Curtis Allen’s week four watch points (vs 49ers)

Note:  This is a guest post by Curtis Allen and the latest piece in a weekly series. Curtis looks at the Seahawks and their opponents and discusses key factors…

The Seahawks will be fighting history in San Francisco. They have never had a three game losing streak in the Russell Wilson era.

Coming off disastrous losses to Tennessee and Minnesota, the Seahawks will need to up their execution and effort to beat a tough opponent.

They swept the injury-riddled Niners last year and split with them in 2019 in two of the most thrilling games of the NFL season. They split with them in 2018 as well. So while the Niners have not proven to be quite the bugaboo that the Rams have in the division, it is still a tall order to come away with a win on Sunday.

A lot of focus for the Seahawks will be on the stars to provide game-altering plays.

Russell Wilson will have to handle a tough San Francisco pass rush with poise and control.

Jamal Adams will have to find a way to break out of his streak of pedestrian play.

DK Metcalf will need to continue his strong run against the Niners. Time to take over a game.

Here are the watch points for this crucial division matchup:

Make Jimmy Garoppolo beat you

At this point in his NFL career, the die has been cast with Garoppolo. He is a good quarterback but not a great one. He can work with a system but elevating his team with his play is beyond his capability.

San Francisco has acknowledged this by mortgaging the future to get Trey Lance in the draft.

In the meantime, Shanahan has to work with Garoppolo much in the same manner that Sean McVay had to with Jared Goff. Plan an offense around him that does not ask too much of him, with many short passes that do not require pinpoint accuracy and decision-making.

You will get a few different things — some wildly creative runs set up by motion, a few quick throws behind the line of scrimmage to the playmaking wide receivers and screen pass after screen pass. Shanahan only asks Jimmy to throw past the sticks about 5-7 times per game because he is not accurate and is prone to turnovers, particularly when pressured.

Shanahan likes to come out early with a plan to push the ball downfield a little and see how Jimmy performs and then adapt accordingly. Frequently this year, he has had to dial back the game plan in game in order to keep the offense moving and give Garoppolo some easy completions that he can build on.

The Seahawks handled this game plan fantastically on defense in Week Eight last year:

Cue the video to about 4:43. The Niners have called one of their clever two option screens. Jimmy has Kittle to his right and Trent Taylor to his left.

Kittle leaks out and two defenders immediately converge on him.

Watch Poona Ford on the play. He easily busts through the offensive line, takes one step towards Jimmy, immediately diagnoses the play and stops cold. Branden Jackson does the same thing. Jimmy throws to Taylor and Poona runs him down and tackles him for a loss.

Keep the tape playing. That great play sets up a third and thirteen. Bobby Wagner blitzes free through the A-gap and hammers Garappolo. 

(The very next play on the highlight reel is Wagner knocking two Niner linemen over like bowling pins and sacking Garappolo again. Good watching.)

If they can read and react to these cute little creations Shanahan has set up to gain some yards, it puts more of the offense in Garappolo’s hands.

And that is a good thing for the Seahawks.

If they are able to limit the effectiveness of these creative runs and screens, it sets them up for success on third down. Which brings us to our next point, which is critical.

Win on third down

The Seahawks need to convert third downs on offense and get off the field on third downs on defense.

Penetrating analysis, I know. Yet failing in this one area cost them the game last Sunday.

The Seahawks were very poor last year, converting only 40% of third downs on offense, while allowing opposing offenses to convert 47% of third downs.

Both numbers are headed in the wrong direction in 2021. They are now converting only 38% on offense and allowing 49% of third downs to be converted on defense.

San Francisco on offense converts 47% of their third downs, good for seventh in the NFL so far this season.

How do they do it? They regularly put themselves in a position to have manageable third downs. A third of their plays on third down are of three yards or less. Which means they work to get yards in the early downs and have a range of options to convert and keep the drive alive.

Getting off the field on third down starts with winning on first and second down, especially with a Niner team that rarely has the ability to stretch the field.

Thinking the Seahawks’ defensive staff can outsmart Kyle Shanahan is not something that regularly occurs to Seahawks fans. Yet in Week Eight, they were able to bottle up a good portion of the game plan. They need a similar performance Sunday.

On offense, how can the Seahawks win more first downs? One way is by utilizing Metcalf against the Niner cornerbacks more.

Go back and watch that full Week Eight highlight package. They threw to DK Metcalf early and often. The number of quick slants they threw to him is impressive.  They also manufactured touches around the line of scrimmage for him. And that crossing route was thing of beauty.

Metcalf set a new career-high with eight first downs in that game.

