Seahawks-49ers NFC Championship Game Preview ...

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Duel of the Fates …NFC Championship Game
5 Keys to Victory for the Seahawks over the 49ers …
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Seahawks 49ers

So it all comes down to this. One game -- 60 minutes of championship winning football -- is all that stands between the Seattle Seahawks and a trip to New York and the Super Bowl. But standing in their way is their greatest arch enemy -- the San Francisco 49ers. The entire season it seems has been building to this point -- the epic clash between the 2 very best teams in the NFC. It seems funny to think that just 3 short years ago the Seahawks captured the NFC West Crown by finishing 7-9 amid the roaring laughter of the rest of the NFL over the pitiful nature of the division. Now, the members of the NFC West stand high atop the NFL’s divisional Mt. Olympus with the Hawks and Niners as its greatest champions. Over the past few seasons, the Seahawks and the 49ers have become the best rivalry in all of football bar none. They are not only bitter enemies but are also in many ways mirror images of one another. Both emphasize the running game above all else and have extremely physical running backs who are good at pounding the rock. Both have young mobile quarterbacks who are dynamic playmakers. Both believe in hard hitting, punishing defense. Both have wide receivers with size who are not only good pass catchers, but are also excellent blockers. Both have very good head coaches who have brilliant minds and hate each other as much as their players hate those on the opposing side. And both know and understand each other inside and out as well as they know themselves. For those who don’t realize just how similar these teams truly are, check out the numbers below ...

49ers Off. Category/NFL RankSeahawks Def. Category/NFL RankSeahawks Off. Category/NFL Rank49ers Def. Category/NFL Rank
323.8 Yards/Game (24th)273.6 Yards/Game Allwd (Fewest)339.0 Yards/Game (17th)316.9 Yards/Game Allwd (5th Fewest)
25.4 Points Scored/Game (11th)14.4 Points/Game Allwd (Fewest)26.1 Points Scored/Game (Tied 8th)17.0 Points/Game Allwd (3rd Fewest)
36% on 3rd Downs (Tied 18th)35% of 3rd Down Allwd (Tied 8th)37% on 3rd Downs (17th)34% of 3rd Downs Allwd (Tied 3rd)
20 Fumbles (Tied 15th)26 Fumbles Caused (Tied 4th)26 Fumbles (7th Most)21 Fumbles Caused (Tied 12th)
505 Rushing Attempts (3rd)422 Rush Attempts Against (10th Fewest)509 Rushing Attempts (2nd)397 Rush Att Against (7th Fewest)
2,201 Rushing Yds (3rd)1,626 Rush Yds Allwd (Tied 7th Fewest)2,188 Rushing Yards (4th)1,535 Yards/Game Allwd (4th Fewest)
137.6 Rushing Yds/Game (3rd)101.6 Rush Yds/Game Allwd (Tied 7th Fewest)136.8 Rushing Yds/Game (4th)95.9 Rush Yds/Game Allwd (4th Fewest)
20 Runs of 20+ Yds (1st)6 Runs of 20+ Yds Allwd (Tied 4th Fewest)11 Runs of 20+ Yds (Tied 10th)5 Runs of 20+ Yds Allwd (Tied Fewest)
18 Rushing TD’s (4th)4 Rushing TD’s Allwd (Tied Fewest)14 Rushing TD’s (Tied 13th)11 Rushing TD’s Allwd (Tied 11th)
115 First Downs (5th)83 First Downs Allwd (9th Fewest)116 First Downs (4th)77 First Downs Allwd (6th Fewest)
7 Rushing Fumbles (Tied 18th)7 Rush Fumbles Caused (Tied 10th Most)6 Rushing Fumbles (Tied 14th)6 Rush Fumbles Caused (Tied 15th)
417 Pass Attempts (32nd)524 Pass Att Against (7th Fewest)420 Pass Attempts (31st)585 Pass Att Against (21st)
2,979 Passing Yds (30th)2,752 Pass Yds Allwd (Fewest)3,236 Passing Yards (26th)3,536 Pass Yds Allwd (7th Fewest)
186.2 Passing Yds/Game (30th)172.0 Pass Yds/Game Allwd (Fewest)202.2 Passing Yds/Game (26th)221.0 Pass Yds/Game Allwd (7th Fewest)
7.7 Average Yds/Pass (Tied 7th)5.8 Yds/Pass Att Allwd (Fewest)8.4 Average Yds/Pass (2nd)6.5 Yds/Pass Allwd (Tied 5th)
13.2 Avg. Yds/Reception (2nd)9.9 Yds/Reception Allwd (Fewest)13.1 Avg Yds/Reception (3rd)11.1 Yds/Reception Allwd (Tied 6th Fewest)
58.5% Pass Completion (Tied 24th)59.0% Pass Comp. Allwd (Tied 9th)63.6% Pass Completion (9th)59.0% Pass Comp. Allwd (Tied 9th)
21 Passing TD’s (23rd)16 Pass TD’s Allwd (2nd Fewest)27 Passing TD’s (10th)19 Pass TD’s Allwd (5th Fewest)
46 Passes of 20+ Yds (Tied 22nd)30 Passes of 20+ Yds Allwd (Fewest)52 Passes of 20+ Yds (Tied 13th)43 Passes of 20+ Yds Allwd (7th Fewest)
91.7 QB Rating (Tied 9th)63.4 QB Rating Allwd (1st)102.4 QB Rating (5th)76.4 QB Rating Allwd (4th)
8 Interceptions Thrown (Tied Least)28 Interceptions (Most)9 Interceptions Thrown (Tied 2nd Least)18 Interceptions (Tied 10th)
39 Sacks Allowed (11th Fewest)44 Sacks (Tied 8th)44 Sacks Allowed (Tied 20th)38 Sacks (Tied 18th)
57 QB Hits Allowed (4th Fewest)NA93 QB Hits Allowed (22nd)NA
NA112 Passes Defensed (7th)NA103 Passes Defensed (Tied 9th)
[tdo=4]49ers vs. Seahawks Offense-Defense Comparison (Regular Season Stats)…[/tdo]

Forced Fumbles …
Seahawks … 17 (5th Most)
49ers … 12 (Tied 20th)

Give Away/Take Away Margin …
Seahawks … +20 (1st)
49ers … +12 (Tied 4th)

So, how do you honestly look to defeat a shadowy figure of yourself? That’s a question that the Seahawks coaching staff simply has to answer. The Seahawks beat the 49ers 29-3 at Century Link Field back in Week 2, but for those who don’t remember, that game was much closer than the final score might indicate. At halftime, the score of that game was 5-0 in favor of Seattle … and it was only 12-3 going in to the start of the 4th Quarter. Now, the Seahawks face a 49ers team that is better than the one that they faced here earlier this year. Over their past 5 games, the 49ers are 5-0, scoring an average of 27.2 points, and racking up an average of 365.2 Yards per game. Can the Seahawks stop this juggernaught and punch their ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII? Here are 5 Keys to Victory for the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game this Sunday …


Key #1: Be the Traffic Jam ...
AnFrancisco49ersvSeattleSeahawkshshEZ2VOZKRl

As we all know, the 49ers (like the Seahawks) move the ball primarily on the ground …

2013 49ers (Regular Season Stats)...
Rushing Attempts …505 (54.8% of Offense)
Passing Attempts … 417 (45.2% of Offense)
Total Attempts … 922

2013 Seahawks (Regular Season Stats)...
Rushing Attempts …509 (54.8% of Offense)
Passing Attempts … 420 (45.2% of Offense)
Total Attempts … 929

In fact, the stats clearly show that the 49ers run the ball at exactly the same rate as that of the Seahawks. Here are the individual numbers for the 49ers running attack this year ...

PlayerRush AttemptsRushing YardsYards/CarryRuns of 20 Yards+Touchdowns
RB Frank Gore2761,1284.199
QB Colin Kaepernick925245.744
RB Kendall Hunter783584.653
RB Anthony Dixon28562.002
RB LaMichael James12594.910
[tdo=6]2013 49ers Rushing Offense[/tdo]

As has been the case all season long, the first and foremost important job of the Seahawks Defense will be to stop the run -- and that means shutting down Frank Gore. Interestingly enough, as you look through his numbers this season, Gore hasn’t been nearly as dominating as some might believe ...

