Seahawks – Niners pep rally

Will Richard Sherman be celebrating again on Sunday?

Nothing else matters this weekend.

Not draft talk. Not college football. Not Alabama getting revenge over Texas A&M.

There’s nothing else I want to write about tonight other than Seahawks vs 49ers.

The teams are trying not to hype up the rivalry. The players are on their best behaviour (well, apart from Anthony Dixon). Everyone’s saying it’s just another game.

It isn’t.

There are many strands to the rivalry. The national media love to latch on to the Carroll and Harbaugh stuff. They focus on the similarities between the teams. They talk about the new-found power of the NFC ‘Worst’.

One thing that doesn’t get discussed enough is the fact both teams are starved of success.

Yes, the Niners fans love to boast about their five Super Bowl titles. In reality, the next Super Bowl in 2014 will be the 20th anniversary of San Francisco’s last victory.

The ‘Quest for Six’ continues as they say, but it’s probably more a quest to end two decades of under achievement and near misses.

Seattle’s desperation for success is very different. As a less traditional franchise without half a century of history, the Seahawks fans wonder when it’ll be their turn. They thought it might happen in 2006 after years of mediocrity. It wasn’t to be. Super Bowl XL, if anything, has made the situation far worse.

The Niners want to begin a new era of glory. The Seahawks want to be #1 for the first time.

And the one thing that stands in the way for both teams, more than anything else, is each other.

If the current Niners or the current Seahawks were playing in the mid 00’s NFC West, they’d waltz to home field advantage in the playoffs. And with it, they’d have a great chance to play in multiple Super Bowls.

Now they have to compete with each other, plus a blossoming Rams outfit reinvigorated by Jeff Fisher and a Cardinals team that is certainly better than most of the other bottom feeders you’ll see in the NFL this year.

If either of Seattle or San Francisco ends up as the #1 seed in the NFC, they have a great shot at making the Super Bowl.

For the other? Life becomes much harder on the road.

What drives this rivalry is not the soap opera stuff involving the coaches or players, it’s the knowledge that both teams recognise the biggest threat to their title ambitions is each other.

This weekend is an opportunity for Seattle to hold serve. To win their game at home. San Francisco will get their turn in week 14. Neither team can afford to surrender a home defeat to the other. They can’t afford to go 0-2. These could be the games where division titles, playoff bye’s and home field advantages are decided.

So what could decide it?

Run the ball
Marshawn Lynch has three of the five 100-yard rushing performances Jim Harbaugh has conceded as 49ers coach. That’s an incredible record for Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (who would be my #1 choice if I was an owner looking for a Head Coach next off season). Seattle’s run game never got going against Carolina last week but it simply has to against the Niners. Likewise, San Francisco has to be prepared to run too. In the previous 42-13 defeat they put too much pressure on Colin Kaepernick to throw his team to victory. It was a huge mistake. For me they have an advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They have to exploit that to win.

Get momentum early
The game in December really was a night where everything worked for the Seahawks. It was just one of those occasions where you realise fairly early that it’s going to be your day. Momentum built gradually, snowballing into an avalanche. The three and out to start followed by a quick score from Lynch. Another touchdown before the blocked punt. Before they’d even settled into a gameplan, the Niners were 21-0 down and staring defeat in the face. I suspect we’ll see a very different game on Sunday. But the Seahawks can still take advantage of the crowd and the hostile environment by starting fast. Pete Carroll always says it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. This Sunday will probably require a fast start, a solid middle and a strong finish.

Second half adjustments
I think it’s fair to expect a tight contest, edged by a handful of key plays. In the game at Candlestick last year, the Seahawks missed their opportunity to take control with some ugly drops and misfires. The 49ers trailed 6-3 after a bruising first half. And after the break, they absolutely wiped the floor of the Seahawks. Seattle failed to score again. Unfairly, too much attention was paid to Russell Wilson’s performance. In reality, San Francisco’s second half adjustments won the game. They ran all over the Hawks with some intelligent tweaks, had Alex Smith play a short passing game and they limited Seattle’s offense. If it’s close again at the half on Sunday, making key adjustments will be crucial in a close game.

Bend but don’t break
The Seahawks cannot shut down Kaepernick. He’s too good. And he’ll get more than enough protection on the night to have a productive game. If you give Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin enough time, they’ll get open — even against the ‘Legion of Boom’. I cannot believe for one second that San Francisco will ignore the run like they did last time. Seattle has a good red zone defense and contained Kaepernick in December. That has to be the key again. Make the 49ers settle for field goals and take advantage. Likewise the Seahawks have to do a better job in the red zone than they did last week.

Challenge the 49ers secondary
If you put Seattle’s secondary with San Francisco’s defensive line, you’ll have a defense for the ages. Put San Francisco’s secondary with Seattle’s defensive line and it’s a different story. Russell Wilson is going to be pressured in this game. He’s going to have to be elusive, and he’s going to have to make some difficult throws on the run. But there will be opportunities against this Niners secondary which is far from intimidating. Nnamdi Asomugha and Carlos Rogers are a rare weak link on the San Francisco roster. Exploit it.

