Six Points: Seahawks vs. 49ers
The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers had developed one of the league’s fiercest rivalries while battling for supremacy in the NFC West, but the loser of Thursday night’s matchup will wind up in sole possession of last place in the division.
The Seahawks may be more preoccupied with fixing their own issues than worried about the 49ers after blowing fourth-quarter leads in each of their four losses, including back-to-back setbacks to the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers over the past two weeks.
San Francisco finally snapped a four-game skid last week and now must find a way to solve Seattle, which has won five of the past six matchups (playoffs included).
Here are three keys to the game for both the Seahawks and 49ers.
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1. Close the deal
While Seattle’s vaunted defense has been carved up by both the Bengals and Panthers in the fourth quarter, the offense also has become rubber-legged over the final 15 minutes. The Seahawks have been outscored 48-9 in the fourth quarter of the past five games and all the offense could produce was three field goals. Facing the league’s most generous pass defense provides an opportune time to get aggressive.
2. Keep feeding Jimmy Graham
Graham had the breakout game envisioned by the Seahawks with an eight-catch, 140-yard performance in the loss to the Panthers. Not only was the tight end targeted 12 times by quarterback Russell Wilson, but he was a major presence downfield with receptions of 45, 27 and 25 yards to set up a pair of touchdowns and a field goal. It was Graham’s first 100-yard game since Week 2 in 2014.
3. Unleash Beast Mode
Marshawn Lynch had a relatively quiet return to the lineup last week after missing two games due to injury, rushing for 54 yards and his first touchdown on the season. Lynch has not carried the ball more than 18 times in his four starts, but he had at least 20 rushing attempts and ran for five touchdowns in his last five matchups against the 49ers.s.
1. Test the Legion of Boom
Colin Kaepernick’s career numbers against Seattle are awful – he has one TD pass versus six interceptions and has been sacked 15 times in the past two seasons alone. Still, Kaepernick started to emerge from a disastrous funk by throwing deep to Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith over the past two games. Boldin (hamstring) is ailing and so is running back Carlos Hyde (foot), so Kaepernick may not have a choice.
2. Find a way to generate pressure on Wilson
San Francisco does not have a sack in its past two games despite watching Joe Flacco and Eli Manning — a pair of statues compared to the shifty Wilson — combine to launch 107 passes. As mobile and dangerous as Wilson is on the run, he also has been sacked a league-high 26 times. Linebacker Aaron Lynch has three of the team’s nine sacks but no other player has more than one.
3. Re-introduce Vernon Davis to the offense
Davis did not have a catch last week in his return from a two-game injury absence, continuing a trend that has seen him total 30 receptions over his last 17 games. He did have five catches for 62 yards in Week 2 and as recently as 2013 hauled in 13 touchdowns. In the past two weeks, tight ends Tyler Eifert (Bengals) and Greg Olsen (Panthers) have burned Seattle to the tune of 15 catches for 221 yards and three TDs.