WeekOpponent/ResultAttemptsYardsAvg. Yards/CarryLongest RunTD’s
1 (9/8)34-28 WIN vs Packers21442.181
2 (9/15)3-29 LOSS at Seahawks9161.850
3 (9/22)7-27 LOSS vs. Colts11827.5220
4 (9/26)35-11 WIN at Rams201537.7341
5 (10/6)34-3 WIN vs Texans17814.8261
6 (10/13)32-20 WIN vs Cardinals251014.0320
7 (10/20)31-17 WIN at Titans24702.972
8 (10/27)42-10 WIN at Jaguars19713.7192
10 (11/10)9-10 LOSS vs. Panthers16825.1170
11 (11/17)20-23 LOSS at Saints13483.7240
12 (11/25)27-6 WIN at Redskins13312.480
13 (12/1)23-13 WIN vs Rams15422.8101
14 (12/8)19-17 WIN vs Seahawks171106.5510
15 (12/15)33-14 WIN at Buccaneers22863.9130
16 (12/23)34-24 WIN vs Falcons21974.6171
17 (12/29)23-20 WIN at Cardinals13141.180
Season TotalsNA2761,1284.1519
[tdo=7]Frank Gore’s 2013 Rushing Statistics[/tdo][/tr]
WeekOpponent/ResultAttemptsYardsAvg. Yards/CarryLongest RunTD’s
(1/5)23-20 WIN at Packers20661.180
(1/12)23-20 WIN at Panthers17844.9390
[tdo=7]Frank Gore’s Postseason Rushing Statistics[/tdo][/tr]

Frank Gore is one of the hardest and most tenacious runners in the NFL. He ranked 9th in the NFL in rushing yards this year and was 2nd in the NFL in runs of 20 yards or more (9). Pro Football Focus also graded him out as being the NFL’s top blocking running back (+10.8 blocking grade). That said, as you can see by his statistics above, many of the yards he’s accumulated this year have been the result of big runs. In fact, that 51 yard run that Frank Gore had against the Seahawks back in Week 14 was the longest run he had all year. Outside of that run, Seattle’s defense was very stout against Gore and the run all day long.

And the Seahawks defense against the run was very good down the stretch. Since allowing 200 yards on the ground to the Rams in Week 8 … and 205 yards on the ground to the Buccaneers at Century Link in Week 9 … the Seahawks run defense has righted the ship ...

Falcons (Week 10 -- 11/10/13)… 16 Carries … 64 Yards Rushing (4.0 Yards/Carry)

Vikings (Week 11 -- 11/17/13) … 33 Carries … 132 Yards Rushing (4.0 Yards/Carry) … BUT, 58 of the Vikings 132 Rushing Yards in that game came against the 2nd and 3rd String after the starters were pulled at the start of the 4th Quarter. The Vikings managed only 73 yards on 28 carries on the ground total (2.81 Yards/Carry) against the starters.

Saints (Week 13 -- 12/2/13) …17 Carries … 44 Yards Rushing (2.6 Yards/Carry)

49ers (Week 14 -- 12/8/13) … 33 Carries … 163 Yards Rushing (4.9 Yards/Carry). However, 51 of Frank Gore’s yards came on 1 play. Take away that 1 play and the Seahawks limited San Francisco to 32 Carries … 112 Yards Rushing (just 3.5 Yards/Carry).

Giants (Week 15 -- 12/15/13) … 14 Carries … 25 Yards Rushing (1.8 Yards/Carry).

Cardinals (Week 16 -- 12/22/13) … 43 Carries … 139 Yards Rushing (3.2 Yards/Carry)

Rams (Week 17 -- 12/29/2013) ... 18 Carries ... 13 Yards Rushing (0.7 Yards/Carry)

Saints (Divisional Playoffs -- 1/11/14) … 26 Carries … 108 Yards Rushing (4.2 Yards/Carry)

In 9 Games AT HOME this year, the Seahawks Defense has allowed a grand total of ...

858 Yards Rushing ... on 239 Carries (3.59 Yards/Carry) ... and just 3 Rushing TD's all year -- 2 of those in the same game (Jacksonville clear back in Week 3) and 1 last week to the Saints.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks defensive line ended the season with the 4th most stops in the league. They had tackles Brandon Mebane (+22.7 Run Defense Grade) and Tony McDaniel (+17.4 Run Defense Grade) graded as their 2nd and 4th best run defenders this year. Michael Bennett and Red Bryant both also finished in their Top 12 in terms of Run Stop Percentage among 4-3 defensive ends, so Seattle has the horses to be able to shut down the run in this game and outside of a few instances, they’ve done a good job of doing so (the Seahawks 11 runs of 20 yards or more ranked 10th Best in the NFL this year). Since the Saints game in Week 13 (so the last 6 games including last week’s playoff game), the Seahawks defense has allowed just 3 big plays ...

Khiry Robinson of the Saints this last weekend (17 Yards) … [Robinson averaged just 3.3 yards/carry on 12 runs]

Andre Ellington of the Cardinals (26 Yards) [Ellington gained just 38 yards on 14 carries, averaging only 2.71 yards/carry outside of that run]

Frank Gore of the 49ers in Week 14 (51 Yards) … [Gore had just 59 yards outside of that run and averaged just 3.69 yards/carry otherwise]

But teams that are as committed to the run as San Francisco is have given Seattle problems in the past. John Clayton explains ...

The one style of offense that gives the Seahawks problems is a run-oriented attack that uses two- and three-tight end sets. That's the 49ers' style. Passing teams struggle in CenturyLink.

On Saturday, Saints coach Sean Payton totally readjusted his offense to give the Seahawks' defense trouble, and it worked to a certain degree. Payton ran out of formations with extra blockers. The idea is to keep the game close until the fourth quarter. Although the Saints trailed 16-0 going into the fourth quarter, they got a touchdown and a two-point conversion to make it a one-possession game.

The 49ers use two- and three-tight end formations with the idea of being physical and keeping the score low. Expect them to work most of the game out of those formations. During the regular season, the 49ers averaged only 12.8 plays a game out of three-receiver sets. They averaged 27.8 plays a game with two or more tight ends and 15.8 out of two-back sets. Potentially down two fullbacks with injuries, the 49ers will probably use more tight ends.
Source:
http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/201.../2013-nfl-playoffs-seahawks-hoping-home-sweet

One other thing of note that could potentially be significant come Sunday is the status of DT/FB Will Tukuafu (6’3” 293 Lbs). In short yardage and goal line situations, Harbaugh and the 49ers have borrowed a page out of the 1985 Bears playbook, as Tukuafu has become their version of Refrigerator Perry. Tukuafu has the athleticism to be a good run blocker and Pro Football Focus gave him a good blocking grade (+2.0) in their playoff game against the Packers. Tukuafu apparently injured his knee fairly badly in the Panthers game this past weekend, so his status could certainly be in doubt. He was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, so keep an eye on that one.

If Seattle can play good, solid gap control disciplined defense, then I believe they have an excellent shot at making this San Francisco team one dimensional and putting the onus of the offense upon the arm of its young field general, which is where we turn our attention next ...


Key #2: Ground Scheduled Flights ...
131208234006-san-francisco-49ers-seattle-seahawks-colin-kaepernick-single-image-cut.jpg


The primary focus of the Seahawks themselves will be upon Frank Gore and the 49ers running game, but Colin Kaepernick isn’t all that far behind.

Before we get more in depth with Kaepernick, let’s take a look at a few of his numbers from this season ...