As for having to make difficult throws on the run, I had no idea at the time how good this throw was last week. Not many quarterbacks in the NFL can make this pass. Two of them are playing at Century Link on Sunday:

Rest your voice on Saturday.


  1. Steeeve

    Pins. And. Needles.

  2. Colin

    If we contain Gore, I think we’ll be able to force Kapernick into some bad throws. Boldin and Davis aren’t going to be just running open free like they were against GB. I expect the 49ers to run a simplified gameplan and try and get ahead early. I usually like how Pete defers to second half when we win the toss, but not in this game. Get the lead on that first drive and don’t look back.

  3. A. Simmons

    I prefer the team defer if they win the coin toss.

    I want to see how San Francisco’s front seven play this year. They fell off the last half the year in 2012. Justin Smith is supposedly back to his old self at 32. We shall see. Aaron Rodgers lit them up last week. Their offense has been pulling their fat out of the fire for quite a few games. It seems to be an assumption about their front seven right now. Every year is a prove it year. The reality is Green Bay put up 28 points on Frisco’s field. They won by 6 after being given a TD by Green Bay when Lacy fumbled near Frisco’s end zone. Big time mistakes by Green Bay.

    I watched how Green Bay handled Boldin. That was about as poor a performance by a secondary against a slow, plodding receiver as I’ve seen. I couldn’t believe it when Boldin caught the ball and went hoofing up the field like some plodding draft horse with Green Bay’s secondary making Boldin look like Percy Harvin.

    Now. Vernon Davis I’m worried about. Our LBs have not shown very good skills covering TEs, especially elite TEs. Gonzo tore them up in Atlanta. Jermichael Finley did well against us last year. We need to make sure Vernon Davis doesn’t get going. We can’t rely on Kam laying him out like last year.

    We also can’t let Frank Gore get going. We have to make sure to stuff the run. I hope they’re up for it.

    It should be a different game this week. That Carolina game was not at all representative of Seattle. Fact is we don’t play well in Carolina. We’ve played four games in Carolina. We’ve scored 3 points (2000), 10 points (2007), 16 points (2012), and 12 points (2013). That’s 10 points a game average. For whatever reason Carolina is not a place we thrive in.

    • Colin

      Very good points, A Simmons.

      The Niner defense, since the beginning of last December, has been mediocre as a whole. GB could not run the football and still managed 28 points. The Niners are not built to beat multi-fauceted offenses. They have to be facing rigid, stiff offenses that don’t adjust well.

      If we get some points early and can run the football, we will win. Mark it down.

      • Layne

        I agree with statements above.

        I will add that it is a must that we establish a running game early, or Wilson will be throwing on the run all game long. Are offensive line was terrible last week. Protecting Wilson and establishing running Lanes .
        Maybe We will See Michael this week. Fresh legs and someone the 49 ers’have Have not game planned for.

  4. Kenny Sloth

    I think Boldin will get maybe 2 catches for. 15 yards or so.

    Expecting our offense to break out in this one. We’re ridiculously better at home.

    I think it’s a W for us, but we’ll be getting pincushioned all game. Caroll’s going to hate this game.
    We’ll probably look like we’re getting bullied by SF, but the score likely won’t reflect it.

    • Kenny Sloth

      Correct me if I’m wrong,, but we’re waaaay younger than the 49ers, right?

      • Michael

        The Seahawks are the 4th youngest team in the league, while the Niners are 25th. So I guess you could say that we are “way younger”, but realize that the gap between the youngest and oldest team in the league is just a bit over 2 years.

        I tend not to worry so much about average age (which averages all 53 players on the roster) but rather the age of a team’s key contributors. For example, when you take all 53 players into account the Steelers are a “younger team” than the Niners. But anyone who has watched either team play in the last calendar year would know that to be a misleading stat. I think it is smarter to focus on the key positions and the number of years until you will likely need to replace that player (rather than actual age; since different positions age so… well differently)

        So in my opinion the key positions play out like this:

        QB – R. Wilson (24) vs. C. Kaepernick (25)

        Pretty much a wash here, though you could probably make an argument for either one aging better than the other, based on your particular loyalties. Both should be around for a decade plus.

        LT – R. Okung (25) vs. J. Staley (29)

        Clear ‘Hawks advantage as even the all time great LT’s tend to fall off before they turn 35.

        #1 CB – R. Sherman (25) vs. C. Rogers (32)

        Another big advantage for Seattle, especially considering the apparent lack of “ready for the show” depth for the Niners as evidenced by Asomugha’s (32) ability to win a job out of camp.

        #1 WR – P. Harvin (25) / S. Rice (27) vs. M. Crabtree (25)

        Based on traditional skill-set roles you could say Rice is our #1, the contract says otherwise, and Tate might have a chance to be better than either one. Either way I think I might have to concede a small win for the ‘Niners here given the health history of both Sidney and Percy (though Crabs isn’t the picture of durability either.) Though the receiving corps as a whole must go to the ‘Hawks with the depth they have.

