Head Coach: Pete Carroll
First Division Test
After a humiliating loss at the hands of the New York Giants, the San Francisco 49ers have no time to wallow in their defeat. They have a short week and their first division game is against the surprise Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park on Thursday. At the end of the preseason, this game did not figure to be too important. Seattle was not considered a legitimate threat to the NFC Crown, but the Seahawks find themselves in the thick of things as they are currently tied for first place with San Francisco and the Atlanta Falcons. Ultimately the game means more to the visiting team, as there is still the assumption that Seattle is not for real, and the outcome of the game will go a long way in answering their critics one way or another. Seattle is led by a rookie quarterback, a stud of a running back and defense that is playing as well as any unit in the league. The winner will gain a crucial early season advantage in a division race that may come down to the last week.
To stop the Seahawks, the 49ers will have to try and contain Marshawn Lynch aka “Beast Mode.” The Oakland native returns home currently 3rd in the league in rushing yards (549) and brings a physical running style mixed in with great quickness and speed. Lynch will have friends and family in the stands, so he will have some extra motivation to put forth the type of performance needed to fuel an upset.
Back to Back?
After allowing a 100-yard rusher and rushing touchdown last week, this will be fresh on the minds of the 49ers, so it’s only expected for them to come out with a chip on their shoulder. They have had one of the best defenses against the run this year, and although giving up 116 rushing yards is nothing to ring the alarm about, to them it’s unacceptable. They will need their offense to do their part and keep them off the field, though, because if Lynch is able to tally more than 25 carries, then the 49ers defense is going to be beat up before the final whistle and will be vulnerable to late game bursts by Lynch.
Quarterback Play Will Be Key
Russell Wilson will be the key to keeping the game close enough for Lynch to make his mark. The rookie quarterback has impressed thus far, but he is still a rookie. He has faced, and beaten, more then one quality team (see Packers and Patriots), but it’s safe to say he has never faced a defense as talented as the 49ers. His poise and decision making will be needed to stop San Francisco from running away with this one, but he has proved more than once that pressure does not bother him. As the offense will most likely sputter to start, they try will need to complete some passes early to get Lynch room to work. If Wilson can move the chains and avoid costly turnovers, then this is going to be a dogfight, as on paper, the San Francisco offense is going to face their stiffest test of the year, so after scoring just three points last week, it needs to figure something out quick if it hopes to win.
Are They For Real?
Outside of the play of Russell Wilson, the biggest surprise this year for the Seahawks, and the reason for their 4-2 record, has been the play of their defense. They are 3rd in the NFL against the run, 5th against the pass, and they have made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. If they are able to take Frank Gore and the San Francisco rushing attack out of the equation, then they will be able to pin back their ears and come after quarterback Alex Smith, who looked uncomfortable and unsure what to do when pressured last week, leading to his three interceptions against New York.
Pressure on the Visitors
The pressure in this game all rides on the Seahawks. There is no questioning the talent San Francisco has, so the 49ers will be in the mix at the end of the year. It’s Seattle, who with a loss, will essentially be erased from the contender conversation as they would be viewed
as the 3rd best team in the division. To prove that they belong at the table, and keep their chances of the playoffs alive, Seattle must win.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest 49ers news, see CBS Sports Sacramento.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.