Regular season
9/15/13 at Seahawks ... 29-3 LOSS ... 13 of 28 (46.4%) for 127 yards ... 0 TD ... 3 INT ... 20.1 QB Rating

9/22/13 vs. Colts ... 27-7 LOSS ... 13 of 27 (48.1%) for 150 yards ... 0 TD ... 1 INT ... 49.9 QB Rating

11/10/13 vs. Panthers ... 10-9 LOSS ... 11 of 22 (50%) for 91 yards ... 0 TD ... 1 INT ... 42.0 QB Rating

11/17/13 at Saints ... 23-20 LOSS ... 17 of 31 (54.8%) for 127 yards ... 2 TD ... 1 INT ... 72.9 QB Rating

12/8/13 vs. Seahawks ... 19-17 WIN ... 15 of 29 (51.7%) for 175 yards ... 1 TD ... 1 INT ... 67.5 QB Rating


Post-season
1/5/14 at Packers … WIN 23-20 … 16 of 30 (53.3%) for 227 yards … 1 TD … 1 INT …75.3 QB Rating

1/12/14 at Panthers … WIN 23-10 … 15 of 28 (53.6%) for 196 yards … 1 TD … 0 INT … 87.8 QB Rating

There is a huge disparity in Colin Kaepernick’s numbers after Michael Crabtree returned in Week 13 though, as he completed 61.7% of his passes after that point and the Niners have won every game since. With a full compliment of wide receivers and an effective running game to boot, Kaepernick’s statistics improved dramatically over the final 5 weeks of the season (though they certainly have taken a dip in the playoffs thus far). Like Russell Wilson, Kaepernick and the 49ers like to throw the ball deep … and when their run game is working, play action becomes a staple and makes their passing attack all that more dangerous. Prior to Seattle and San Francisco’s Week 14 matchup, Pro Football Focus noted ...

Both Wilson and Colin Kaepernick throw deep (over 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) on about 15% of their attempts, and Kaepernick also happens to use plenty of play action (28.3% of his attempts). The difference in his effectiveness with and without play action is striking. With play action, Kaepernick completes 60.2% of his passes, has eight touchdowns, one interception, averages 8.5 yards per attempt, and has a QB Rating of 113.3. Without, his completion percentage drops to 56.7%, he’s thrown seven touchdowns to six interceptions, he averages 7.3 yards per attempt, and just a 78.9 QB Rating.
Source:
https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/12/06/3tfo-seahawks-49ers-week-14/

So, stopping Gore and clogging up the 49ers running game can significantly hamper Kaepernick’s effectiveness. Last season, Kaepernick was being lumped in with the very elite passers in the NFL -- talked about as being the next great up and coming quarterback. Though he can burn teams with his arm and his legs, as time has gone on, weaknesses in his game have started to become apparent, which opposing teams are increasingly looking to exploit. Let’s talk about a few of those ...

A] Flush Him Out of the Pocket
Though he moves extremely well and can give teams fits with his legs, Colin Kaepernick has shown that he is EITHER a great passer … OR a great runner -- not both. Unlike Russell Wilson, Kaepernick hasn’t been all that effective as a passer once he’s forced out of the pocket. Greg Cosell did a study on several quarterbacks and their effectiveness both inside and outside the pocket last year. Here again is how Kaepernick compared to Russell Wilson ...

QuarterbackInside the PocketOutside the Pocket
Russell Wilson77.062.5
Colin Kaepernick83.015.6
[tdo=3]2012 Total QBR Ratings …[/tdo]
Source:
ESPN NFC West Blog

Total QBR attempts to screen all that out and aims to identify how a QB performs under the lights, in the clutch, when the game is on the line. A value of between 65-70 and above for a season is generally considered Pro Bowl Level. Ratings around 50 for a season are considered average. Really low numbers over time indicate QB’s who tend to make mistakes in pressure situations. When the Seahawks faced the 49ers earlier this year in Seattle back in Week 2, Kaepernick was held to a 46% pass completion rate, had just 127 yards passing, and threw 3 interceptions -- good for a Total QBR of 14.0 that day.

Pro Football Focus noted some interesting stats on Kaepernick in those situations when he was under pressure and those when he wasn’t in the Green Bay Wild Card Game …

- Kaepernick under pressure: 2-for-7 for 39 yards and a 50.3 QB Rating. In a clean pocket: 25-for-32 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and a QB Rating of 146.5.

Getting pressure on him and flushing him out of the pocket will be key for the Seahawks this weekend.

B] Make Kaepernick run to the RIGHT

John Clayton and others have noted an interesting tendency in Kaepernick. Clayton explained earlier this week …

Kaepernick's running ability is among the scariest things in football, but the Seahawks know his tendencies. Kaepernick prefers running to his left. During his regular-season career, he's rushed for 539 yards along the left sideline compared to 274 to the right.

In the wild-card-round win over Green Bay, Kaepernick almost single-handedly beat the Packers by rushing to the left. First, the Packers' linebackers didn't have the speed to catch him. Second, the Packers didn't know his tendencies.

The Seahawks' defense has fast linebackers, who will work with Seattle's strong secondary to minimize the damage Kaepernick can cause on the ground. Unlike last year, when the 49ers generously used the read-option for Kaepernick, Harbaugh has tried to use him more out of the pocket. If receivers are covered, Kaepernick will run -- mostly to his left.
Source:
http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/201.../2013-nfl-playoffs-seahawks-hoping-home-sweet

Flushing Kaepernick to the right is not an easy task whatsoever, as it means you’ve probably got to get by Joe Staley (one of the best LT’s in the game -- more on that later), but if you can do it, that’s the goal.

C] Force Him into 2nd and 3rd and LONG Situations

When Colin Kaepernick is forced to throw in 2nd and 3rd and Long Situations, he is far less efficient. Here are his numbers by down and distance to go …

2nd Down and 3-7 Yards to Go … 48.6% Comp … QB Rating of 78.6
2nd Down and 8-10 Yards to Go … 58.9% Comp … QB Rating of 83.5
2nd Down and 11+ Yards to Go … 60.6% Comp … QB Rating of 66.1

3rd Down and 1 or 2 Yards to Go … 70% Comp … QB Rating of 131.7
3rd Down and 3-7 Yards to Go … 66% Comp … QB Rating of 113.6
3rd Down and 8-10 Yards to Go … 61.8% Comp … QB Rating of 92.6
3rd Down and 11+ Yards to Go … 57.7% Comp … QB Rating of 90.2

One other interesting sidenote -- when it comes to 4th Down, the 49ers have attempted just 4 passes all year long.

D] Make Him Play Catch-Up

Colin Kaepernick has been most effective early. When he’s forced into situations where he’s had to throw the football late in the game (especially into the 4th Quarter), he’s been far less than stellar …

1st Quarter … 57.1% Comp … 5 TD … 1 INT … QB Rating of 88.9
2nd Quarter … 60.0% Comp … 8 TD … 2 INT … QB Rating of 103.5
3rd Quarter … 63.2% Comp … 6 TD … 1 INT … QB Rating of 105.3
4th Quarter … 51.8% Comp … 2 TD … 4 INT … QB Rating of 61.1

In situations where the score has been within 7 points in the 4th Quarter, Kaepernick has a 56.3% Pass Completion Rate … thrown 0 TD … 1 INT … and sports a passer rating of 69.4.

If the Seahawks can get the lead on this team and force Kaepernick into throwing situations late in the game, history says he’s not been very good at putting a team on his back and leading them to victory.

E] Make Him Go Through His Progressions

On passing plays, Colin Kaepernick has shown a real tendency in the past to look for his primary receiver and if he’s not there, to take off. Back on December 6th, Tom Pelissero of USA Today wrote a piece in which he quoted a couple of different NFL executives on Kaepernick ...

"He just kind of locks onto the primary target," an executive in personnel for another NFL team told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons. "If it's not there, he kind of panics – and still makes some plays."

That's the danger of Kaepernick, 26, whose completion percentage (57.8%), touchdown to interception ratio (15:7) and passer rating (88.9) are all down in his first full season as the starter.
"He obviously makes a ton of plays when things are broken down and the DBs have to cover guys longer than what they normally have to," another NFL executive said. "But I think if you can keep him on that spot and just get to him early, you can disrupt him. You can rattle him."

"To me, it's one read and done," the second executive said. "If he's got to sit back in the pocket and try and read coverages and go to his second and third reads, it's going to be a long day."
Source:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/sport...olin-kaepernick-pocket-effectiveness/3889971/

And the numbers clearly show that Kaepernick looks to just a select few. Here are the 49ers top receiving targets this year ...

