By Matthew Asher
The last time the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks met, San Francisco was on life support regarding their playoff hopes. At 8-4, San Francisco basically needed to win out in order to make the postseason. The 49ers were able to win their last six regular season games and have now won eight straight heading into this week’s NFC Championship game. But which 49ers team will Seattle face? It may shock you, but there isn’t much of a difference as far as game planning goes for the 49ers in the postseason as opposed to the regular season.
Same Season, Different Day
Not much has changed for San Francisco regarding their game plans for each contest. In the regular season, Kaepernick had two favorite receiving targets: wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. The duo was responsible for 137 of Kaepernick’s 243 completions, 2,029 of his 3,197 passing yards and 20 of his 21 touchdown passes. This means that Boldin and Davis racked up 56 percent of the completions, 63 percent of the passing yards and 95 percent of the touchdowns.
In the two playoff games, not much has changed. Michael Crabtree and Boldin both lead the team with 11 receptions each and Davis has just three receptions. However, despite Boldin and Crabtree recording 71 percent of Kaepernick’s postseason receptions, Davis is the lone 49er with any touchdown receptions. All this means is that having the Legion of Boom look out for Crabtree as well as Boldin and Davis should mean the team will be in good hands.
Win the Turnover Battle
In the regular season, nobody did a better job than Seattle in forcing and limiting turnovers as they finished the regular season with a plus-20 in that department. San Francisco finished the regular season in fourth place with a plus-12. Both teams also did a good job of ball possession as San Francisco finished 13th with 30:34 of possession time. Seattle was right behind the 49ers with 30:32, the 14th most in the league. It should be noted that the time of possession does take overtime into account, so teams that played several longer overtime games have more time of possession.
It’s only been two (or one) games in the postseason, but both Seattle and San Francisco are each currently a plus-one regarding turnovers. Of the four teams still left in the playoffs, San Francisco and Seattle both rank last with 29:30 of possession time.
Beat Them at their Own Game
Just like with the regular season, San Francisco’s running attack has remained the same in the postseason. In the regular season, Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick combined for 368 of the team’s 505 rushing attempts (about 73 percent), for 1,652 of the 2,201 rushing yards (about 75 percent) and 13 of the 18 rushing touchdowns.
Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have had similar success. In the regular season, the Seattle duo combined for 397 of the 509 rushes (about 78 percent) for 1,796 of the 2,188 rushing yards (about 82 percent) and 13 of the team’s 14 rushing touchdowns.
In the playoffs, the San Francisco duo has run 52 of the 64 times (about 81 percent) for 263 of the 293 yards (about 90 percent) and both rushing touchdowns. Wilson was a non-factor running the ball in the divisional round game, but Lynch picked up the slack, running 28 times for 140 yards and both rushing touchdowns.
If Seattle wants to limit the damage of Kaepernick and Gore, their best bet is to keep it out of San Francisco’s hands as much as possible, much like the San Diego Chargers did against the Denver Broncos in the regular season.
Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, Jan 19 at 3:30 pm PDT.
For more news and updates about the NFL Playoffs, visit NFL Playoffs Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.