Where has that slant play gone? The Seahawks seem to have taken it out of their toolbox. Why wouldn’t you let your huge wide receiver just shield corners right out of play and get a guaranteed seven or eight yards?

Sometimes we all get too hypnotized by complexity. Just put the ball in your playmaker’s hands and let him make plays.

Another way to keep the offense going…

Attack the middle of this defense

San Francisco has a defense that makes excellent use of their top players. They are creative and are schemed so well they appear to have twelve players on the field at times. They can simultaneously blitz and have deep support. They can rely on their front four to cause problems for the quarterback and flood coverage to clog the throwing lanes. They have options and a creative defensive coordinator.

However, there is a demonstrated spot in this defense that can and has been exploited so far in 2021 — right up the gut. And the Seahawks are well positioned to attack it. 

How so?  Two areas:

1. Attack it in the running game

In three games so far this season, the Niners’ opponents have had good success running in between the tackles.

Notice the run charts for Jamal Williams & DeAndre Swift (Week One), Miles Sanders (Week Two), and Aaron Jones (Week Three):

That is a lot of green lines (5+ yard runs) right through the teeth of the defense.

By my count, those three teams have run the ball inside 29 times against the Niners and gained almost 217 yards for a whopping 7.48 yards per carry average.

All three games have had success running inside against the Niners so far this year.

One game can be written off as an anomaly. Two games can be chalked up to talented players. Three games? That is a pattern.

What is happening? Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans is having a blast scheming with this potent defensive line.

His latest trick is to stack Armstead, Bosa and Ford on one side to ensure they each get single teamed in the pass rush. If the Seahawks can give Russell Wilson a heads up to look for this formation, they have options. Run right at it and let their aggression open up some gaps. Or motion a tight end to the opposite side and bully your way against the inferior side of the defensive line.

The Seahawks are ideally placed to do this. Chris Carson and Alex Collins are tough inside runners. Damien Lewis is itching to drive some guys off the ball. 

Do you want to give the defense some rest? Keep Russell Wilson upright? Bleed the clock when you have a lead? Run it up the middle. Again and again and again.

If you can do that successfully you can keep the pass rush at bay for an extra half a second and draw linebackers up and open up the middle of the field. Which takes us to our next point.

2. Attack the middle of the field in the passing game

The middle of the field has been a challenge for the Niners in the passing game.

This crossing play to DK Metcalf last year exposed some of their difficulties:

Watch Metcalf take advantage of the corner who has slipped and the disorganization between everyone else that allowed them to be blocked by Hollister and Dissly. He gets a free run across the middle and DK’s explosive speed and change of direction takes it the rest of the way.

Another surprisingly unexpected area the Seahawks might be able to take advantage of?

Fred Warner has been terrible in coverage in a limited amount of plays in 2021. He has been burned for a perfect quarterback rating in coverage.

Trust me, I am as surprised as you are. He is one of the NFL’s best linebackers and has a strong reputation for coverage.

But he has been exploited at least once per game for a deep gain. Sunday against the Packers Robert Tonyan got behind him and Warner had to take a PI to prevent a bigger gain. Dallas Goedert and T.J. Hockenson have also beaten him for long gains in the two weeks prior.

I am not suggesting the Seahawks throw at Warner as much as they can. Yet before this year, one good thing happened when you got him in coverage — you moved him away from the line of scrimmage. Now, it could be two good results.

With the right timing and a well-designed play, they could really change the outcome of the game with a pass in Warner’s direction.

With Dissly, DK, Lockett and Swain and some smart planning, there could be several opportunities to get Warner in a matchup that is favorable to the offense.

Keep Deebo Samuel from wrecking the game

Samuel was one of the injured stars last season for San Francisco but he is fully recovered and is dominating the Niners’ stat sheet so far this season. He is their leading receiver and target by a wide margin. Garoppolo has clearly developed chemistry with him. He does not mind throwing further downfield if Samuel is open.

Watch Samuel’s Week One highlights and tell me that is not a near exact replica of what we saw the Vikings do to the Seahawk secondary on Sunday:

The wide receiver running free, with cushion after cushion. Converting darts thrown from a clean pocket into easy first downs.

He even makes Garoppolo look like a passable NFL quarterback. Watch the play at 1:06 when Garoppolo throws a dying quail. Samuel adjusts, makes the catch and turns on the jets for a massive touchdown.

George Kittle is still a monster and needs to be accounted for on every play. I would go so far as to advocate single-using Jamal Adams Sunday to just be across from #85 on every snap. Teams seem to regularly allow Shanahan to get Kittle alone in the scheme for easy catches and that is a big mistake.

