Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Site: Candlestick Park (San Francisco, California)
The Seahawks conclude their road slate of division games on Thursday night against the defending NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks enter the game with a 4-2 record and are coming off a thrilling 24-23 victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday. The 49ers are also 4-2 and are coming off an embarrassing loss to the New York Giants 26-3 in what was a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 13-13. Here is what I will be looking for down in San Francisco on Thursday night in this crucial game.
This biggest key for Russell Wilson this week will be limiting turnovers. The Seahawks will be going up against the best defense they have faced all season and much like the guys we have on defense, the 49ers have a lot of talented weapons that can do everything from rushing the passer, stopping the run, and intercepting passes thrown into the secondary. Honestly, I expect Wilson to struggle this week. Wilson always preaches preparation and how being prepared translates to how well he performs on the field. The Seahawks have only had 4 days to prepare for San Francisco, and I don’t think the factors of this game such as limited preparation, travel, and tough opponent are in Wilson’s favor. I think Wilson will take chances down the field like he did last week but he will not have the same success rate. I will predict Russell Wilson will throw for one touchdown and one interception against this tough 49ers defensive unit.
I hope the Seahawks will try to establish the running game early and if Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin are unable to get things going consistently, Russell Wilson will be forced to throw more than the coaching staff would like him to. If Lynch can put up numbers like he did in the first couple weeks of the season, our offense will be in good shape. I get this feeling that Lynch is due to burst out and run for a couple gains of at least 40 yards. It may be tough this week but I would never count it against him. There was a drive against New England where the Seahawks used Robert Turbin for four straight plays. I do not know if it was a package specifically designed for Turbin or if we were just giving Lynch a rest but I liked switching up the personnel. I think if the Seahawks use Turbin in a more expanded role, we can confuse the 49ers defense and we will have more success running the ball in this game.
Something that I think needs to be preached that may be overlooked by other fans is the fact that this game is a primetime game on the road. Why do Seahawks fans love going to Sunday Night, Monday Night and Thursday Night games so much? It is because we are the only game going on at that time, we are being broadcast all around the country, and we want to prove to the rest of the country that we have the best fans and the best home-field advantage in the National Football League. This time however, the Seahawks are on the road which means it is the “49er Faithful” that has all of these things on their side. To be effective on the road in primetime, we need to make a statement early. Whether this means we convert a big play or we score we need to keep the 49ers fans silent early and often. If we can do this, we will have an even greater chance of coming home 5-2.
The San Francisco 49ers have gotten off to a strong start this season after a surprising 13-3 campaign in 2011. At the forefront is the 49ers defense led by middle linebacker Patrick Willis and pass-rush extraordinaire Aldon Smith. San Francisco is giving up an average of just under 16 points per game and has given up an average of only 9.7 points in their last three games. If the Seahawks offensive line has trouble pass blocking, especially since James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan will play left guard and right guard respectively, the 49ers may have their way with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. I think a successful game for the Seahawks would be to limit San Francisco to three sacks or less. To be honest, I think a more reasonable estimate and prediction would be that the 49ers will sack Russell Wilson 5 or 6 times on Thursday night. The man I will be keeping the keenest eye on this week will be NaVarro Bowman. Bowman leads San Francisco in tackles with 60 on the season, averaging 10 per game. As an outside linebacker, Bowman does an exceptional job of scouting out where the play is developing, especially when the Seahawks line up in packages sporting slot receivers or multiple tight ends. If we can get Bowman stuck in traffic, the Seahawks could put together decent sized chunks of yardage on their drives.
The San Francisco offense is the biggest question mark in my eyes. Quarterback Alex Smith is having another solid season so far, completing 67.7 percent of his passes and throwing 4 more touchdowns than interceptions (8 touchdowns, 4 interceptions). I think the biggest threat on offense for the 49ers is their cornucopia of wide receivers. Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Randy Moss all have the potential to make big plays but the man I am scared most of is their offseason acquisition Mario Manningham. Manningham will most likely line up against Richard Sherman this week and because of all of the chatter that Sherman has stirred this week, I would not be surprised to see Smith try to test him by throwing to Manningham. Having said this, I have full confidence that the “Legion of Boom” will be able to handle the 49ers receivers. Smith will complete passes and make solid gains from time to time, but I fully expect the Seahawks secondary to make sure that there are no gains of 25+ yards this week.
One more brief note, 49ers kicker David Akers has been struggling recently. If the 49ers are stuck in long field goal range, Akers may not be as effective. The Seahawks must take advantage of these opportunities and the field position given to them, especially if Akers struggles.
Random Thoughts: This will be my second Seahawks road trip of the season. I have seen 5 straight road losses live… The weather is supposed to be nice on Thursday night with a game-time temperature in the mid to high 70’s. Even though it’s a night game maybe I’ll come back home with one of my famous redhead sunburns… Candlestick is the worst stadium I have ever been to. Having said this I am tagging along for the Jaguars/Raiders game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland on Sunday with my best friend Josh, so maybe that opinion will change soon… Let me make this point very clear. If there is one thing I hate more than the San Francisco 49ers it is the fans of the San Francisco 49ers. They are hands down the rudest fans in the NFL; at least that I have witnessed and dealt with live. I expect way more drunks in the stands at the Stick on Thursday night since they’ve had all day to drink in the parking lot… My weekly uniform prediction: I have heard rumblings on Twitter that the Seahawks are going to wait to wear their grey alternate uniforms until December. With this in mind, my guess is white jersey/grey pants… If I don’t make it back home assume I’m in a San Francisco hospital recovering from stab wounds or gunshot wounds. Another person got hurt attending a 49ers home game last week. I am astonished these incidents keep on happening. For as sad as they are it is almost laughable to me that security cannot do the one job they are trained to do… If you have not seen the hilarious picture of Richard Sherman trash talking Tom Brady after last week’s game here it is:
I looked at this picture and laughed out loud for a good while. Something about Sherman’s facial expression cracks me up. Just another reason why he is my favorite Seahawk… I’ve got a dinner bet on this game. Although I love to cook it’d be nice to actually win a bet for once. Your move, Seahawks. Help me out here… Hopefully I can get on national NFL Network broadcast this week. That would be pretty cool. Keep an eye out for me ;).
Prediction: I am 1-1 seeing the Seahawks play live in San Francisco. Here are the scores of the games I’ve seen:
2007: Seahawks 23, 49ers 3
2011: 49ers 33, Seahawks 17
This game will be a defensive duel. The Seahawks have been in every game at the end all season long and that will not change on Thursday night. One of the primary reasons why the Seahawks struggled in San Francisco last season was they could not put pressure on Alex Smith and force him to commit turnovers. The winner of the turnover battle wins this game and with this being a defensive duel, there will be multiple turnovers. At the end of the day the Seahawks win the turnover battle 3-2 and come home with sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
Seahawks 16, 49ers 10
I will not have access to a computer until late Sunday night when I get home from the Bay Area. Expect two posts early next week. I will post my review of the Seahawks/49ers game most likely Monday afternoon. Also, just like I did with my trip to Arizona last month I will chronicle my weekend in San Francisco in a detailed post. It will surely be a must-read. Look for that post most likely on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. Thanks for reading everybody. Go Seahawks!
“SEATTLE SEAHAWKS GINGER FROOOO!!!”- Drunk 49ers fan at Candlestick in awe of my afro from last year’s game.