By Jerrell Richardson
Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Players To Watch: Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Percy Harvin, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman
The coaches and players can pretend like this is just another game, but they aren’t fooling anyone. Not only do these teams truly dislike each other, but they are division rivals, and arguably the two best teams in the NFC. Add to all of that the fact that Seattle has completely dominated the 49ers the past two meetings, outscoring the defending NFC Champions 71-16, and this is as personal as it gets.
This is an important game for both teams’ playoff aspirations, but there is no question that the pressure to win this game rests squarely on the home team’s shoulder pads. The 49ers can’t afford to lose another game this season, especially to their division rival who will clearly have the leg up, not only in the standings, but more importantly psychologically if able to beat the 49ers for the third straight time, this time in San Francisco.
When Seattle Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
The Seahawks winning ways have masked their unbalanced offense. With Marshawn Lynch leading the attack, they are a run heavy team that is almost impossible to stop when they are clicking. Lynch is fourth in the NFL with 925 yards, and his combination of power and speed make him one of a few running backs that matches up well against the San Francisco defense. The Oakland native has averaged 104.5 yards in the past two games against the 49ers, scored three touchdowns and has been the difference maker. If Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and the rest of the 49er defense can shut down Lynch, it will put all the pressure on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks 25th ranked passing attack.
With an elite defense and running game, Seattle has not been forced to pass often. Russell Wilson has played efficiently, tossing 19 touchdowns to only six interceptions, but his 212 passing yard per game average puts him near the bottom of the NFL. Wilson’s favorite target so far has been Golden Tate, but the team recently activated Percy Harvin, who is the team’s biggest threat. If the 49ers can stop the run, they will pit their fourth ranked pass defense against Seattle’s weakness, which is going to be one of many keys to a San Francisco victory.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage Seahawks
The Seattle defense is the 49ers offense worst nightmare. The San Francisco game plan is to run the ball, out-muscle their opponent and rely on their receivers to win one on one match ups. Unfortunately, the Seahawks are the more physical team, are tough to run the ball against, and have a secondary that is bar none. Seattle is ranked first against the pass, and as they do to most teams, have completely taken the San Francisco passing game out of the equation in past meetings. What could be different this time around is that the 49ers will have Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham available, which is a major upgrade than the prior contests when the 49ers had only one legitimate passing target. While it will still be difficult for them to get open, it’s no longer out of the question, but the best way for the 49ers to score points is going to be for them to play to their strength, which is running the ball.
It’s no secret that the 49ers are going to try and run the ball. Even with the recent emergence of the passing game, it’s the 49ers ability to run that is ultimately going to decide the outcome. What works for them is that the Seahawks have given up their fair share of rushing yards this year, entering the game ranked 16th in the NFL. This game will be won in the trenches where San Francisco is at its best, and Seattle is average statistically. If the 49ers can get a contribution from Frank Gore and his backfield mates it will give the team the balance they need to have a chance of sustained drives against the Seattle defense.
49ers Face Another Must Win
The 49ers really can’t afford to lose another game, so they have to look at this as another must win. A victory over the Seahawks will do just as much for the team’s confidence as it will for their playoff position. There is a good chance that San Francisco will see the Seahawks again, and will feel better about themselves if they have a win over Seattle in the past calendar year. It also is important for them to keep the rest of the NFC playoff hopefuls at bay. The Seahawks have only one defeat this year for a reason and the 49ers are going to have to get contributions from all every one if they hope to end their losing streak to their division foe.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.