I don’t normally write forward-looking predictive posts. I tend to focus on things that have taken place, are quantifiable and can be analyzed. That’s just my nature. That being said, I haven’t been this nervous about a game since probably the 2010 Wildcard game against the New Orleans Saints. I am pretty sure I literally lost sleep over it. For those readers that think I’m a “terrible fan” or somehow don’t support my team, boy are they wrong. I have a tendency to wind myself up to a point of complete stress over a game that has very little bearing on my actual life, outside of civic pride. That being said, god I hope the Seahawks leave the 49ers dead on the field after tonight’s game. I actually don’t mind the players on the 49ers, but I straight hate Jim Harbaugh and the organization.
As a resident of San Francisco for five years, I can’t begin to explain the vitriol and borderline violence that awaits fans for visiting teams. For a city whose economy thrives off of tourism, San Franciscans sure don’t like fans from other cities. This was brought to the fore last week, however it is not getting much attention, unlike a similarly disturbing event at a Dodger’s game at the start of the 2011 season which San Francisco attached itself to for an entire season. (I’m not defending either attack – both are abhorrent – I’m just pointing out how much attention some get relative to others.)
I can pretty much guarantee that my Facebook wall (and maybe the comment section below) will explode with insults if the Niners win. After the Green Bay game, it was my “friends” who are Niners fans that forced me to turn off comments on my wall for the evening, something I had never done before. And if the Seahawks are able to pull off this monumental upset, I can’t wait to hear about how many rings San Francisco has. Niner fans seem to think that Super Bowl rings work the same way as the rings the Planeteers used to summon Captain Planet. Their powers combined! Whatever. (That green mullet is awesome, though.)
Luckily, the agony is limited. This is not a make-or-break game for the Seahawks’ season. They play the remaining three division games in Seattle and could still end up at .500 in the division. In other words, the downside is limited, whereas the upside it much greater. If Seattle wins it sends a message to the NFL, the division, and the conversation turns from “will Seattle make the playoffs?” to “how deep will they go?” Seattle will have defeated the Packers, the Patriots, and the 49ers. If they don’t get recognized, they can play with a giant chip on their shoulders which will hopefully allow them to play with that much more of an edge and attitude.
Essentially, after reading a million blogs and listening to way too many podcasts this week, my excitement and “bi-polarity” is ratcheted up to an extreme. I literally have a tendency to live and die with the Seahawks’ success. To question my loyalty and fanship is, to an extent, to question who I am. I think that Seattle can win this game. As to whether they will or not, I can’t say, but it’s hard not to look forward to all the implications if they do. The ecstasy before the agony.
Onto how I think Seattle can beat San Francisco. The 49ers’ defensive line is big. Russell Wilson’s passing pocket will not have the same integrity that it did against New England. Russell Wilson’s first job is to not turn the ball over. Turnovers are a sure way to lose the game. Wilson is going to have to make smart, quick decisions under severe pressure and possibly throw the ball away more than he wants to or is used to. Anything to make sure San Francisco doesn’t get amazing field position. I have never questioned Wilson’s intelligence, and won’t do so now. He is going to need every ounce of it. He is also going to need to be aware of San Francisco’s line backers. They aren’t necessarily even going to try to hide what they’re doing; they’re just going to do it, because they are that good. The outlets I have noticed are usually 5-15 yards downfield toward the sidelines. If Wilson takes what is given and doesn’t force anything, he should be fine.
Seattle also needs to establish and stay with the run game. Both Lynch and Turbin should be used to soften up the 49ers’ line and open up more passing options for Wilson. If Seattle can get 3+ yards a carry, they’re in business. Don’t abandon the run game!
The defense just needs to do what the defense does. The secondary needs to stick to receivers like glue. I can’t wait to see the match-up against Vernon Davis. The defensive line needs to put lots of pressure on Alex Smith. Doing so will increase the likeliness of Smith throwing an interception. The most important thing, however, is stopping San Francisco’s ferocious run game. San Francisco has the leading rushing offense (Seattle is 7th); Seattle has the third best rushing defense (San Francisco is 12th). Overall, San Francisco and Seattle are the 5th and 6th best defenses in the NFL. It’s just a question of which defense will buckle first and which quarterback will play smarter and make few mistakes. The team that forces the offense most will most likely lose. The team that plays within itself, takes advantages of opportunities given, makes the plays that are available, and doesn’t make costly mistakes (turnovers, penalties, etc.) will likely come out with a victory. That may sound cliché (and to an extent, it is), but I think it really holds true for today.
I’m beginning to agonize more and more as I write this post, so I’m going to stop now and count the minutes until kickoff. For me, tonight’s game is personal, as I’m sure it is for many Seahawks players and coaches. It’s my chance to vicariously enjoy a team representing my city kick the crap (hopefully) out of the team of the city I lived in for five years. Hopefully, the only post that goes up on Facebook is me saying nothing because the message will have been heard. Winning graciously is something that I think the city of Seattle does well. We enjoy success, but because loss and sports-related heartache are also too familiar, we can empathize with the losing teams. Fortunately, my hatred of San Francisco outweighs any empathy I have, and in the confines of my apartment I will savor every minute of a possible victory (just not on Facebook).
Let’s hope ecstasy trumps agony, tonight. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long ten days.
*Apologies for the scatter-shot nature of this post. It was simply a fan’s attempt to put down the thoughts and feelings that have been swirling around in my head all week about a highly anticipated game and some aspects that I think would help Seattle win.