ReceiverSizeCatchesTargetsYardsYards/CatchTD’s#Catches of 20 Yds+
WR Anquan Boldin6’1” 220 Lbs851301,17913.9719
TE Vernon Davis6’3” 250 Lbs528485016.31316
FB Bruce Miller6’2” 248 Lbs25352439.702
WR Michael Crabtree6’1” 214 Lbs193328414.913
RB Frank Gore5'9” 217 Lbs16261418.801
WR Mario Manningham6'0” 185 Lbs923859.400
TE Vance McDonald6'4" 267 Lbs81911914.903
WR Quinton Patton6'0" 204 Lbs353411.301
[tdo=9](2013) 49ers Top Receiving Targets[/tdo]

Looking at the numbers above, here is the breakdown of the 49ers top receiving targets and just how central they have been this year ...

WR Anquan Boldin ...130 Targets (31.18% of Passing Offense)
TE Vernon Davis … 84 Targets (20.14% of Passing Offense)
FB Bruce Miller … 35 Targets (8.39% of Passing Offense)
WR Michael Crabtree … 33 Targets (7.91% of Passing Offense)
Total Team Receiving Targets … 417

Based upon the season numbers, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis have constituted a full 50% of the 49ers Passing Attack. Last season, it was Michael Crabtree who was targeted 126 times and made up 28.9% of the Niner Passing Offense. This year, Boldin has become Kaepernick’s go-to guy and has put up big numbers for San Francisco. Against the Panthers (who according to Football Outsiders had the #3 Pass Defense), Anquan Boldin notched 8 catches for 136 yards -- including a 45 yarder that set up the 49ers final touchdown of the game. Kaepernick threw for only 196 yards on the day, so Boldin was a whopping 69.39% of the passing offense against the Panthers.

The week prior against the Packers, it was Michael Crabtree who had 8 catches for 125 yards

So, the Seahawks have to figure out how to contain the 3 headed monster that is the 49er Passing Attack. Fortunately, the Seahawks have the personnel to be able to do so. Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn perhaps said it best this week -- “They [the 49ers] have to deal with us.” That’s because the Seahawks have (without a doubt) the best secondary in the National Football League.

At the end of the season, the Seahawks had a passer rating against of just 63.5 (#1 in the NFL). Byron Maxwell has been playing absolutely out of his mind since taking over for Brandon Browner ... and the pass defense has really shown it. In the 5 games since the New Orleans regular season game on 12/2, all Byron Maxwell has done is rack up 8 Passes Defensed and 4 Interceptions.

Here's a snippet from formido's fantastic post back on December 31st. Pro Football Focus listed the top corners in the league and where they ranked in terms of QB Rating Allowed. Here were the top corners in the NFL in terms of QB Rating Allowed ...

1. Byron Maxwell: 47.8 (On about 500 snaps, so not a small sample.)
2. Richard Sherman: 51.5 (on about 1000 snaps.)
3. Logan Ryan: 54.8
4. Alterraun Verner: 55.8
5. Trumaine McBride: 57.4
13. Walter Thurmond: 67.4
14. Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie: 67.8
22. Aqib Talib: 72.3
38. Darrelle Revis: 81.4 (Dropped from top 5 last week on strength of terrible final game.)

With Maxwell, Seattle is even better. With Maxwell, our average defensive passer rating has dropped to ~63. Remember that marginal improvements are always much more difficult to achieve. Over the last 3 games, the only numbers I have off-hand, Seattle's defensive passer rating is ~46[1]. I bet it's something ridiculously low for all the games Maxwell's started in. Seattle's already league leading scoring defense has dropped to ~10 per game over the last 5 games, in a year when scoring is up across the league. That didn't happen by accident. Maxwell is the real deal.

Source:
http://www.seahawks.net/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=84416

Those numbers have improved, as Richard Sherman is now allowing a Passer Rating Against of just 47.3 -- lowest of any CB in the NFL.

Walter Thurmond has really solidified the slot corner position as well, as over the last 3 games he’s been targeted 12 times and has allowed a grand total of just 25 passing yards.

Earl Thomas (67.6 Passer Rating Against) and Kam Chancellor (63.6 Passer Rating Against) are playing out of their mind as well and making this secondary downright frightening for opposing QB’s.

This last week, TE Jimmy Graham (the Saints star receiver) was targeted just 5 times … and finished with a mere 1 catch for 8 yards. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were extremely effective in shutting him down, breaking up 4 passes intended for him. The Legion of Boom makes a living at closing down a team’s top receivers … and the same thing has held pretty true for the 49ers top playmakers as well …

Anquan Boldin …
9/15/13 (at Seattle) … 1 Catch … 4 Yards … 0 TD
12/8/13 (in San Francisco) … 6 Catches …93 Yards … 0 TD

Vernon Davis …
9/15/13 (at Seattle) … 3 Catches … 20 Yards … 0 TD
12/8/13 (in San Francisco) … 2 Catches … 21 Yards … 1 TD
12/23/12 (at Seattle) … 1 Catch … 27 Yards … 0 TD

Michael Crabtree …
12/8/13 (in San Francisco) … 4 Catches … 40 Yards … 0 TD
12/23/12 (at Seattle) … 4 Catches … 65 Yards ... 0 TD
10/18/12 (in San Francisco) … 4 Catches … 31 Yards … 0 TD

At home this season, the Seahawks have given up an average of just 271.44 Yards and 13.9 Points per game. If Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and the rest of the Legion of Boom just continue to “bring the boom” at home as they’ve been doing all year long, they have an excellent shot to be singing, “New York, New York, Too Marvelous For Words” at the end of this game.


Key #3: Win the Trench Warfare ...
madden1.jpg%3Fw%3D588%26h%3D300


Those who really know football well will tell you that football games are ultimately won or lost in the trenches -- right at the line of scrimmage. Let’s break down the matchups along both sides of the line ...

49ers Offensive Line vs. Seahawks Defensive Line …

Nearly every NFL expert out there agrees that San Francisco’s Offensive Line is the true strength of that team. Here is what Pro Football Focus had their line ranked and what they had to say about them ...

Pro Football Focus Offensive Line Rankings …
11. San Francisco 49ers (1st)
PB: 13th, RB: 4th, PEN: 31st
Stud: Another excellent year from Joe Staley (+27.7) who, after a slow start to life in the NFL, has peaked as an elite left tackle. Exactly what the team had hoped for, with his contract looking extremely 49er-friendly right now.

Dud: A bit of a fall back to Earth year for Alex Boone (-1.9). A revelation last year, he was always somewhat prone to getting beat in pass protection and this year that propelled him to a slightly negative grade.

Analysis: It was by no means terrible, but given what we saw from this unit last year still extremely disappointing. In 2012 they bullied teams and won their matchups with ease. This year they were just very good, making life a little harder for their backs. Credit to them for raising our expectations to the level that even with four of five starters earning positive run blocking grades, we still want more.

So, Pro Football Focus ranked San Francisco’s line 11th Best in the NFL. Football Outsiders, on the other hand, sees things a bit differently ...

Football Outsiders Offensive Line Rankings …
Run Blocking ...
49ers … 29th in the NFL
Seahawks … 9th in the NFL

Pass Blocking …
49ers … 22nd in the NFL
Seahawks … 32nd in the NFL
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol

Coming in to this game on Sunday, there are several intriguing matchups ...

LT Joe Staley vs. RDE’s Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril…
Staley (6’5” 315 pounds), the former Central Michigan Chippewa standout, was voted to the Pro Bowl this season, making it 2 years in a row and 3 out of the past 4 years now that he’s been selected for such an honor. According to Pro Football Focus, Staley surrendered just 20 total QB Pressures on the season -- the only tackle to allow 20 or fewer pressures while protecting on at least 350 snaps. He also pass blocked 471 times as well and had a run block grade of +8.5 -- one of the best grades in football. Heading into the Cardinals game in Week 16, DE’s Chris Clemons (6’3” 254 pounds) and Cliff Avril (6’3” 260 pounds) both were among the top 12 defensive ends in terms of Pass Rush Productivity. This is one matchup you’ll probably want to keep your eyes glued to in front of an extremely fired up 12th Man this Sunday.


