Written by Boris Krutiy
San Francisco 49ers versus Seattle Seahawks
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages… Welcome! This is for more than just bragging rights. The two best teams in the NFC, arguably best in entire league, are about to lock heads for a third time this year. Each game brought us to a realization that this matchup, this rivalary will be the next great rivalary for the next decade! So who will get the first win in the postseason (of many postseason matchups to come)? We will analyze both teams strengths and weaknesses going into this game and try to determine who will be the team to win and go to the Superbowl.
The visiting San Francisco 49ers have been here before, they have done this in the past and more importantly have been victorious! They have not been the best team overall this year but have fought and clawed their way through a very tough NFC West division to get into the playoffs as a wildcard. They battled the elements and a healthy Aaron Rodgers to win IN Green Bay in the Wild Card matchup and then went to Carolina to face one of the best defenses in the league and pull out a desicive and dominating victory over Cam Newton and the Panthers, proving that the 49ers were actually the better defense on that day!
Through this season and postseason, the 49ers have proven many things. They have shown many strengths and weaknesses. Some of their strengths include their dominating defensive. They are healthy on defense and are playing hard, smashmouth football. There are no glaring wholes on defense. We have one of the best fronts in the business and reportedly the best linebacker core in all of football with Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks. The pressure that the front four are able to put on the quarterback consistently help the defensive backs and having two great safeties in Whitner and Ried (Rookie) has benefited as we have rarely been beated deep.
On offense, there are both strengths and weaknesses which create inconsistency and frustration. From the top down, Colin Kaepernick MUST perform. His performance has not been consistent this year. From his running to his throwing, it just seams that he is not always on point. I understand that throughout the year, the 49ers were trying to limit Kaepernick from running with the ball in order to keep him healthy. What this created was Kaepernick trying to do it all with his arm and, even when he should run, he would second guess or hestitate which would affect the outcome of the play and end up with a sack or short gain instead of a big gainer like he had often last year. Also, I have noticed that his knowledge of the game has not been progressing. He was ripped by ex-Quarterback Trent Dilfer when he publicly explained how Kaepernicks progression skills were lacking. This was not far from the truth. In the following games, you could see how Kaepernick would have trouble with receivers if inital target was not available. He was not going through his progressions properly or using his checkdowns to the running backs. There has been improvement in this aspect of his game. In the last few games, he has shown that he can stand in the pocket and go through his progressions and has done so successfully. If Kaepernick is able to do this against the Seahawks as well as take care of the ball, no interceptions or fumbles, the 49ers should be able to score enough points to make it a close game. Last few games in Seattle, turnovers have really affected the outcome of the game. This put Seattle’s offense is great field position and eventually the 49ers defense just got tired from being on the field too much. Taking care of the ball will be the first key to victory.
The second key, which is really tied to the first, is the receivers. Can they create the necessary separation and make some plays downfield. With Crabtree back in form and Boldin and Davis all playing well, we should be able to move the ball through the air so long as they can create some separation to allow Kaepernick to throw the ball without throwing it in tight situations possibly creating turnovers. If we can have some success with the passing game, it will open up the run game too. Frank Gore was able run against a strong Carolina defense and if he can burst through some holes in Seattle, it could be a good day.
In the last two games in Seattle, the 49ers have really struggled to move the ball on the ground or through the air. They have been shutdown in all phases of the game and have found it difficult to find success in their offense. This is of course because we are facing the best defense in the league, especially when they are at home and have thier 12th man supporting them. The 49ers must find a way to break through the noise. The best way to do this is to move the ball early and score and take care of the ball. Quiet the crowd and take the Seahawks biggest advantage out of the game. Do this and I guarantee the 49ers will win.
As for Seattle, well we cannot forget them. How can you forget a team that has gone 14-2 in the regular season and 15-1 at home over the last two seasons. How have they done this you ask? The answer is obvious, Defense! This Seahawks team reminds me of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Bucaneers who were able to win a Superbowl with a very limited offense. This defense is very opportunistic and one of the best at intimidating and forcing turnovers. They are referred to as the Legion of Boom and if they stay together and continue this play, could be compared with great defenses of the past that also had cool nicknames like Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain, Dallas’ Doomsday Defense, Chicago’s Monsters of the Midway, New York Giants’ Big Blue Wrecking Crew, etc. This defense can definitely compare to the greats, especially if they help get Seattle it’s first Lomardi Trophy.
On offense, similar to the 49ers, there are some inconsistencies. If you look at the strengths first, they have a big and powerful offensive line that can give it’s quarterback time to find a receiver or open large gaps for their Pro-Bowl Running back. Marshawn Lynch has been one of the best and most consistent running back over the last three years. He is fast, strong and powerful and rarely is seen falling straight down or backwards, his power is always moving him forward so even when hit at line of scrimmage or for a loss, he ends up making up another couple of yards. He definitly wins the matchup with Frank Gore who is still very capable but has definitly lost some of the power and speed he once had. But I think old reliable still has something to prove, we shall see. Lynch will need to run the ball effectively for his team to win. Normally Marshawn Lynch has been known to run well against the 49ers.
The other factor is Russell Wilson, he is one of the brightest young quarterbacks of late. He plays a very smart game. He is not overly impressive but what makes him stand out, is not his size and strong arm like Colin Kaepernick, instead it is his football IQ and ability to turn a negative play into a positive play with his ability to scramble and run with the ball or to extend plays until a receiver is able to get open downfield. Wilson shows mastery of this in game and helps his team win. The biggest weakness the Seattle Seahawks have are at the wide receiver position. Their best receiver is Golden Tate who is not exactly a top wide receiver in the league. He did not even break 1000 yards receiving for the year and he is the only go to guy out there. Percy Harvin has been completely absent this year and when available has been ineffective and beaten up, twice getting hit hard against the New Orleans Saints last week. He will see much of the same this week against the 49ers, if he plays.
In my opinion, this game will be won in the trenches. Who is able to move the ball on the ground and win field position. Most importantly is the turnover and 12th man factor. As mentioned before, if the 49ers can either fight through the noise or put points on the board early to quiet the crowd, they will give themselves the best opportunity to win and go to the Superbowl, but they absolutely must take care of the ball. Turning the ball over is the quickest way to lose to the Seahawks.
I see the 49ers going in there and proving a point. They will find a way to overcome the noise by not turning the ball over and keeping the game close and will win 16-13.