As the Seahawks approach what is safe to call the most important game of their season so far (I’m a bit risk adverse when it comes to sweeping statements) it’s time to take a look at some of the one on one matchups that may decide Seattle’s fate. Despite the sound thrashing the Seahawks administered to the 49ers last time they made the trip to CenturyLink Field, it would be unreasonable to expect anything but a close football game here between two teams who are of a similar quality and play a similar still of ball. Every matchup will be important but here are three that I think could really make the difference:
Matchup #1: Richard Sherman vs. Anquan Boldin
Anquan Boldin exploded last week for over 200 yards against the Packers which was surprising given that Boldin had been more solid and unspectacular in his last three years in Baltimore. I’m not willing to completely rule of a breakout for the 33 year old, but color me skeptical. The Packers have a very questionable defense and I want to see what Boldin can do against a real secondary. Enter Richard Sherman. Sherman has the size and skills to handle Boldin’s physicality and although I think it would be hard to shut him down completely, (he’s going to get plenty of targets with no other credible WR’s on this team) Sherman should prevent the kind of performance that sunk the Packers.
Matchup #2: Max Unger vs. Ian Williams
In a 3-4 defense the key to shutting down the running game has to be the nose tackle. It is very hard to find that guy who can anchor the defense inside, and I’m not sure the 49ers have him in Williams. Williams is a third year player who has only played five games in his NFL career and interesting he weighs in at a very light 305 lbs (for the position). Max Unger did not have a banner week against Carolina but he draws an interesting assignment in the undersized, inexperienced Williams. The 49ers nose tackle must have showed the staff something to earn the start, but you’d still have to give the advantage to the Pro Bowler Unger. In order to run the ball between the tackles the Seahawks need a good interior push and Unger is the man to give them one.
Matchup #3 Bobby Wagner vs. Frank Gore
Frank Gore is often considered to be a Seahawks killer but in recent history that’s just not true. In the Pete Carroll era Gore has averaged 67.8 yards per game with only one touchdown and one 100 yard performance in five matchups with the Seahawks. That isn’t to say that Gore isn’t dangerous. Even though he is hitting a rough age for running backs, Gore has been a lock for 1,200 yards a season in recent years. The 49ers have an excellent offensive line so there will be holes for Gore. Bobby Wagner has to meet Gore in those holes. Wagner did not really distinguish himself last week but he remains one of the top players on this team and best middle linebackers in football. If Wagner can have a big day making stops on Gore it will go a long way towards forcing Kaepernick to throw into the teeth of this secondary.
Tomorrow looks like it’s going to be one heck of a game and a far more entertaining one than Seattle’s cakewalk over the 49ers at CenturyLink last year. Personally, I’d take the cake walk any day of the week but I suppose I’ll settle for the good football game.