But Samuel’s speed, route-running ability and his tendency to make plays after the catch could really harm this defense. It would be particularly frustrating if the defense bottles up the run game, keeps Kittle from taking over and occasionally harasses Garoppolo, only to have Samuel consistently free and able to have a big impact on the outcome.

The corners have to have an answer. Whether that is starting Sydney Jones and having DJ Reed follow Samuel around the formation, instructing Tre Flowers to line up 2 yards across from him and giving him constant over the top support from Diggs, or creating some lane-clogging formations with Jamal Adams and Jordyn Brooks, Samuel simply cannot be allowed to run free through this defense.

If you missed yesterday’s Seahawks vs 49ers preview live stream, check it out here:

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  1. Mick

    This is really cool cha. My worst scenario is that they beat us with Kittle and Juszczyk, not with their receivers. Titans got the ball easily behind our Dline because we sent too many people at once blitzing. Shanahan is too smart to not have noticed that. We have to cover our butt, and we need a CB to contain Deebo Samuel and not rely on too much help from the LBs. Otherwise, yes, run the ball, yes, employ Collins more. But I believe Wilson will win or lose this game.

  2. 12th chuck

    thanks cha, my guess if Eskridge is playing, it should help open the middle up for the run and passing plays. That is if they can run effective plays with the perimeter.

    • 12th chuck

      never mind, Carrol has him listed as doubtful

    • Balint

      Eskridge is probably out, Lockett is questionable for sunday. Why don’t they elevate Cade Jonhson, or any other receiver from practise squad for this game?

  3. Tomas

    Russell is great, but fear he’ll get clobbered by the SF pass rush. Maybe we can run the ball, but I’m not optimistic. Shell is out, we have no center, and Gabe Jackson looks pretty well shot. The Raiders knew what they were doing when they let him go – we didn’t. Way to go, Pete. But if Kittle can’t play, we’ll have a chance. Here’s hoping.

  4. Forrest

    …and Sherman’s asking price was…$1.2 million!

    • Rob Staton

      Well it’s not like the Seahawks have $12m to play with or anything.

      And they’ve got to manage the spend seeing as Witherspoon isn’t going to pay himself in Pittsburgh…

      What a mess

  5. Sea Mode

    I’m a couple days late with this quote, but this is unbelievably ridiculous and incompetent. No wonder we can never adjust in-game or from game to game. Our DCs plan for improvement and adjustment is “let’s win more”. SMH

    Bob Condotta
    ·Sep 30

    Seahawks DC Ken Norton Jr. on a few players talking about scheme issues after Vikings game: “I think it’s more losing and frustration. Anytime you lose everyone is trying to find a reason. I think it’s a matter of, let’s win more and then you will have a lot less complaining.”

    • Rob Staton

      Not good enough

    • Big Mike


    • Scot04

      I’ve heard PC say this many times. Only figures his DC would have the same horrible philosophy.

    • cha

      What is the identity of this team?

      “Well, we are FOR winning. And we are AGAINST the team we are playing that week winning.”

  6. Sea Mode

    Bob Condotta
    ·Sep 30

    Russell Wilson said he watched all of the Mariners game last night and said “it’s been cool to watch” the team’s rise to contention. Notes it’s a great time for Seattle sports but that “now we’ve just got to get the Sonics back.”

    “now we’ve just got to get the Sonics Seahawks back.”

    • Rob Staton

      Yeah, I have to say it doesn’t feel like a great time for Seattle sports.

      The Mariners are on an unexpected run for the playoffs (and might miss out based on the last result) and there’s a new ice hockey team.

      The Seahawks are facing a massive crossroads and there’s huge uncertainty about the franchise.

      This doesn’t feel great.

      • cha

        I have tickets for the Rams TNF, the Steelers SNF, the Niners SNF and the Kraken home opener.

        I’ll be thrilled going to all four. But ask me which I’m most looking forward to and it’s not even close.

      • Paul Cook

        The Mariners pretty much kicked the life out of their fan base with years of futility. But I have to give their general management/management team credit for how they’ve gone about things in recent years. When the Dipoto/Servais team came aboard, they gave their aging, overpriced, underperforming lineup one more chance to get to the playoffs, and when they didn’t, they went into full on, top to bottom rebuild mode, risking even further deterioration and dispiritment of their fan base…

        –They sold off almost all of their high salaried vets
        –The accrued young talent in doing so
        –Their record suffered and in so doing they accrued high draft picks for a few years
        –They rebuilt their scouting department searching for talent all over the globe
        –They shored up their farm system

        Just because you go into full tear down and rebuild mode, however, doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful at it. But by most all accounts they have been successful at it.

