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I think it is safe to say this season has not turned out like we thought it would. Most envisioned a battle royale, winner-take-all, proclamation of dominance come December 8th at Candlestick park. This, my friends, is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, this games means something, it just doesn’t mean what we thought it would. The fact that we sit three full games ahead of the 49ers with four remaining takes a smidge of the luster off of this game. But only just a smidge.
Don’t confuse this description as apathy. If there is one word that is the antithesis of the Seattle Seahawks, apathy might be it. They care to the point of wearing their emotions on their sleeve and leaving every ounce of their energy on the field. No, there is no need for contrived or feigned motivation, they still have to lock up home field advantage. Every win counts.
We enter this Sunday’s contest riding a huge wave of optimism with national sports reporters gushing over their recent dismantling of the Saints. Meanwhile the 49ers have put together a very respectable season after stumbling out of the gates early this season. They now sit very much in the thick of the playoff race and desperately need wins the rest of the way. What does that mean for Seattle? It means we get a cornered animal with nothing to lose…the most dangerous kind (I am sure that Jack Hanna would agree).
San Francisco mirrors Seattle in a lot of ways. They are a team that relies heavily on a bruising running back, a young agile quarterback that can run and throw with efficiency, a talented wide receiving corps and a defense that will punish you into submission. So what sets these teams apart in this game? Not much but there are a few items one can point to. San Francisco has home field advantage and that should account for something, albeit their fans had to be instructed on how/when to cheer for their team…(I sit here scratching my head). They are also playing one of the last games in Candlestick stadium, they would love to win one for nostalgic purposes. They are getting Seattle off of a short week, and even though Seattle easily handled New Orleans there was a lot of emotion expended and there could theoretically be a let down this week knowing they don’t have to have a win.
Apart from the intangibles already mentioned, here are a few take home points going into this game against our arch rival.
The 49ers now have one game under their belt with their talented wide receiver Michael Crabtree back after having his achilles tendon repaired. He didn’t disappoint last week catching two passes for 68 yards and he figures to have a larger role this week. Add to the mix Mario Manningham, who to this point, hasn’t done much after coming back from his injury but you need to be aware of him on the field. Don’t forget Anquan Boldin, who has had a couple of big games, but isn’t the threat he once was. More importantly there is Vernon Davis, the all-everything for San Francisco, who is a tough match up for Seattle. Speaking of tough match ups, Frank Gore always seems to have a good performance against Seattle. So what does all of this mean? It means that a talented Kaepernick will have a full arsenal to sling the ball to, not even counting his running prowess.
It is no secret that Carolina and Seattle sport the top two defenses but San Francisco comes in right behind them with a very physical and fast defensive line. Some analysts have pointed to the St Louis Rams’ game as a blueprint to beat the Hawks. And yes, that is probably the best example of how to beat them. The Rams used a very aggressive front line to stack the box, stop the run and at the same time pester Wilson all night long. If I may make one observation about that game, please remember we were missing a few key components on our offensive line which allowed for their pass rush to be effective. Now turn your attention to New Orleans who tried to employ a similar strategy last week. After getting burned on a couple of deep passes and realizing that the pressure on Russell wasn’t working they quickly abandoned this defensive scheme. I do suspect the 49ers will copy this game plan, and although their front seven is better than the Saints, I don’t think it will affect Seattle nearly as much as the Rams did.
The Seahawks bring to the table one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league right now in Wilson. The receiving corps, even without Percy Harvin, is one of the finest in the league not because of star-power but because of consistency. Our running back…well we don’t need to say much about him, but suffice it to say he normally has a really good game against San Francisco. Our defense was stingy last Monday, not Eugene H. Krabs stingy, more like Ebenezer Scrooge stingy. Can we expect our miserly ways to continue against San Francisco? I think to expect that would border on the outskirts of a town called ‘Foolish’. Can we expect the Seahawks to make life miserable for the 49ers offense and give them a physical game? Absolutely!
Seattle comes in driven by the fact that they can wrap up the division this weekend and get one step closer to securing home field throughout the playoffs. A win against the 49ers would prove again to the football nation that Seattle is the best team going right now and would also lock up the division. If Seattle simply goes 2-2 the rest of the way they have secured home field advantage…and that is only if all of the teams chasing them win their remaining games. Can’t you hear the collective sighs from across the nation…especially San Francisco, Carolina and New Orleans? Go Hawks!