RT Anthony Davis vs. LDE’s Red Bryant and Michael Bennett …
Anthony Davis has been an extremely good run blocker and pass defender since he was chosen in the 1st Round in 2010. He’s one of the reasons that the 49ers allowed only 39 Sacks on the season -- 11th Fewest in the NFL. That said, Davis struggled somewhat the last time he played at Century Link Field, as he allowed 5 quarterback pressures against Seattle’s relentless pass rush. Now he gets the pleasure of going up against Red Bryant (6’4” 323 pounds) and Michael Bennett (6’4” 274 pounds) in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL. Bennett, like Avril and Clemons, was also ranked in the top 12 among DE’s in terms of Pass Rush Productivity (+20.9 Pass Rush Grade). Those guys will be slobbering more than Pavlov’s dogs to see if they can gobble up Davis like a scooby snack.


LG Mike Iupati vs. RDT Brandon Mebane …
A large part of the 49ers success since 2010 can be attributed to their drafting of both Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati out of Idaho in the 1st Round that year. As a very physical blocker and road grater, Mike Iupati (6’5” 330 pounds) has very quickly become one of the best guards in the NFL. He has helped make the 49ers Offensive Line a real impregnable fortress along the lines of the Great Wall of China. But in his last game at Century Link Field, he was the greatest crack in that wall. Iupati allowed a QB hit and 6 QB hurries against the Seahawks in Week 2. Against the Panthers last week however, Iupati was the 49ers best lineman according to Pro Football Focus (+2.7 overall), not allowing any pressure in 32 attempts against him. The guy he’ll be going up against this Sunday though, Brandon Mebane (6’1” 311 pounds), has quietly become one of the very best interior lineman in the NFL. Pro Football Focus also says that Brandon Mebane ended the season as the 7th Best Pass Rushing Interior Defender. They had Mebane generating 32 QB Pressures in 240 pass rush snaps (a Pass Rush Productivity Grade of +10). That’s the 3rd Highest rating among all nose tackles and interior defensive linemen. That will be another titanic matchup to glue your eyeballs to.


RG Alex Boone vs. LDT Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald…
Alex Boone (6’8” 300 pounds), former Tackle out of Ohio State, has done a good job of transitioning to guard this season. He is a huge, stout blocker who has really impressed coaches and fellow players with how well he has done this year … and some of the credit for the success of San Francisco’s Running Offense belongs to him, as he has become a good pulling guard. Though (loosely speaking) he may be the chink in the armor of that 49er Offensive Line, Boone hasn’t surrendered a sack since Week 10. The guy he’ll be facing, DT Tony McDaniel (6’6” 325 pounds) has been a real integral part of the Seahawks run and interior pass this season. PFF had McDaniel finishing the season with a final grade of +16.1 (for comparison Michael Bennett finished with a +24.2), making him one of the best interior linemen in the NFL this year. DT Clinton McDonald (6’2” 297 pounds), who’ll rotate in for McDaniel, is a fairly capable run defender and pass rusher in his own right (final grade of +8.9), so Boone is going to have his hands full as well.

When you combine all of that with 2 others who can really get after the passer in Bruce Irvin (13.6 Pass Rush Productivity) and K.J. Wright (11.0 Pass Rush Productivity) (who will be back this week from a broken foot after being a full participant in practice on Thursday and Friday), San Francisco may have a hard time keeping Colin Kaepernick’s jersey clean in the cauldron that is Century Link Field. According to PFF, Staley (-3.0), Iupati (-6.3), and Anthony Davis (-4.0) all had their worst days of the season against the Seahawks back in Week 2, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens this time around.

Seahawks Offensive Line vs. 49ers Defensive Line …

Turning to the other side of the ball, the Seahawks Offensive Line has their work cut out for them this Sunday as well. Before we get into some of the matchups, let’s check out what Pro Football Focus had to say about Seattle’s Front 5 ...


26. Seattle Seahawks (20th)
PB: 25th, RB: 17th, PEN: 30th
Stud: With injuries depleting the ranks, it was left to Michael Bowie (+7.1) to lead the team with their highest grade. He may eventually end up at guard (as he was for their recent playoff victory over the Saints) with his run blocking particularly impressive.

Dud: The team has to hope they never, ever have to start Paul McQuistan [-24.8] at left tackle again. It went very badly and he wasn’t much better at guard.

Analysis: An interesting year. Losing Russell Okung hurt but when they did get him on the field his play was a level or three below it’s usual high standard. At center Max Unger had a down year as a variety of combinations on either side of him failed. Essentially, they did enough at times for Marshawn Lynch to make yardage, but this had the feel of an experimental group with the coaches trying to luck into the right combination.
Source:
https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/01/13/2013-offensive-line-rankings/3/

As we talked about above, Football Outsiders pretty much concur with Pro Football Focus’s assessment ...

Football Outsiders Offensive Line Rankings …
Run Blocking ...
49ers … 29th in the NFL
Seahawks … 9th in the NFL

Pass Blocking …
49ers … 22nd in the NFL
Seahawks … 32nd in the NFL
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol

As is the case with San Francisco’s Offense, there are a number of matchups along the Seahawks Line that are fairly intriguing ...

the 49ers Justin Smith generated 56 total QB Pressures in 462 Pass Rush Snaps (8th best in the league among interior defenders)
https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2 ... defenders/


RDE Justin Smith and LB Aldon Smith vs. LT Russell Okung and LG Michael Bowie…

Outside of Russell Wilson himself, one of the real the marquee matchups of the day will be how well Seattle’s left side of the offensive line plays against the 49ers studs on that side. Left Tackle Russell Okung (6’5” 310 pounds) missed a lot of the season with a toe injury and really struggled for the first several weeks he was back (PFF graded his overall run blocking at -3.8 in Weeks 11-13). However, Okung has been back to his old self the last few weeks, allowing no pressures in Week 15 and just 1 hurry last week against the Saints. The real X-Factor on the line here will be the play of LG Michael Bowie (6’4” 332 pounds). As Pro Football noted above, he has been a real surprise. There’s a reason that James Carpenter was a healthy scratch last week against the Saints -- he’s been impressive when he’s in there.

As has been the case for years, Aldon Smith (6’4” 258 pounds) is far from your average linebacker. Although he hasn’t had the same season as he did last time when he racked up 19.5 sacks, Smith is a dangerous guy (8.5 sacks on the season). According to PFF, when rushing from the right side, he had a Pass Rushing Productivity grade of +15.5 (highest for all outside 3-4 linebackers who had at least 200 rushes from that side). Russell Wilson would be wise to know where #99 is on the field at all times. Aldon Smith is able to do what he does because of what the OTHER Smith does right in front of him – RDE Justin Smith (6’4” 285 pounds). Herein lies one of the biggest keys in this game – break out your highlighters here folks. Justin Smith generated 56 total QB Pressures in 462 Pass Rush Snaps (8th best in the league among interior defenders) this season. So, how how Okung and Bowie deal with him will be pivotal towards either the success or failure of the offense on Sunday.


LDE Ray McDonald vs. RT Breno Giacomini …

Though this match-up won’t draw as much attention as some of the others, in many ways it’s no less important. Ray McDonald (6’3” 290 pounds) has 3.5 Sacks and 3 Tacklse for Loss on the season. Seahawks RT Breno Giacomini (6’7” 318 pounds) did a good job against him the last time around (as McDonald registered only 2 tackles) and he’s going to have to continue to bring that same nasty attitude and intensity this weekend.

Though they’ve only recorded 38 sacks on the season (18th in the NFL), San Francisco’s Front 7 is as physical and disruptive as they come. The Seahawks Offensive line has got to come to play on Sunday if they hope to punch their ticket to New York.


