We can plainly see that Hollywood doesn’t have a monopoly on extraordinary story lines. Two great stories are playing out this weekend. We have the veteran QBs on one side of the ball and the new, up and coming, QBs on the other. We have the quintessential football names, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, facing each other for potentially the final time. We have the best current team rivalry in the NFL, Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, going against each other in Seattle. Two of the best young QBs, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, leading their team one more time for a chance ot play in the Super Bowl. What a great weekend it is shaping up to be.
The story for the Seahawks and 49ers took divergent routes, but the destination was the same for each…the Conference Championship. Seattle got off to a very fast start this year and played steady ball throughout the season, only stumbling a bit at the very end. San Francisco looked like they had a hard time awaking from their post Superbowl funk and stumbled out of the gates at 1-2. There is no doubt that San Francisco has righted that ship recently and have been playing some of the best football, all around, of anybody left.
But can we dismiss the fact that San Francisco turns into a completely different team when they step foot on CenturyLink Field? I don’t think we can. Kaepernick gets that ‘deer in the headlight’ look…I’ve seen it on his face. It’s like there is too much auditory stimuli and he can’t focus. He hasn’t handled it well to this point, but that doesn’t mean that he will react the same way during this game. Each game is a distinct point on a time line and one doesn’t have a direct bearing on the next, but history tells us he has had a hard time. So I implore the 12s to bring it this Sunday…make it so his Beats can’t block out the noise.
It is easy to see that Kaepernick has found his groove with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. They haven’t been spectacular in what they are doing on the field, but they have been steady…case in point, they have put up 23 points in each of the last three games. Frank Gore, who burned Seattle for a 51 yard run in San Francisco, has proved why he is one of the most reliable backs in the game. Again, not flashy but steady; and isn’t that what you want at this stage of the season?
It is interesting to look over the 49ers depth chart on their website, it shows no backup for their LT and RT on the offensive line. Does this mean that if Joe Staley or Anthony Davis, who are pillars at their position, goes down that they really don’t have a good plan for replacing them? I am sure Jim Harbaugh has a contingency plan if this happens, but it is interesting.
The 49ers defense is definitely formidable. There are few, if any, defensive weaknesses on this team. It is still unknown (at the writing of this article) if Carlos Rogers will be working against Seattle’s receivers, that may be the only chink in their armor. The 49ers defensive line brings the heat, just look at the Carolina Panthers last week, unable to muster pass protection at crucial times in the game. This is not a good sign for Seattle’s semi-permeable offensive line and will force Wilson to keep his running legs warmed up.
Defensively? Nobody, and I mean nobody, is playing better than Seattle right now. They are lights-out good! The New Orleans Saints were able to put up 300 yards passing, but like I alluded to in my last article, that was after Seattle had established control of the game. San Francisco, regardless of how they have played offensively of late, needs to be very concerned about putting up points against this defense, especially against the backdrop of CenturyLink. Seattle’s secondary turns into a frenzied, starved animal when the word “hike” is said…it’s almost Pavlovian. Hmmm…I wonder if Carroll and Schneider run secret classical conditioning training at the VMAC?
I believe this contest comes down to the Seahawks’ ability to put up points, not their ability to stop San Francisco. Lets analyze the running game first. The longest run against San Francisco this season is 30 yards. And since 2010, San Francisco has only given up 100 yards rushing five times, three of which are to Marshawn Lynch. Lynch as a rule has been very good against San Francisco. Will Marshawn Lynch be able to sustain his numbers from the last game? Can he eclipse the 100 yard mark again? If he can it may prove fateful for San Francisco; this may be Seattle’s bellwether stat of the game.
The bigger question is Wilson’s play. Can he get into a groove passing the ball to his wide receivers? Can his wide receivers create separation? Can Darrell Bevell find his old playbook? I must admit that these are big question marks right now. 103 yards of passing does not instill fear in anybody; if anybody should be afraid it should be Wilson who is going against a much more ferocious front line and secondary.
The elephant in the room is Percy Harvin, our oft-injured wide receiver. What is his status? The fact that they put off his concussion protocol testing until late in the week should not give Seattle much confidence that he will be back in time for this weekend. Concussions are very tricky to predict, I should know I am an ATC/PT, and have dealt with this condition with many an athlete. Just when you think that all is improving it can turn quickly. He may have started doing conditioning but we don’t know because the team doesn’t have to report this activity. But we do know that he hasn’t done any contact activity yet and that has to be passed in order to play. Bottom line is that we are running out of time to have him play this weekend and it would be a shame if he couldn’t take the field.
The ending of this Hollywood story has yet to been written so we don’t know if it will be a flop or blockbuster (this will mainly depend on if you live in Seattle or San Francisco). What we do know is that it will be a story line with a lot of violence and action, set against a beautiful backdrop, with the heroes yet to be determined. Sounds like a good movie doesn’t it? One worthy of many sequels in the future. Go Hawks!