While the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers isn’t the rivalry it was a few short years ago, this is a very important game for both teams early in the season. The winning team moves to a 2-1 record that feels a lot better than 1-2, as well as securing at least a tie for 1st place in the NFC West after this week. While Seattle was predicted by many to compete for the division title, they have struggled on Offense early this year. The 49ers were picked by nobody and were widely considered a likely candidate for worst team in the NFL. This week could go a long way to changing the projections one way or the other, and it all comes down to a few key matchups.
1. Mikey Likes It!
Like we talked about in What to Watch this week, Christine Michael Sr. needs to be fed the ball. He is averaging about 5 yards per carry and his decisiveness is allowing him to compensate more for the shaky run blocking than the rest of the Seahawks Runningbacks. Rawls is out today, and Prosise’s status is up in the air right now. Alex Collins can come in to give Michael a breather, but this is his show to run. If he can be the back that came on at the end of last season and put up a big game, it could be the reason that Seattle wins. If he struggles to get positive yardage and cannot help create more 3rd and medium or 3rd and short situations than the team had last week, it could make for a very long day for Seattle.
I am looking for C-Mike to pick up 25-30 touches today in the pass and run game. He needs to show a bit more on the blitz pickup, but if he can remain as productive on a per snap basis as he has been all season these extra carries going his way will be big.
2. The Line is Offensive
So far in 2016 Bradley Sowell has only shown the potential to block two things: Offensive progress and our hopes for a successful season. A quick look at run statistics shows that the further the hole the Runningback hits is from Left Tackle the more successful the run will be. That is bad. Sowell looks completely lost on a lot of plays, and on other plays he holds. The only time he looks comfortable or successful is when he is able to crash down on a player in the run game and drive block. The rest of the line has looked anywhere from about average to somewhat shaky. Garry Gilliam played a better game in Week 2 against the Rams, but J’Marcus Webb looked bad on the inside and between Webb and Sowell is is really hard to truly evaluate Mark Glowinski and Justin Britt so far this year. If Ifedi does play that could be a huge injection of competence into this line, but it wouldn’t be worth risking the rest of his season to do so.
The playcalling needs to keep trying to do this group a favor. Lots of runs to the right side, if Russ feels up to it we should see some roll-outs and zone read plays that can help tone down the aggression of the 49ers Defense.
3. That’ll Do Defense, That’ll Do.
The Seattle Defense has been asked to basically play 2 perfect games in order to win, and they just about have. There have been a few busted coverages and a couple of bad plays here and there, but they have shut down opposing team’s run game to the tune of just 2.8 yards per carry and 7.2 yards per pass is a very respectable number. The team has already collected 8 sacks spread out over several players and at least in Week 1 showed a few blitz packages that will give teams fits. The one thing we haven’t seen yet is turnovers. It would go a long way to helping the Offense to see an interception today or one of those sacks turn into a strip-sack with a fumble recovery.
If the run game can keep the Offense on the field and the Defense a little more rested, that is the recipe for sustained success for this team. Play tough defense, flip the field with Jon “Bootzilla” Ryan (unofficial 2009 team MVP), run the ball, create turnovers, and strike with big pass plays. That is what had this team in back to back Super Bowls, and that is what this squad is built to do.