Key #4: Go On a Rampage ...
628x471

Last weekend against the Saints, Marshawn Lynch virtually willed the Seattle Seahawks to victory, running for 140 yards on 28 carries (5.0 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns. Beast Mode was absolutely on the rampage, as he broke an amazing 13 tackles in that game. In fact, on the season, Lynch has broken 99 tackles -- which is 22 more than the 2nd running back on the list, LeSean McCoy. To put it in perspective of how dominant Lynch has been this season, from 2008-2012, the most missed tackles that any running back had was 64. Lynch was one of the most elusive backs in the NFL this season and Seattle is going to need that kind of effort again come Sunday, as the 49ers come in to this game as one of the top run stuffing teams in the NFL. Here again are a few of the numbers ...

17.0 Points/Game Allowed (3rd Fewest)
397 Rush Attempts Against (7th Fewest)
95.9 Rush Yards/Game Allowed (4th Fewest)
5 Runs of 20+ Yds Allowed (Tied Fewest)
11 Rushing TD’s Allowed (Tied 11th)

Pro Football Focus gives their preview of this matchup ...

The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher the entire season. However, Lynch was the closest when he ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in the Week 2 game in Seattle. Free agent pickup Glenn Dorsey has been a pleasant surprise for the 49ers in their base package. Dorsey’s +12.1 grade against the run ranks ninth among all defensive tackles, and his 10.4 Run Stop Percentage is fifth among interior linemen.

At the second level, Lynch will have to deal with the inside linebacker tandem of NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, who for the second time in three seasons finished one-two in our inside linebacker rankings.

It will be up to Lynch to grind out yardage on first and second downs to keep Russell Wilson from having to face many 3rd-and-long situations against the 49ers’ pass rush.
https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2 ... mpionship/

When things are clicking, Seattle and Russell Wilson tended to utilize the play action pass about 40% of the time (one of the highest percentages in the league.) Because of that, getting Beast Mode rumbling will be a real key to Seattle’s success on Sunday. And Lynch has had a history of some fairly big days against the 49ers ...

12/24/2011 (Week 16) … 21 carries … 107 yards (5.1 yards/carry) … 1 TD

10/18/2013 (Week 7) … 19 carries … 103 yards (5.4 yards/carry) … 0 TD

12/23/2012 (Week 16) … 26 carries … 111 yards (4.3 yards/carry) … 1 TD

9/15/2013 (Week 2) … 28 carries … 98 yards (3.5 yards/carry) … 2 TD
Seattle had 47 carries for 172 yards (3.7 yards/carry)

12/8/2013 (Week 14) … 20 carries … 72 yards (3.6 yards/carry) … 1 TD

Lynch and the rest of the Seahawks better be on their game, as San Francisco has made no bones about what they plan to do ...

On Sunday, safety Donte Whitner didn’t hesitate when asked what player the 49ers had to take away in the NFC Championship Game in Seattle.
“Marshawn Lynch,” Whitner said. “You have to take him away. Like he said, he doesn’t run to get tackled. He’s one of the best backs in the National Football League. Very rough style. We have to take him away and make the quarterback beat us.”
Source:
http://blog.sfgate.com/49ers/2014/01/13/whitner-on-49ers-strategy-vs-seahawks-make-the-qb-beat-us/

Because of that, coupled with Percy Harvin’s injury, I would contend that Beast Mode alone will not be enough this time around. If the Seahawks want to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl, they’re going to have to have a big day from their young gunslinger as well ...


Key #5: Pass With Flying Colors ...
Le2BSeahawks2Bv2BSan2BFrancisco2BJQ8E5mmuKsRl

Coming in to the San Francisco game just 5 weeks ago, Russell Wilson was ProFootball Focus’s 2nd Rated QB (+24.6). Most impressively, he was completing 60% of all his deep passes (by far the best in the league).

But Wilson struggled against the 49ers last time out, forcing some passes … making some questionable decisions … and looking decidedly mortal against Novorro Bowman and a very good San Francisco Defense. He was inaccurate on several throws … came within a hair’s width of an interception by CB Eric Wright. When he did try his signature scramble, Bowman accelerated like a heat seeking missile, threw Wilson like a rag doll, and forced a fumble in the process that very fortunately went out of bounds.

And though Seattle won the Giants game quite handily, Wilson wasn’t exactly stellar, making a very un-Wilson-like What in the World Were You Thinking throw that got picked off by Antrel Rolle, finishing with a QB Rating of just 86.3 that day.

Coming out of the Cardinals game, ProFootball Focus had Wilson with the lowest Accuracy Percentage of any QB in the league [45.8] … and finished with a QB Rating of just 49.6 -- the lowest of his professional career. Wilson made a number of bad throws against the Cardinals, including one in which he threw in to triple coverage that should have been picked off. Wilson had misfires all day long … and for all the grief we Seahawks fans gave the officials for that last “interception” on the pass to Baldwin … the fact is that the pass was underthrown.

Wilson responded as he typically does, beating coach Pete Carroll to the VMAC the next morning. Carroll said Wilson was already there in the film room when he arrived at 4:30am, trying to dissect exactly what went wrong and what he could do to fix things.

This past week against the Saints, that inaccuracy again reared its ugly head, as Wilson misfired on a number of slant routes, missing receivers that were wide open in many cases. Russell Wilson took the blame afterwards, admitting that’s something that he personally can and will fix. Let’s hope so, as the 49ers have a lot of playmakers on defense.


PlayerSizeTacklesTackles for LossSacksForced FumblesINT’sPasses Defensed
LILB NaVorro Bowman6’0” 242 Lbs14565.0429
RILB Patrick Willis6’1” 240 Lbs10473.0201
FS Eric Reid6’1” 213 Lbs77000411
SS Donte Whitner5’10” 208 Lbs73302212
LOLB Ahmad Brooks6’3” 259 Lbs6068.5117
RDE Justin Smith6’4” 285 Lbs4936.5100
LCB Carlos Rogers6’0” 192 Lbs4700028
NT Glenn Dorsey6’1” 297 Lbs4112.0000
CB Tramaine Brock5’10” 197 Lbs37000515
LDE Ray McDonald6’3” 290 Lbs3733.5001
ROLB Aldon Smith6’4” 258 Lbs3448.5000
LB Michael Wilhoite6’0” 240 Lbs3420001
RCB Tarell Brown5’10” 193 Lbs32000011
DE Tony Jarod-Eddie6’5” 301 Lbs2820012
LB Dan Skuta6’2” 250 Lbs2840002
S C.J. Spillman6’0” 199 Lbs2500000
DE/LB Corey Lemonier6’3” 255 Lbs1511.0103
[tdo=8]2013 49ers Top Defensive Playmakers[/tdo]

San Francisco’s linebacking corps may very well be the best in the NFL. LB NaVorro Bowman (6’0” 242 pounds) leads the 49ers with 145 Tackles on the season. As Russell Wilson found out last time, Bowman can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, so Wilson better be wary or he’ll be greeted by Bowman again on Sunday. LB Patrick Willis (6’1” 240 pounds) is #2 on the team with 104 Tackles this season and is the team leader with an impressive 7 Tackles for Loss. He is an extremely capable pass defender, so Wilson better take heed of where he is at as well. PFF had him having a Tackling Efficiency grade of 17.0 in the passing game -- 4th among inside and middle linebackers. LB Ahmad Brooks (6’3” 259 pounds) is tied with Aldon Smith for the team lead in sacks (8.5) and like him, can also cover a lot of ground.

Because of that overall team speed of the Niners, the absence of Percy Harvin (who didn’t pass the NFL’s concussion test protocol and will miss this game) could loom large. Seattle likes to throw the ball deep, as they averaged 8.4 yards/pass during the regular season (2nd highest in the NFL). However, recently teams appear to have figured out how to effectively throw a monkey wrench into the Seahawks passing attack. Instead of sending their defensive ends flying up the field, they have been using them to contain Russell Wilson, not allowing him to get outside the pocket and create -- his true forte. The Seahawks have faced good secondaries lately that have really focused on taking away the deep routes, knowing that Seattle’s receivers aren’t the kind of speedsters who can generally burn defenders deep.

However, if there is a weakness on this 49ers defense that could potentially be exploited -- it would be in the secondary. Here is what PFF had to say after the 49er-Panther Divisional game last week ...

