The San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks may not only be the class of the NFC West, but possibly the entire NFL. They meet for the first time in 2013 in Week 2 for an early season battle between two Super Bowl contenders.
Last season, the first of two games between the NFC West rivals took place at Candlestick Park on a Thursday night in Week 7 as the 49ers won an ugly defensive battle 13-6. Both teams ran the ball well but could get little going through the air. The only touchdown came on the first drive of the second half when then 49er starting quarterback Alex Smith hit Delanie Walker for a 12 yard score to cap off a crisp drive. The defense did the rest as they held Russell Wilson to 122 yards passing and only nine completions.
In the second matchup at Qwest Field in Week 16, Seattle blew the doors off of the 49ers in a 42-13 romp. While the game was completely one sided, the Niners were competing with a little bit of a disadvantage. San Francisco was playing their second straight prime time road game as they had just traveled to New England the week before. That game with the Patriots was a wild, 41-34 win for the 49ers that saw New England come back from a 31-3 deficit to tie it late.
Even though they held on in the end, the 49ers defense was on the field a whopping 92 plays and was most likely out of gas the next week in Seattle. Add in that Justin Smith was injured against the Patriots and missed rest of the regular season and the 49er defense was both exhausted and without their key cog on the defensive line.
The Seahawks boast one of the best secondaries in the NFL with Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor filling out their starting lineup. When those players are healthy, Seattle is tough to throw on. Browner is battling a hamstring injury but the Seahawks are hopefull he can return in time for week 2. If he is out, it would be a big plus for the 49ers’ receivers.
Sherman and Browner are big, physical corners and have given San Francisco a lot of trouble. Last season, no 49er receiver eclipsed more than 65 yards against them and the Seahawks held Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick to a combined 384 yards passing in the two games. Enter Anquan Boldin who is coming off of a 13 catch performance and could be a better matchup against the Seahawks than Michael Crabtree was because of his physical style of play. While another game with double digit catches and over 200 yards isn’t likely, Boldin may be able to make plays that the 49er receivers could not last season.
Game changing factor
Anyone who thinks Seattle might be overrated because they struggled to beat the Carolina Panthers in week 1 should know they will see a different team in week 2. The Seahawks are a dominant team at home and went 8-0 there last season. One of the reason’s Seattle has such an advantage at Qwest Field is how loud the building can get. Kaepernick tends to have issues getting the snap off in time now and then and that shortcoming will only magnify as the offense tries to communicate through the crowd noise.
Stats to know
The Seahawk defense led the NFL in points allowed in 2012 by only giving up 245 (15.3 points per game). The 49ers were second in that category with 273 (17.6 per game). In week 1, Seattle stayed true to form by only giving up 7 points to the Panthers while San Francisco struggled a bit to slow down Aaron Rodgers as he and the Green Bay Packers put up 28. The49er defense looked more like the shaky one that gave up just under 30 points a game in the playoffs rather than strong unit from most of the regular season.
Despite the most recent blowout by the Seahawks, the two teams usually play close games. Their rosters are built in similar fashion and they rely on both a power running game and good defense to win games. Both teams could be evolving, however, as they look to be transitioning to offenses that are built around their athletic quarterbacks. The 49ers’ defense is still strong but they have issues in the secondary and that could be the difference in a hostile environment on the road. Give the advantage to the home team here as the Seahawks pull out a close game in their own backyard.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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