        –They’ve got good young talent on the team right now
        –A bevy of other young talent in the farm system
        –By most accounts, they’ve gone from bottom three farm systems to top three
        –They’ve dramatically reduced payroll giving them future FA flexibility
        –And now the team is just starting to show some real promise

        It’s still early in the game, but there’s a lot to be hopeful about now in terms of having a strong, young, contending team for years to come, in spite of a Covid year which set the rebuild back for a year.

        I tentatively think that the Mariners are inverse to the Seahawks now, the Mariners trending up from the bottom, and the Hawks trending downward.

        • McZ

          The Mariners also had one hell of a streak at the trade deadline. Basically traded away the worst closer in baseball and a halfway capable relief pitcher with 8 weeks contract for Toro, Castillo, Anderson. After Castillo finally somewhat regained some form, this is an A+.

          They also did everything this season with Kyle Lewis and Big Maple injured.

  7. GoHawksDani

    I guess it’s gonna be an L
    We should attack the middle: our IOL sucks and Russ can’t really throw to the middle
    We should stop Kittle: Adams sucks at coverage so does Brooks or Barton
    We should prevent screens and be good again misdirection: yeah, this team is bad against both
    We shouldn’t let Deebo much space: one word…Flowers

    I think they’re gonna control the clock and march up and down the field. Russ will face constant pressure and we’ll only run like 15-20 times.

    My guess would be 24-17 to the niners

    • Roy Batty

      Why do I get the feeling that Kittle’s back-up will have a career game?

      And, while we’re at it, let’s go with 5+ sacks on Russ. One the of the Dlinemen will also have a career sack day. With the top two Hawk receivers hobbled and Everett possibly out, there is just no way in hell Russ gets the ball out quickly. All the Parkinson’s in the world won’t help, now they they’ve decided TE’s aren’t worth throwing to.

  8. Call Me AL

    Nice write up Cha, very insightful, you obviously put a lot of time and effort into this. To bad their isn’t more of a response from the community in the comments. But given the current feelings about this team right now, I guess its to be expected not a lot of folks are excited about the game.

    You mention the stars need to provide game-altering plays and Jamal Adams pedestrian play. I think this who he is, he’s not a cover guy and I’m tired of watching him chasing receivers across the field, his poor tackling and just getting totally blocked out of plays. Lets hope he doesn’t have to cover Kittle! Personally I would rather see Ryan Neal playing instead.

    Make Jimmy Garoppolo beat you! Given our secondary this isn’t really a tall order. Our defense makes average quarter backs look good.

    Win on third down. The offense has looked stagnant and unimaginative since the first game. If the 9ers pass rush is hitting home consistently this could be a long day for RW and company. As for the the defense, the coaching staff has taken a lot of heat recently for it’s poor performance so I expect there will be changes. Given their lack of talent, I’m not sure that any changes they make will make much of a difference.

    Attack the middle of the field in the passing game. Great thought, but our offensive coordinators have been trying to get RW to do this consistently for years!

    Keep Deebo Samuel from wrecking the game. Question, which corners have to have an answer? 49ers game plan, put Deebo Samuel on Tre Flowers side of the field and sit back and enjoy the fireworks! Oh heck, put him on either side of the field for the same effect!

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe everything you said as to what the Seahawks need to do to win this game are absolutely true. My comments are a condemnation of the Seahawks coaching, talent and game play.

    Personally, I hope the 9ers win, its the only way I see to bring about change. PC needs to retire, period. KNJ needs to find a job that suits his talents, I’m not sure what that is, but its not coaching football on any level. And JS needs to go to another team, preferably within our division, where his astute judgement on blockbuster trades and insightful drafting of talent will greatly benefit the Seahawks!

    • cha

      Thanks for the feedback. I was tempted to just cut and paste my Week 8 watch points post from last year. Very similar issues the Seahawks are facing, and the makeup of the Niner team as well.

      That was also the weirdest active roster game of the year.

      Five tight ends active. Willson and Parkinson only got 3 offensive snaps – all on the victory formation kneel downs.

      Snacks Harrison was kept on his exercise bike while the Seahawks activated Stephen Sullivan and gave him 22 snaps on defense.

      Jamal Adams still hurt, so Bobby Wagner blitzed 17 times (!) and made the most of it with 4 TFL’s, 2 sacks and 11 tackles.

