touchdowns. On the first score, Lockett ran a vertical route, and Wilson threw a beautiful ball for a 24-yard touchdown. On the second one, Lockett caught a slant in the red zone at the 6 yard line, fought through defenders and dragged them into the end zone. Lockett now has five touchdowns on the season -- three as a receiver, one as a kickoff returner and one as a punt returner.

One reason to panic: The Seahawks' defense continues to struggle against tight ends. Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek combined for six catches, 100 yards and a touchdown. Seemingly every week, opponents attack the Seahawks down the seams with their tight ends, and Kris Richard's group has been unable to come up with a solution on how to slow them down.

Injuries: Carroll said Friday he thought Lynch would be able to play against the 49ers, but Lynch ended up missing his third game of the season. He suffered the abdominal injury prior to the team's Week 10 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, but played 79 percent of the team's offensive snaps in that game. On Sunday, center Patrick Lewis left with an ankle injury and linebacker Nick Moody had a hamstring issue.

Cornerback Cary Williams was replaced by DeShawn Shead, but the move didn't appear to be injury-related.

Up next: The Seahawks have a big matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Pittsburgh had a bye this weekend, but enters Week 12 with a 6-4 record.