SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Russell Wilson realized as they tirelessly worked out together in the offseason just what a special connection he has with Jimmy Graham.
Seattle’s quarterback saw it again during training camp, and now their mutual trust is leading to spectacular and timely successes on the field during a push for the playoffs.
They are clicking in a way Pete Carroll can only admire: eight touchdowns over seven games.
Lots of synchronicity.
Wilson found Graham for one of his two touchdown throws to give him 150 career TDs passing, and also ran for a short score as the Seahawks overcame a sloppy start to beat the San Francisco 49ers 24-13 on Sunday.
“Jimmy Graham’s playing phenomenal football,” Wilson said. “He’s one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. I think that he really stands out and he can do some special things.
Wilson connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nick Vannett in the third quarter for the second-year tight end’s first career TD and a 1-yarder early in the fourth to Graham, whose 16 TD receptions passed Jerramy Stevens for most by a Seattle tight end.
“The chemistry between he and Russ has reached the level that makes them really on top of their games,” Carroll said. “We’ll keep going.”
Jimmy Garoppolo made his 49ers debut with 1:07 remaining after starting quarterback C.J. Beathard went down with a left leg injury on a hit by Michael Bennett as he threw a pass. Garoppolo — acquired from New England at the trade deadline last month and intended to stay on the shelf a little longer given the lost season — immediately scrambled to gain 4 yards and found Louis Murphy for a 10-yard touchdown as time expired.
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“There’s never an easy situation to go into,” Garoppolo said. “Being the backup, I’ve experienced both ends of it. But you always have to be ready.”
Wilson completed 20 of 34 passes for 228 yards and moved past Joe Flacco to become the winningest quarterback in his first six seasons with 63 victories. He got going in the second half on a gray — even Seattle-like — Bay Area day that featured a light rain in the early going and more when the clock wound down.
The Seahawks (7-4) won their ninth straight in the series in a streak that began with the NFC title game in January 2014 at Seattle. These are hardly the anticipated matchups they used to be in what had been one of the NFL’s best rivalries.
Seattle was 2 of 8 on third-down chances before Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 23-yard gain midway through the third period. That was followed by Tanner McEvoy’s 24-yard reception.
Things didn’t start well for Seattle.
Wilson threw an interception on the Seahawks’ first play from scrimmage, then struggling kicker Blair Walsh hooked a 48-yard field-goal try wide left. Ahkello Witherspoon broke up a pass intended for Tyler Lockett in the end zone late as Seattle failed to score in the opening quarter, yet San Francisco (1-10) couldn’t capitalize until getting on the board with Robbie Gould’s 38-yard field goal moments before halftime. Trent Taylor’s 29-yard reception put the Niners in good position.
Gould converted a 42-yarder in the third quarter to make it a one-point game. The Seahawks then took control.
About a minute into the second quarter, replay confirmed an interception by Bobby Wagner after he hadn’t practiced all week. He ran it into the end zone but got called back after the review. Wilson scurried into the end zone two plays later for the first points of the game.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan stuck with Beathard following the team’s bye week, allowing Garoppolo time to get comfortable in a new system. San Francisco managed just 16 yards of total offense in the opening quarter.
Carlos Hyde was held to 9 yards on eight rushes in the first half, then ended up with 47 yards rushing on 16 carries, including a 14-yard run early in the third.
Beathard was 22 of 38 for 201 yards Sunday before the injury.
Before a 34-yard field goal late, Walsh had failed on two straight field goals after missing from 52 yards late in the final seconds in Monday’s 34-31 loss to Atlanta. He also missed three against Washington in another three-point Seahawks defeat Nov. 5. He is 18 for 24 on the year.
Seahawks tight end Luke Willson was lost in the first half and evaluated for a concussion and will be in the protocol, while linebacker Josh Forrest sprained a foot “fairly significantly” in the first half according to Carroll.
Running back Raheem Mostert was lost to a knee injury for San Francisco, already without right tackle Trent Brown because of a shoulder injury sustained Wednesday. Wideout Marquise Goodwin injured a foot in the third quarter.
Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley went down early in the fourth period with what looked like a scary knee injury, but he later returned.
Seahawks: Host Philadelphia on Sunday.
49ers: At Chicago on Sunday.
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