  9. Brik

    I’m curious as to who people think should be our next head coach. My vote is Byron Leftwich. He can decide on whether to keep Waldron. More importantly, he can get a defensive coordinator that can focus completely on that. Pretty sure we would get a 3rd round pick as well, which would be awesome when you also get the best coach.

    • Roy Batty

      Unless the owners consult with Russ, it won’t really matter who they hire. Russ will demand a trade and the team will be without an on-field leader for years. The franchise will be in the cellar, with no way out until a new, dynamic owner buys the team and makes the right moves, like hiring Bieniemy or someone of his acumen.

  10. Paul Cook

    Nice write up again, cha. Thanks. Appreciated.

    As of now, I have the Hawks competing for the 6th or 7th playoff spot. A loss to the 9ers and I have them below that level and having to pull off what now appears to be upsets to get back to that level.

    They really need a win this week. I mean really.

  11. Big Mike

    As always, I really appreciate your preview write up cha. Always sharp and well written.

  12. Martin

    It’s great (again) CBA. Your work really helps me understand the opposition and what to look out for during the game. Much appreciated!

    • cha

      Thanks Martin. Paul Cook and Big Mike too.

      I try to look at the tape and numbers with a lens toward what the Seahawks can and should do without it evolving into too much hyper-jargon.

  13. Paul Cook

    Georgia looks really good this year. A pretty complete team. I still have Georgia and Alabama as the tippy-top teams. It’s a bit of a muddle after that, with teams like Oregon, Penn State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and perhaps as many as 5-6 more who can still dream of a CFP berth.

    • Roy Batty

      I looked at the late 3rd quarter score and laughed at the realization of Arkansas as anything but second a tier SEC team.

  14. cha

    Mayowa downgraded to out tomorrow, Penny to IR

    Parkinson and Ogbuehi off IR

    Cody Thompson a practice squad elevation for the game

    It would appear they are not playing Everett tomorrow. They’d have to cut or IR someone to make room.

    • Big Mike

      Penny to IR? Color me shocked 😲

      • bmseattle

        I wonder what his durability score is these days.

        • Rob Staton

          Wonder how it compares to Nick Chubb’s…

    • BobbyK

      Seahawks like to invest and TE and not even try to get use from it. Or token use. Normally, if a $6 million a year guy (even on a 1-year deal like Everett) it would be a big deal or definitely hurt, but with Everett missing tomorrow – it’s really not a big deal because they don’t use him anyway. Who cares? But, yeah, Pete and John, lets keep investing in something that’s worthless. It’s so important to have someone start that doesn’t do anything over spending that money in the trenches. Hell, they could have kept Reed at DT and still had all the same DTs (though Reed isn’t exactly lighting it up in KC) with much better depth AND actually gotten an OL that’s good. Maybe keep the 5th rounder, don’t get Jackson, keep Lewis at RG and spend $5 million on a LG and/or C. Justin Britt would look a heck of a lot better on this team than Everett. AND he’s cheaper. But, no, lets keep getting TEs. It’s almost as bad as Ruskell keeping a second kicker. lol

      • Rob Staton

        The continued spaffing of resource on the TE position, only to never make proper use of it, is highly frustrating and baffling.

        Just another thing to add to the list of crimes by this team over the last few years.

  15. Big Mike

    Agree that Georgia and Bama look to be the top 2. Cincy might well get in the final four. They’re kicking Notre Dame’s ass 17-0 at the half. Oregon will gag a game like they always do and it might be today as they’re already down 10-0 in the first quarter to Stanford and their history vs Stanford is not good.

    • Paul Cook

      It’s perhaps likely that either Notre Dame or Cincy knocks the other out of the CFP hunt today.

    • Rob Staton

      Thank god

      Can’t bear to watch another completely overmatched Notre Dame get hammered in the playoffs again

      • Paul Cook

        Yeah. It was almost a foregone conclusion that they were going down hard in the CFP.

  16. Rob Staton

    Alabama and Georgia

    Beat the crap out of you up front

    Win lots of games

    • Big Mike

      Stanford o-line manhandling the Oregon d-line. Where have we seen this movie before?

  17. uptop

    Alec Pierce (WR Cincinnati) Is looking really really good, like a complete WR

  18. cha

    Program note:

    PFR has updated Fred Warner’s QBR against. So instead of allowing a perfect rating of 158.3, he’s “only” allowing a 144.10 passer rating.

    He’s allowed 8 catches for 135 yards, or 16.9 yards per catch. Receivers have gained 81 YAC on him.

    Hoping the Seahawks exploit this before the Niners figure it out and adjust.

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