SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks like to say that "it's not how you start, but how you finish" that matters in football.
Coach Pete Carroll preaches it and his team believes it. They've shown an ability under Carroll to stumble out of the gates and then prevail in the end, both over the course of individual games and full seasons.
It was a good thing that the Seahawks had their finishing touch again on Sunday because they sure needed it after their brutal start on offense. It look a fourth-quarter touchdown drive and another stellar performance by Seattle's defense to grind out a 12-9 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field in a game that shouldn't have been nearly that hard.
"It was ugly," wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "But that's football, though."
That's been Seahawks football over the first two games of the season. They weren't as ineffective on offense in this game as they were in their season-opening defeat to the Green Bay Packers, when they managed only three field goals and 225 yards. But they weren't a whole lot better for much of Sunday.
The running game that never found its footing in Green Bay struggled for three and a half quarters, until rookie Chris Carson and the offensive line helped put the game away in the fourth. With Eddie Lacy on the sideline after being declared a healthy scratch, Carson got the majority of the work for the second straight week. He gained 93 yards on 20 carries -- 41 yards came on Seattle's final drive -- while Thomas Rawls played sparingly in his first game back from an ankle injury.
Quarterback Russell Wilson misfired on several throws, showing some uncharacteristic inaccuracy that may have been in part due to the wet conditions. Wilson also looked antsy at times even in clean pockets, perhaps still feeling the effects of all the pressure he faced in Green Bay.
His day, and that of Seattle's offense, would have looked much different if it weren't for C.J. Prosise and Tanner McEvoy each dropping a pair of passes, including one apiece in the end zone. Those drops no doubt led to some Seahawks fans pining for Kasen Williams, who was released on cut-down day in favor of McEvoy.
Heck, by the time Wilson hit Paul Richardson in the end zone with 7:06 left in the fourth quarter for Seattle's first touchdown of the season, Jermaine Kearse -- the wide receiver Seattle sent to the Jets in the Sheldon Richardson trade -- already had two of them himself on Sunday.
"That's 14 points right there that would have made a difference," Carroll said of the drops.
It was vintage Wilson on Seattle's lone scoring drive. He scrambled for 27 yards on four carries, then did his Houdini act to escape pressure and throw to Richardson on the run for a 9-yard score. Richardson made that catch despite suffering a compound fracture of the ring finger on his right hand earlier in the game.
"I thought Russell was very resourceful today," Carroll said. "Maybe not as sharp because of the balls that weren't handled as well, but when we needed it, he was making plays. The touchdown drive was phenomenal."
The Seahawks again needed their defense to bail them out on Sunday. Luckily for them, they were facing Brian Hoyer and the 49ers instead of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Seattle held San Francisco to 248 yards and only 2-of-12 on third down, which was the defense's undoing last week in Green Bay. All that kept it from being a flawless performance were a couple of miscues against the run.
"We definitely want to hold them to less than nine points in a game like that," cornerback Richard Sherman said, "especially with the way that it was going offensively."
With the Seahawks still finding their way on that side of the ball, they might need their defense to keep carrying the load.
"We know we could have played better. Everybody knows we could have played better," Baldwin said. "We're thankful for the win, but we're going to get the things corrected that we need to get corrected."