Graham catches two touchdowns in Seahawks' win over Bills

Graham catches two touchdowns in Seahawks' win over Bills


SEATTLE -- Jimmy Graham needed only one hand to catch two first-half touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, and the Seattle Seahawks held off a late rally for a 31-25 win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night.

Seattle won its 11th straight Monday night game behind a huge game from its tight end. Still less than a year removed from a major knee injury, Graham used his right arm to catch a 17-yard touchdown from Wilson on the first play of the second quarter and later used the same arm to cradle an 18-yard TD pass in the final moments of the first half.

But the Seahawks had to hold on in the final seconds as Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor led the Bills inside the Seattle 10 in the final seconds. Taylor was sacked by Cliff Avril on third-and-goal from the 8 and on fourth-and-goal Taylor's pass into the end zone fell incomplete.

Buffalo would not have needed a touchdown if not for mistakes by the officiating crew at the end of the first half that cost the Bills a chance at a shorter field goal. Dan Carpenter eventually missed a 54-yard attempt on the final play of the half, only after Seattle's Richard Sherman got away with an unnecessary roughness penalty that wasn't called and a delay of game caused in part by the officiating crew standing over the ball.

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino tweeted during the game that Walt Coleman's crew did not make the correct call.

Graham caught all eight of his targets for 103 yards. It was his third 100-yard receiving game of the season. Wilson was 20 of 26 passing for 282 yards.

Wilson and Christine Michael both added 3-yard touchdowns runs, but Seattle's run game was again absent. The Seahawks attempted just 12 running plays and wide receiver Tyler Lockett was Seattle's leading rusher taking a fly sweep 13 yards.

Buffalo lost its third straight to drop below .500, but it wasn't due to its quarterback.

Taylor was outstanding, nearly matching Wilson's performance, except for one miscommunication with a wide receiver that led to Sherman's end zone interception in the third quarter. Taylor threw for 289 yards. He kept plays alive with his legs and made smart reads and smart throws.

Robert Woods was his favorite target with 10 catches for a career-high 162 yards.

Taylor was 6 of 7 for 73 yards on a drive that carried into the early stages of the fourth quarter and was capped by Mike Gillislee's 1-yard TD run. Taylor then sneaked in on the 2-point conversion to pull Buffalo within 28-25.

Thanks to a key penalty keeping the drive alive, Seattle got a 49-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka to extend the lead to 31-25 with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Taylor drove the Bills inside the Seattle 35 but a tripping call on Cordy Glenn on third-and-10 pushed Buffalo back and McCoy was stopped for a loss of 2 yards on the next play. Buffalo punted with 3:14 left and got a final chance driving inside the 10 before the Seahawks made a stand.

The final seconds of the first half were a mess.

Carpenter lined up for a 53-yard field goal with 3 seconds left. Sherman jumped offside and crashed hard into Carpenter, blocking the kick. Sherman was flagged for offside and Carpenter appeared to be hurt bringing trainers on the field.

Because the trainers took the field, Carpenter had to leave for one play. Buffalo spiked the ball with 1 second left to set up a 48-yard attempt, but the Bills were penalized for delay of game even with the umpire standing over the ball. Carpenter's 54-yard attempt on the final play was wide right.

Buffalo got a dream start, with Jerry Hughes blocking a punt after Seattle went three-and-out to open the game and Taylor running untouched for a 3-yard TD on the next play for a quick 7-0 lead. It was Buffalo's first blocked punt since 2014.

Buffalo scored on its first three possessions before Seattle finally forced a punt midway through the second quarter. That snapped a string of nine straight possessions with opponents scoring on Seattle's defense.

Buffalo center Eric Wood was carted off the field after Gillislee's TD run with a right ankle injury. Wood was rolled up blocking on the play. Ryan Groy took over at center.

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”

Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense


Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense

The player Kyle Shanahan studied on video was a lot better than the player he saw on the stat sheet.

The 49ers coach said he places a lot more emphasis on how he projects a player in his offense than what the player did with his former team.

And that is why the 49ers placed a large priority on signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnonon the first day of the free-agent signing period. McKinnon comes to the 49ers on a four-year, $30 million contract with $11.7 million guaranteed.

McKinnon's stats might not suggest he is anywhere near a top running back in the NFL, but Shanahan sees it differently. And that is why the 49ers opted to pursue McKinnon instead of Carlos Hyde.

“I don’t know the numbers until I like the guy,” Shanahan said. “I always watch the guy first, and turn on the tape and get lost in it for a while. There were so many things I liked about him, visualizing how we would use him and stuff he would do. And even though there wasn’t a ton of it, you still got to see him do some stuff that we do a lot. Where he did it, he excelled a ton and was very good at it.

“Eventually, I look at the numbers and it did surprise me. Then you go back and you try to see why. I’m not going to get into all the whys, but I know all the stuff we liked about him, we cut up those numbers. I think they would’ve been good numbers.”

In four NFL seasons as a part-time player, McKinnon (5-9, 205), averaged 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. The past two years, he gained 539 and 570 yards with rushing averages of just 3.4 and 3.8 yards.

Hyde (6-foot, 230) is a bigger back with more production in his career. He rushed for 988 and 938 yards in 2016 and ’17 with averages of 4.6 and 3.9 yards.

Shanahan said he looked at every player who was available, and McKinnon was the player he evaluated to be the best of all the free agents. Shanahan has long valued running backs who are versatile in the run and pass games with an ability to make defenders miss.

“A good run is when you get more yards than what it was blocked for,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes, runs are blocked for negative 1 (yard) and the best run in the game was a 1-yard carry.

“Sometimes the one that most people could do is a 60-yarder because it was a busted coverage or a busted front and nobody was there. Numbers do tell stuff, but it’s never an absolute."

The 49ers signed McKinnon to be the starting running back with Matt Breida likely mixing into the action. The 49ers could also be in the market to add to the competition and depth through the draft.

Shanahan is likely to deploy multiple players, just as he did successfully with Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. McKinnon is expected to take Freeman’s role. In each of Shanahan’s two seasons as Falcons offensive coordinator, Freeman accounted for more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 1,056 and 1,079 yards while catching 578 and 462 yards in passes.

“I’m just excited to be in the offense that I feel is a perfect fit for me,” McKinnon said on Thursday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

“Things that coach Shanahan has done with the backs like he did in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, I see myself doing those kinds of things. For me, I feel like the scheme is right. The fit was just perfect for me. I feel like I can’t be in a better situation as a player.”

Shanahan said he liked McKinnon as a draft prospect in 2014 out of Georgia Southern but it was more difficult to evaluate him because he mostly played quarterback in college.

But in studying McKinnon while with the Vikings, he saw a runner who has speed and elusiveness while also exhibiting the strength to break arm tackles. He set the record at the NFL Scouting Combine for running backs with 32 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press in 2014. But McKinnon's best asset might be his ability to be a factor in the passing game in blitz pickup, while also being a dependable receiver out of the backfield or in the slot.

“When it comes to separating and beating linebackers and safeties in man-to-man coverage, I definitely think he’s an issue for teams,” Shanahan said. “I think this league, when it comes to third downs and things like that, you move the chains based off of matchups, which allows you to get points in the long run. I think Jerick is very versatile and we can do a lot of things with him.

“He’s good enough to make it as a runner alone in this league. He’s good enough to make it in the pass game as just a third down threat alone, but when you can do both of those, it gives you a lot of freedom as a coach.”