If there is a complaint on the 49ers’ defense, it’s at cornerback where Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock graded at -1.6 and -2.1, respectively. Brown was the culprit on Newton’s 31-yard touchdown pass to WR Steve Smith on his way to giving up receptions on all four of his targets for 66 yards.

Brock had his issues with Smith as well as he whiffed on a tackle at the 4:26 mark of the first quarter. He was also beaten badly on a double move by WR Ted Ginn, but recovered with the defensive hold to save the potential touchdown. For the game, Brock gave up three catches on his five targets for 48 yards. It certainly wasn’t an egregious effort from the cornerback duo, but it was a step below that of the rest of the defense.
Source:
https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/01/13/refo-49ers-panthers-divisional-round/

The real weak link in that secondary though is Carlos Rogers. Rogers has had a real up and down season in terms of his coverage (he’s graded out at just -6.8). He’s become their primary nickel cover corner, so will be out on the field upwards to 60% of the time probably. In addition, he’s also been banged up, as he’s been dealing with a hamstring issue of late that’s cost him the past couple of games. He was a full participant in practice on Friday, so there’s opportunities for plays to be made for Doug Baldwin or for whomever ends up lining up in the slot. The 49ers Secondary DOES have talent though, as Strong Safety Donte Whitner allowed just 2.8 yards after the catch per catch -- the lowest in the league. The 49ers Secondary hasn’t traditionally used a lot of man to man press coverage, which could be a huge advantage to Seattle. If Seattle’s Offensive line can just give Wilson time, he should find some open holes in the 49ers coverage, especially in the short, quick passing game. If Seattle’s going to win, Seattle is going to need a heck of a lot more than 103 yards passing from Wilson. History says those plays should be there to be made … Wilson just has to make them.


Bold Prediction …

One game for the right to go to the Super Bowl. There is no love lost between these 2 teams. Donte Whitner said it well this past week, “We don’t like them and they don’t like us.” Richard Sherman concurred, saying, “I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot of handshakes after this one.” This is going to be smash mouth football -- rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots at its very best. With 2 of the very best defenses in the NFL … and 2 teams that love to run the ball, I’m envisioning that this will be a low scoring affair. That Week 2 game back in September was 5-0 at the half and with Percy Harvin out for this game, it wouldn’t surprise me whatsoever to see a repeat of that. If the Seahawks could at all force a turnover and get a score early, that could factor in huge in this game. Regardless of what Kaepernick and the rest of the 49er players are saying, after the way they’ve been spanked the last couple of times they’ve been the Century Link Field there has to be some measure of self doubt in their minds. If Seattle can force a turnover early and get the 12th Man frothing at the mouth, that small snowball could become an avalanche that could carry the Seahawks all the way to the Super Bowl.

Let’s call it …
Seahawks 17
49ers 13
 

falcongoggles

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Reading this, I walked away actually feeling worse. Oye oye. I think it is just confirmation bias, but still.
 

falcongoggles

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And........thank you for writing this. I bet this took a life time. Have you ever thought about building this into a portfolio and trying to apply for a job? There is a place for you among the "experts" as your analysis is well beyond what they offer.
 

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Another very impressive job of analysis by Hawkscanner! So much appreciated and a great read with a cup of coffee this morning. Thank you sir!
 

Largent80

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Wow, a Championship of compiling/writing. Amazing read Scanner.

Those numbers are so very close. In the first group I saw a huge amount of QB hits against us this year. That needs to come down, and it actually explains a lot about RW's play as of late.
 

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We are evenly matched that is for sure. Glad this is a home game. Also it proves that need to upgrade our offensive line before Wilson gets killed. Another year like this and we won't have to worry about paying him the big money. It's criminal what he has to work with and yet he still wins.
 
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falcongoggles":3h5eqse2 said:
And........thank you for writing this. I bet this took a life time. Have you ever thought about building this into a portfolio and trying to apply for a job? There is a place for you among the "experts" as your analysis is well beyond what they offer.

Nah. Thanks for the props though. I actually had that same conversation with Doug Farrar a few years back when I was doing these for Scout.com. In the end, this is merely a hobby for me -- not a career path. Working with kids as a teacher is my true passion -- nothing else truly compares.
 

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Those FO O-Line rankings confirmed a suspicion I already had since comparing Sack numbers and Rushing Offenses at season end.

49ers O-Line is NOT that much better than ours.

4 of their 5 starters started all 16 games.
1 missed 4 games or 5% of all starts.

Their Next Man Up was Adam Snyder, who prior to this season (his 9th in the NFL) he started 83 games out of 121 total in which he was active, including 13 games in 2011 for the 13-3 49ers.

Seahawks O-Line:

0 of the 5 starters started all 16 games.
4 of the 5 missed 20 games or 25% of all starts.

Next Man Up was Michael Bowie, who prior to the season was still in college. Bowie would come in as a 21 year old 7th round rookie.
He would end up making 8 starts, 7 at RT, 1 at RG in the regular season and the would start the first Play-Off game at LG.

And you're telling me despite the considerable difference between health, consistency, and overall experience FO ranked...

49ers O-Line 29th in Run Blocking and 22nd in Pass Blocking.

And the...

Seahawks O-Line 9th in Run Blocking and 32nd in Pass Blocking.


I think Cable deserves some apologies, sure its been a frustrating season but at least his O-Line isn't considered, One of, if not the best in the NFL like the 49ers but in reality rank in the bottom 10 in the NFL in both Run Blocking and Pass Blocking.
 

Largent80

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When I rewatched last weeks game twice, I focused on O-Line play, Bowie was great in there, can't wait to watch his matchup this week. He is doing quite the job and Cable must be given kudos for this as well as Bowies hard work. Unger was playing with a chip on his shoulder that game, and Sweezy is almost always in the second level on runs.

If we play like that Sunday, I believe all else will not matter.
 
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Pandion Haliaetus":iz2sz53g said:
Those FO O-Line rankings confirmed a suspicion I already had since comparing Sack numbers and Rushing Offenses at season end.

49ers O-Line is NOT that much better than ours.

4 of their 5 starters started all 16 games.
1 missed 4 games or 5% of all starts.

Their Next Man Up was Adam Snyder, who prior to this season (his 9th in the NFL) he started 83 games out of 121 total in which he was active, including 13 games in 2011 for the 13-3 49ers.

Seahawks O-Line:

0 of the 5 starters started all 16 games.
4 of the 5 missed 20 games or 25% of all starts.

Next Man Up was Michael Bowie, who prior to the season was still in college. Bowie would come in as a 21 year old 7th round rookie.
He would end up making 8 starts, 7 at RT, 1 at RG in the regular season and the would start the first Play-Off game at LG.

And you're telling me despite the considerable difference between health, consistency, and overall experience FO ranked...

49ers O-Line 29th in Run Blocking and 22nd in Pass Blocking.

And the...

Seahawks O-Line 9th in Run Blocking and 32nd in Pass Blocking.


I think Cable deserves some apologies, sure its been a frustrating season but at least his O-Line isn't considered, One of, if not the best in the NFL like the 49ers but in reality rank in the bottom 10 in the NFL in both Run Blocking and Pass Blocking.

To an extent, I would agree with what you're saying. I mean, just check out what Football Outsiders was saying about Seattle's Offensive Line last year. Last year (with basically the same guys), Football Outsiders ranked our Offensive Line 4th overall in Run Blocking ... and 20th Overall in Pass Blocking. The 49ers (on the other hand) were 1st in Run Blocking ... but 29th Overall in Pass Blocking.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol2012

Health plays a huge factor in those rankings ... but in many ways, those rankings don't mean a whole lot. What's truly important is what does the unit look like and how are they playing right now? And from what I saw last week, our Offensive Line looked pretty darned good. If Bowie and the rest of them bring THAT kind of game again tomorrow ... I really like our chances.
 
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MizzouHawkGal":6ztpabjk said:
We are evenly matched that is for sure. Glad this is a home game. Also it proves that need to upgrade our offensive line before Wilson gets killed. Another year like this and we won't have to worry about paying him the big money. It's criminal what he has to work with and yet he still wins.

