This Sunday will be a meeting between two of the more physical teams in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers will host the Seattle Seahawks in another edition of what has become the best rivalry in the NFL. Russell Wilson has the Seahawks offense at the top of their game. Colin Kaepernick has his top target back and had one of his best games of the year last week. This is a game that you can’t miss.
The Seahawks are 11-1. Richard Sherman will be relied on even more now that Brandon Browner and
Walter Thurmond III are out with their league suspensions. Earl Thomas is one of the more rangy safeties in the NFL. Kam Chancellor has been a force in the meetings of these two teams. Both of these safeties like to come up in run support.
The suspensions of Browner and Thurmond will force Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell into new roles. The Legion of Boom has been weakened. Not having two of their top three corners for this matchup may cost the Seahawks. Michael Crabtree is coming back and he has a great impact on how the game is easier for the 49ers wide receivers.
Crabtree was the top target of Kaepernick. Most of Kaeprnick’s throws were in his direction. Anquan Boldin will now get to face the Seahawks number four corner which is actually a mismatch. Maxwell played mostly in dime packages prior to the suspensions. The 49ers can exploit this matchup by working the back shoulder throws to Boldin. The Seahawks like to use a lot of zone coverage which can lead to a big day for Boldin. There aren’t many receivers that are better at finding holes in zone defense
The 49ers will need to get to Russell Wilson early. They will need to set the tone from the start. If Wilson can elude the pass rush, he can make a big play down the field to his receivers. Zach Miller is a threat as well. The Seahawks have thrown to him for big gains on play action. Wilson is a very smart player and will look to keep the chains moving and keep his defense off of the field.
Marshawn Lynch has been a factor in all of the recent games between these two teams. He had 98 yards and three touchdowns in the last game. Things tend to work for Seattle if the Seahawks can get him going. Lynch is a tough runner that won’t go down easily. He always fights for the extra yards. The way that he runs fuels the entire Seattle team. He has the ability to get yards inside the tackles as well as on stretch running plays.
The 49ers defense will have a tall task in limiting Lynch. The key is going to be having the defensive line winning in the trenches. This will keep Lynch from getting to the second level of the defense. Winning in the trenches will also occupy blockers so Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman can close the play for a loss or a short gain. There will be times when Lynch will get into the secondary. The difference between a 10-15 yard gain and long touchdown run is a sure tackling safety. Eric Reid and Donte Whitner will need to wrap up when they tackle Lynch. Reid especially needs to lead with his shoulder and be careful not to get into head to head contact.
Michael Crabtree vs Richard Sherman Sherman is a corner that loves press coverage. Crabtree is a physical receiver that relies on his strength to avoid getting jammed at the line. The presence of Crabtree on the field will draw the coverage away from Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham. Crabtree opens things up for the other players on offense. He is also a very good run blocker and that can at times be the final piece to a long gain by the running back.
Vernon Davis vs K.J. Wright This is a matchup of two very athletic players. Wright is quietly one of the better linebackers in the NFL. He has shown the ability to stick with some of the better receiving tight ends. This week he draws the assignment of covering Vernon Davis. The Seahawks like to allow Earl Thomas to play centerfield. They are able to do so because of the way Wright can cover. Davis is one of the worst matchups for Seattle. He has been hurt in the last couple of games against the Seahawks. The 49ers will need a big game from their speedy tight end.
Aldon Smith vs Russell Okung Here is one of the best battles you will see in the trenches. Aldon Smith has a variety of pass rushing moves and will throw all of them at Russell Okung. Getting to AND tackling Russell Wilson will limit the Seahawks from throwing the ball down field. They have attempted to us max protection and get vertical against the 49ers. Okung will need to slow down the pass rush to allow his quarterback to take shots down field.
Joe Staley/Anthony Davis vs Michael Bennett/Chris Clemons/Cliff Avril/Bruce Irvin The Seahawks have one of the best pass rushing units. All of their guys get off of the ball with a high degree of tenacity. Staley and Davis will have their hands full with this group. Their getting to the quarterback is what starts things for the dominating defense. Staley and Davis will need to stand their ground and keep a clean pocket for Colin Kaepernick to operate from.
Anquan Boldin vs Byron Maxwell As we previously stated, Crabtree will allow Boldin to not have to see Richard Sherman as much. Usually Brandon Browner is the consolation prize. He won’t be playing in this game. Boldin will now get to face a corner that is not used to being the starter. Maxwell is actually the fourth corner. The Seahawks trust him but there is clearly a dropoff from Browner and Walter Thurmond III to Maxwell. This is a matchup that needs to be exploited. Seattle likes to use a lot of cover three. Boldin is very good at finding spots in the zone.
The 49ers and Seahawks have developed what could be the best rivalry in the NFL. It evens extends to the coaches. Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have had a rivalry that dates back to their NCAA coaching careers. The Seahawks have won two in a row and each of them where by a large margin.
Ken Norton Jr. is the Seattle linebackers coach. He won a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1994.
Quinton Patton will not be on the injury report for the first time since he suffered a minor foot fracture. He may not be activated for this game but it is good to see the rookie receiver return to healthy status.
Vernon Davis is enjoying a very successful season. He could challenge his personal high of 13 touchdowns this season. He currently has ten touchdowns and is averaging 16.8 yards per catch. His 705 receiving yards has him on pace to get 1000 yards receiving as well.
This game will be the last regular season Sunday game at Candlestick Park. The next game will be a Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Farewell To Candlestick series continues as the 49ers will reflect on The Catch III. Vernon Davis caught a post against the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 Divisional playoff game. This catch sealed the victory for the 49ers and is looked upon and the validation that the start of a new era of greatness was under way for the 49ers.
Here is your injury report:
CB Brandon Browner (DNP) Groin
WR Percy Harvin (DNP) Hip
QB Tavaris Jackson (DNP) Illness
SS Kam Chancellor (LP) Hip
TE Kellen Davis (FP) Neck
DE Bruce Irvin (FP) Thigh
RB Marshawn Lynch (FP) Non injury related
WR Golden Tate (FP) Hip
WR Jonathan Baldwin (LP) Calf
CB Tarell Brown (LP) Ribs
G Mike Iupati (DNP) Knee
WR Mario Manningham (LP) Knee
TE Vance McDonald (LP) Ankle
OLB Dan Skuta (LP) Foot
LT Joe Staley (LP) Knee
LB Navorro Bowman (FP) Wrist
TE Garrett Celek (FP) Hamstring
RB Frank Gore (FP) Ankle
DT Ray McDonald (FP) Ankle
LB Aldon Smith (FP) Shoulder
DT Justin Smith (FP) Shoulder