The San Francisco 49ers will try and defeat the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field for the first time since 2011. For this to happen, the Niners need an effective game plan against a suspect Seattle offense. Let’s look at how it happens.
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Dec 14, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes while under pressure from San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (59) during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
If the San Francisco 49ers are able to upset the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Week 3, the Niners defense will have to be the primary reason behind the victory.
November 27, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael (33) runs with the football during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 19-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Ensure Seahawks Running Game Remains Stagnant
For years, Seattle relied heavily on its ground attack with now-retired running back Marshawn Lynch leading the charge.
With Lynch ending his career a year ago, Seahawks fans were hoping second-year pro Thomas Rawls looked to be the heir apparent after a strong 2015.
Rawls is averaging just 1.3 yards per carry this season. Fellow RB Christine Michael has a 5.0 yards-per-carry average. He may be the guy to watch in Week 2.
Seattle’s offensive line pushes to its right, which leads the Dallas Cowboys defenders to move in the same direction. The right-side edge defender commits too much to quarterback Russell Wilson, which opens up a huge gap through which Michael cuts back.
And Dallas’ linebackers being out of position don’t help much either.
Respecting Wilson’s esapability is something the 49ers will have to do. But look for the second level of 49ers defenders to prevent such a wide opening.
Remember, Wilson is still dealing with an ankle injury and may not be as mobile.
Dec 14, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) is tackled after making a reception against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Match DB Jimmie Ward on WR Doug Baldwin
Seattle slot wideout Doug Baldwin is still quarterback Russell Wilson’s favorite target. He leads all Seahawks receivers with 12 receptions — nearly double anyone else — and has the team’s lone touchdown on the season.
The 5-foot-10 target is a perfect matchup for 49ers corner Jimmie Ward.
Ward excelled in the nickel role last year. Primarily working on the outside this season, Ward should bump to the inside when the Seahawks go with three-wide sets.
On this fan clip from Seattle’s game-winning Week 1 touchdown over the Miami Dolphins, we can see Baldwin take advantage of a corner not turning his head around on Baldwin’s corner-fade route.
November 27, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes the football against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Tank Carradine (95) during the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 19-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Contain QB Russell Wilson Within the Pocket
Quarterback Russell Wilson’s mobility will be in question, thanks to his Week 1 ankle injury.
While not listed on Seattle’s injury report, the ability to evade pressure may not be the first weapon Wilson uses against San Francisco’s defense.
Take a look at the weak-side pressure the Dolphins apply, which forces Wilson to spin around and try to scramble to his right.
Nov 22, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls (34) rushes against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Overpower and Maul a Weak Seahawks Offensive Line
How will all the aforementioned defensive approaches work for San Francisco?
It’s simple — win the battles up front.
The 49ers pass rush wasn’t a factor in Week 2. That will change this Sunday though. Just consider Pro Football Focus‘ zero-to-100 scale grades for the Seahawks this year:
LT Bradley Sowell — 42.2
LG Mark Glowisnki — 48.3
C Justin Britt — 78.7
RG J’Marcus Webb — 34.6
RT Garry Gilliam — 34.2
The left side is bad. The right side is even worse. Only Seahawks center Justin Britt has an adequate grade here.
Just watch how Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald made quick work between Britt and right guard J’Marcus Webb:
The phrase "makes it look easy" doesn't do justice to how Aaron Donald beats the cut block and finishes the play. pic.twitter.com/8BrfhqKpmr
Of course these are all instances of “should,” “could” and “maybe.” The 49ers aren’t going to be able to get to Wilson, running back Christine Michael or whichever offensive weapons the Seahawks feature all the time.
But the Niners can throw off anything Seattle is trying to do.
And that would put San Francisco in a great position to come away with a Week 3 win.