        #1 Pass Rusher – C. Clemons (31) vs. Aldon Smith (23)

        I only put Clemons as #1 because neither Irvin or Avril have proven enough to usurp the title yet. Hopefully one of them can step up this year. Either way it’s a landslide victory for San Francisco since Smith was ridiculously young (21) coming out of Missouri while Bruce was already getting normal rates on rental cars as a rookie. Man, how good was the top of the 2011 draft class? Just think If we’d had 6 & 13 again that year…

        #1 DT – B. Mebane (28) vs. J. Smith (33)

        Advantage ‘Hawks, though I tend to think of Smith as somewhat of an outlier here. We should not expect Mebane to be playing at his current level five years from now, so the advantage might not be as large as it looks on paper.

        RB – M. Lynch (27) vs. F. Gore (30)

        Advantage ‘Hawks if both follow the normal age curve (or cliff in many cases). Lynch’s style might lend itself to an earlier than normal decline, which is why I’m so glad the FO wisely selected Michael this year. Once his blocking rounds into shape there is no doubt in my mind that he is a future star in the running game.

        #1 LB – B. Wagner (23) vs. Patrick Willis (28) / N. Bowman (25)

        You have to include Bowman because he’s just too good not to, and would not be much of a step down (if at all) if Willis ceased to exist tomorrow. Either way, Wagner has them both beat in the age department, so advantage ‘Hawks.

        #1 Safety – E. Thomas (24) vs. E. Reid (21)

        Advantage 49ers (remember I’m talking age only). Earl has managed to prove the doubters wrong to this point, but his size will always make people question how long his body can hold up. Is anyone else having a hard time recognizing Earl in the defensive fray without the dreads? Plus I catch a glimpse of the III on his back and my mind assumes it’s Thurmond. Thanks for making a bunch of people’s jerseys obsolete Earl!

        And of course the most important one of all:

        K – S. Hauschka (28) vs. P. Dawson (38)

        A whopping 10 year advantage for the ‘Hawks! This has got to be the tipping point in the age battle, sealing a decisive victory for Seattle. If Dawson follows the Morten Anderson age curve he will only be kicking for another 9 years (haha, suckers) while our beloved Hauschka (who has added some distance this year!) will be around longer than our next 3-4 starting running backs stacked end to end! Dynasty…

        • Kenny Sloth

          Hahahaha, great response, man, I appreciate it. I agree with everything you’re saying.

          Who makes more, Kaep or Russ?

          Both make relative pennies.

          • CHawk Talker Eric

            Kaep makes more. He was a 2nd round pick in 2011, RW a 3rd rounder in 2012.

            Kaep will make about $850k this year, compared to Wilson’s $525K.

  5. Miles

    Great post Rob. I’m so amped for Sunday. I’ll be there; who else will be??

    All I have to say is, I won’t be able to say anything after Sunday, because my voice will be shot. Let’s go beat the Niners.

    • Kenny Sloth

      I’d probably be mute for weeks if I went.

      I’m in college. No money for ”superfluous activities” -everyone around me.

      • Miles

        My dad has season tickets. I’m privileged in ways money can’t buy. lol

        • Kenny Sloth

          Pretty sure money can buy season tickets, though. Hahaha

  6. Dan

    I really hope Wilson and Co. notice the delayed blitz in the film against Carolina. One of the Panthers’ two sacks against the Hawks was made by an astoundingly delayed blitz (a solid 3-4 seconds before the linebacker rushed).

  7. Miles

    Looks like Hawks re-signed Clinton McDonald for some much-needed DT depth. Hawks were scheduled to pay him $1.3 million this season but the new contract will likely pay him somewhere around $650,000. Bargain.

  8. Donald Duck

    Here is a link for the Clinton McDonald story

  9. SunPathPaul

    Seattle cut Mike Person, tackle, to make room for McDonald…

    Here we GO!!!

    GO HAWKS!!! Can’t wait!!!!

    • Miles

      I’m still grumpy that we cut Allen Bradford. A great backup middle linebacker who Pete Carroll and Ken Norton groomed from scratch. We probably could have traded him before the trade deadline if we really thought we should unload him. At least get a 7th rounder out of the deal.

      I know that at this point, every time we make a cut it’s going to be a valuable player, but there are a few I’d let go before Bradford.

      • @AuRrevoirBrandon

        I agree, but I think it says a lot about Lotulelei, who’s pretty exciting.

        • Donald Duck

          I would rather have Bradford.

  10. Mylegacy

    OK – Mebane at least hurting (groin/ankle) possibly more than just hurting, Irvin (playing computer games for three more weeks), Avril first game of YEAR – almost no pre-season work even, Clemons highly unlikely to be in uniform – and if he is highly unlikely to be able to make an impact, Browner out – or even if in slowed significantly.

    This is going to be a GREAT TEAM by game 5 or 7 – but this evening – this defense is not really equipped to hobble a truly exceptional 49ers offense. IF – we can score a win – I can’t wait to see what we can do with all hands on deck!

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