Suddenly helping to rediscover the identity of the underachieving Seahawks was resting in part with the rookie.
"I'm going to pass you the torch for the day," Lynch told the rookie.
Rawls did more than just take over. He ran his way to the second-best day by a running back in Seahawks history.
Rawls rushed for 209 yards and had two total touchdowns, helping lead the Seahawks to a 29-13 win over San Francisco on Sunday as Seattle got back to .500 and found a little bit of what's been missing.
And it started almost immediately. On Seattle's third offensive play, Rawls caught a swing pass from Russell Wilson and rather than stepping out of bounds after a healthy gain, rammed his way into and through San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock.
The tone was set by the rookie and his teammates followed.
"I never (run) out of bounds. It's just in my makeup. It's my mentality. I think I would feel less of a person if I run out of bounds instead of going and showing toughness," Rawls said.
Rawls ran for a 2-yard TD on Seattle's second drive, then gave the Seahawks a 29-13 lead with 12:32 remaining on a 31-yard catch-and-run pass out of the backfield. Rawls caught the rollout throw from Wilson, stiff-armed Michael Wilhoite and raced for the first receiving touchdown of his career.
Rawls became just the third running back in Seahawks history to top 200 yards in a game and trailed only Shaun Alexander's 266-yard game in 2001 in franchise history. He's the third running back in the NFL this season to go over 200 yards, joining Doug Martin (235) and Adrian Peterson (203).
Rawls turned in his third 100-yard rushing game of the season. He came off the bench to run for 104 yards against Chicago in Week 3 after Lynch injured his hamstring, and rumbled for 169 yards and a touchdown two weeks later against Cincinnati. He finished with 255 all-purpose yards, including three catches for 46 yards, and has two games of more than 160 yards rushing in his rookie season; Lynch has never run for more than 153 yards in any game in his career
And there is a chance the job could be Rawls going forward. As late as Friday, the Seahawks expected Lynch to play. He was just a spectator -- and Rawls' biggest cheerleader -- and is set to visit Dr. William Meyers on Monday in Philadelphia to try and get an exact determination of his abdominal injury.
"This will be a really important couple of days for him," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Lynch. "We'll know something by Wednesday, probably."
Rawls wasn't the only Seattle rookie to make major contributions. Tyler Lockett caught touchdowns of 24 and 11 yards in the first half as Seattle built a 20-0 lead. Lockett bulled his tiny frame into the end zone on the second of his TD catches, carrying a San Francisco defender on his back.
"We look real familiar again," Lockett said.
Blaine Gabbert made his second straight start for the 49ers and got going late in the first half capping a long drive with a 19-yard touchdown to Vance McDonald with 9 seconds left in the half to get within 20-7.
Gabbert continued to move the 49ers effectively in the third quarter, but had to twice settle for short field goals from Phil Dawson after getting inside the Seattle 10. Gabbert was 22 of 34 for 264 yards.
"You can't come away with field goal. Points are good, but touchdowns change a game," Gabbert said.
Wilson had one of his best days as a pro, completing 24 of 29 passes for 260 yards and a 138.5 rating following a week where he received a bit of criticism from his coaches. Seattle was vastly improved on third downs, a problem in last week's loss to Arizona, converting 8 of 14 attempts and scoring touchdowns on its first three drives.
And Seattle got help in the playoff chase, leaving it a game behind Atlanta for the final wild-card spot in the NFC with six weeks to go.
"We like what we're see right now so we'll see if we can build on it," Carroll said.
Seattle won its fifth straight against the 49ers. ... Rawls broke Curt Warner's franchise rookie record of 207 yards rushing in 1983 against Kansas City. ... McDonald's touchdown was his first career TD catch. ... RB Shaun Draughn had eight receptions for San Francisco the most by a 49ers running back since Frank Gore had nine in 2010.
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