It seemed inevitable.
Seattle meets San Francisco for a place in the Super Bowl.
The two best teams in the NFC get a chance to settle who is #1.
And the Seahawks get an opportunity to play the hottest team in the league.
Here’s what they’re coming up against…
Whatever struggles he had earlier in the season, he’s peaking at the right time. Kaepernick looks confident, comfortable and for the first time this year he’s playing with a smile. He’s running well, he’s making plays. Just as Russell Wilson is hitting his first genuine cold streak, Kaepernick looks very sharp.
Boldin, Crabtree & Davis
Without doubt the catalyst behind Kaepernick’s form is the return of Michael Crabtree and the consistent production of Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. That’s three reliable, big bodied receivers who are making plays in the post season. This is the one big difference between the two teams. Kaepernick doesn’t have to be overly precise with these guys. They are a mismatch nightmare and Seattle needs to get Wilson a big target next season.
Defensive line/linebackers are dominating
The 49ers don’t have a great secondary, but they’re able to flood coverage because their four and five man rush is one of the best in the league. Throw in the fact they have two brilliant inside linebackers and it’s a scary group.
He’s getting old — and his impact in a 60-minute game is diminishing. Yet somehow, he seems to have at least one huge play every week. His +50 yard run beat the Seahawks at Candlestick. A similar effort today finished off the Panthers.
The way the 49ers handled Carolina today was very impressive. The Panthers took a 10-6 lead that probably should’ve been 14-6 after two failed goal line attempts. Even so, Cam Newton was rolling in the first half and had all the momentum.
It was pretty much one way traffic.
Then San Francisco ended the half with a long scoring drive out of nowhere, and started the second with a three-and-out on defense and another long scoring drive.
Game changed, game over.
This off the back of having to go and play a tough game in Green Bay last week.
But before we forfeit the game and doth our caps to the Niners, here’s what the Seahawks can feel happy about…
– Marshawn Lynch ran very well against the Saints and has consistently played well against the 49ers. He will be crucial next weekend, especially if Wilson can’t get out of his little funk.
– San Francisco were a hot team last time they visited Seattle. They’d just destroyed the Packers, with Kaepernick throwing it around to the tune of career best passing numbers. That streak lasted one week, because he was shut down at Century Link — throwing three interceptions in the process.
– As good as San Francisco’s front four is, the Seahawks still made enough plays last time with Paul McQuistan playing left tackle.
– In the recent meeting between the two teams, the 49ers won by two points playing their tails off. They might be able to replicate that intensity with a Super Bowl on the line, but it really took a titanic effort to win by such a small margin.
– Seattle’s defense is playing superbly. They gave up some yardage late on against the Saints, but for the most part did a great job limiting an elite quarterback (Drew Brees) and a collection of excellent receivers. The 49ers are a tougher and superior road opponent, but the defense will be up for this one.
– A big part of the conservative approach on offense yesterday was the 16-0 scoreline. Taking the air out of the ball made a lot of sense. They were a conversion or two from coasting along to a predictable victory and possibly shutting out the Saints. I’m not sure a week of panic is required.
Overall I’d break it down like this….
Passing game edge? San Francisco — Kaepernick is playing very well, Wilson is on a tough run.
Running game edge? Seattle — Lynch is looking sharp again but this one’s close.
Pass rush edge? Seattle can rush, but San Francisco’s front seven is scary.
Coverage edge? Seattle’s secondary is the best in the NFL.
Seattle needs to help Wilson find a rhythm.
Teams are taking away the bootleg right, they’ve got a week to combat that. Short slants over the middle didn’t work this week — in part due to drops, but also due to inaccurate throws.
I think they have to get the tight ends involved. They have to go back to taking some shots downfield — even if it didn’t go to plan against Arizona.
Patience is also required. The 49ers are so effective rushing with four or five, they HAVE to establish the run first. Even if it is frustrating at times. There’s no alternative. They need to try and commit more defenders into the box to attack the secondary.
If they can get Lynch going, they need to be prepared to take some shots, be creative, get the tight ends downfield.
It’s going to be a long week waiting for next Sunday.
I wouldn’t expect a repeat of the last two meetings in Seattle. It’ll be a war this time — there’s too much at stake for a blow out.
A big drive in the fourth quarter or a key pass by one of the young quarterbacks could be the difference. It’ll be fine margins.
The loser is going to face the longest off-season imaginable. The winner will spend two weeks on cloud nine with a shot at immortality.