I'm extremely relieved that this game is at Century Link. Personally, I'm feeling that if this game were in Candlestick ... we'd probably end up losing. Regardless of the outcome of this game and the rest of the season, it's become abundantly clear what 2 of our chief offseason priorities are: 1) A tall, big WR with some speed to replace Sidney Rice ... and 2) Offensive Line depth and/or upgrades. Those 2 things right there (plus a healthy Percy Harvin) will affect the fortunes of this offense big time IMO.
 

Shock2k

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Thanks for taking the time to write this up. Take a lot of time to put together.

I'm still not super concerned with this game. I think a lot of folks have a bad taste in their mouths from the away game at San Francisco. Especially for the older Seahawks fans who have had to endure a lot of heart break in the past. Two things I like to remember is:
1) It's not a problem with Talent, it's been a problem with execution.
Beyond the defenses we faced in the past 6 weeks, we really had some execution problems. It has not been a problem with a lack of talent. And the games we did loose were really games that came down to the end and a few calls. (Which is why I think the national media as a whole thinks this is going to be real close (within 3 or 4 points)

2) This is a team that knows how to correct it's mistakes.
The players we have are all students. They will make the necessary corrections to bring their games up to their expectations. Something as a long time Seahawk fan I've never had confidence in until this team came along.

Beyond this, San Francisco just isn't very good in Seattle. I was worried at the beginning of the week, but after working through all the stats, seeing the interviews and how loose and oddly calm the team is, I'm not really expecting a "tight" game. Beyond something wacky happening I see the Seahawks winning this game by 7+.

With that said. One thing I haven't heard anyone talk about, is the one glaring omission in the Seahawks vaunted defense. They really haven't been good in the 4th quarter closing a team out. Something that carried over from last year (and I'm not talking about the Atlanta game only). The defense missed critical stops in all our losses this year. That's the one thing I hope they acknowledged and worked on. (Heck we almost let Drew Brees come back on us last week).

Now to be fair, defenses get tired and all that. But I would be interested in somebody doing so more in depth analysis of that.
 
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Hawkscanner

Hawkscanner

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I'm curious to hear some thoughts on what thing(s) you're going to be paying particular attention to tomorrow. One X-Factor that I didn't talk about in the main piece that I'm going to be really keeping an eye on (and whom I think could be a real factor if that ankle is healthy) is Luke Willson. Before he got injured, Willson and Russell Wilson were really starting to develop some chemistry together. Seattle may very well go with a lot of 2 TE sets as they've been doing lately and if so, Willson could be someone who could factor in to this game.

So, what players and/or matchups will you guys be paying particular attention to?
 

stonewallj799

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Thanks for taking the time to do this. Great information in there. Makes me soooo much more excited for the game after I read in depth analysis like this.
 

Crabhawk

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Hawkscanner":rrpker67 said:
So, what players and/or matchups will you guys be paying particular attention to?
TEs in the intermediate middle and passes to Robinson/Lynch in the flat. We have had success with those plays against the 9ers but neither seem to have been featured in recent weeks.
 

Hawks46

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Willson is a good one to look at. His only TD this year was against the 49ers.

Either they're going to pay some extra attention to him, or...if Wilson looks for him, he could be a mismatch on the Niners LBers. Yea, I know, they're great in pass coverage but Willson just ran away from Willis on that TD pass and it wasn't even close. I knew he was fast, but i didn't think he was that much faster than Willis.

Lynch usually does well catching balls in the flat against the Niners. He gets to that 2nd level and usually abuses the first DB he finds. Out on the edge like that, you can gain some YAC if you make the first guy miss, or in Lynch's case, truck him.

The other guy I'm watching is Baldwin. Like Hawkscanner said, Rodgers hasn't been playing all that great and Brown has also been pretty bad really. Getting Baldwin on one of those guys could be key to a big play.

I honestly think the Niners will come in all fired up, but they won't have stamina after all these road games. After getting facerolled the last 2 times up here, I think if we get an early turnover, establish the run early, or get up by 2 scores early, it might deflate them and fatigue them in the 2nd half. After all they've been through, fighting to get back in the game early might just sap them.
 
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Hawkscanner

Hawkscanner

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Crabhawk":3wswh6py said:
Hawkscanner":3wswh6py said:
So, what players and/or matchups will you guys be paying particular attention to?
TEs in the intermediate middle and passes to Robinson/Lynch in the flat. We have had success with those plays against the 9ers but neither seem to have been featured in recent weeks.

Yeah, absolutely -- and as Hawks46 also mentioned Luke Willson absolutely toasted Willis on that 39 yard TD pass. If he's at all healthy, those same gaps in the defense should be there. In the first match-up this year back in Week 2, Zach Miller had 2 catches including a 15 yarder. He was targeted 4 times in that game, so plays should be there to be made for the TE's.

And it's interesting that you mention Michael Robinson there because he really hasn't been used all that much this year. The times he's been in there though, he's done great. PFF noted that Robinson posted a run blocking score of +5.0 -- only 7 fullbacks had a better run blocking score than Robinson over the 2013 season. It wouldn't surprise me whatsoever if Robinson is utilized some in this game, as the 49ers are going to be keying on Marshawn Lynch. Shutting him down is priority #1 for them. If that's the case, a guy like Robinson (who is a good receiver coming out of the backfield) could be overlooked. It wouldn't shock me whatsoever if he finds himself targeted a couple of times in this game.

Given the overall weakness of the secondary, it also wouldn't shock me entirely if Carroll encourages Bevell (maybe early on) to take a shot deep -- maybe to a guy like Ricardo Lockette -- someone with speed whom the 49ers may not be expecting. We've been so darned conservative on offense recently and I'm just wondering if this isn't one of those games that we might see a bit of riverboat gambling. Of course, a lot of that depends on the flow of the game and how it's going ... but it wouldn't surprise me.

I was listening yesterday to the national ESPN Radio broadcast -- Mike Tirico and I believe it was Adam Schefter (don't quote me on that). Anyway, when it came to talking about this game, they really focused most of their time pumping up the 49ers. They gave props to Marshawn Lynch, some props to the 12th Man (although they really minimized the impact the crowd could have), and then focused on Russell Wilson, feeling like he's regressed. They were saying (without saying it) that the Seahawks are underdogs in this game. After what's happened to the 49ers the last couple of times they've been up here, I don't know how in the world you can say that. I just feel like those guys were looking at this game all wrong. To me, the game that they should have been focusing on (and most experts should be focusing on) is that Week 14 19-17 Loss at Candlestick. The 49ers eeked that one out in their place on a last second field goal. When these 2 teams have gotten together the last few times ... Seattle has looked like the better overall team each and every time and I fully believe that will be made abundantly clear today as well.
 

Bluesbro

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stonewallj799":1brsymyu said:
Thanks for taking the time to do this. Great information in there. Makes me soooo much more excited for the game after I read in depth analysis like this.

Ditto ... looks like that was a full time job for you ;) These teams are so evenly matched it should be close every time they play. The blowouts the last two times were turnover related for the most part, and things just snowballed badly. The real question for me is how the 49ers have learned from the last two games, and can the experience of Kaepernick overcome the crowd noise and emotion, The first game up there was his 5th start, and the second was his 7th regular season start (aside from the 3 post season games). He has had 14 regular season and two tough playoff games since the last game in Seattle. That is more than double the starting QB experience.

The other thing I haven't heard talked about much is the travel schedule over the last month. the Seahawks have been sitting at home and had a bye one week. The 49ers have been on the road constantly (logged over 13K miles I saw), and have had no bye. Plus, they logged more travel than any team this season. That didn't seem to hurt the Giants and Packers over the last few years. It makes you wonder what is more important. Rest and healing, or honing and bonding against adversity. My worry is that if Lynch is having success, that the 49ers could get weary in the 2nd half.

And as a 49er fan I am much more confident now than I was about 6-8 weeks ago, seeing the improvment in the offense and Kaepernick in particular. You can just see that he is more confident and in control. But until he (and they) can win up there is will always be an issue, and you would have to believe it is in their heads.
 
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