The Seahawks take on the 49ers in San Francisco today, their second division game in as many weeks. After dismantling a lackluster St. Louis Rams team last Sunday, today is a great opportunity for Seattle to establish an early dominance in the NFC West.
And although the 49ers have struggled in recent years, today’s matchup won’t be easy.
Last week, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Arizona, proving they’re capable of competing in the division this season. If you don’t believe in Super Bowl hangovers or Madden curses, then you’ve got to believe that the San Francisco 49ers are a pretty good football team.
Today is not only an excellent opportunity for Seattle to get an early lead in the standings, but is also a chance to prove skeptics around the league wrong. After last week’s drubbing of the Rams, a national audience was declaring St. Louis inept before they admitted that Seattle was good (again).
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY:
Protect Matt Hasselbeck.
If the Seahawks are going to win this afternoon in San Francisco, it will be very important to limit the pressure put on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Last week, the Seahawks did not give up a sack in 36 attempts, but the 49ers have a much more potent rush than the Rams.
Last week in Arizona, the 49ers sacked Kurt Warner three times and kept him frustrated in the pocket throughout the game. Seattle’s offensive line has to do a better job of protection.
Take care of the football.
In other words, Seattle has to win the turnover battle. Force turnovers on defense; take care of the football on offense.
Last week against the Rams, Seattle turned the ball over several times in the first half. Fortunately, the defense exposed the Rams’ poor offensive attack and kept them from capitalizing on any turnovers.
The 49ers, however, should be a tougher opponent. If the Seahawks turn the ball over on the road today, San Francisco will take advantage of the opportunity. Seattle has to take care of the football and cannot give up any easy points.
Limit San Francisco’s playmakers.
San Francisco may not be one of the better teams in the league, but they have some of the league’s finest players. Patrick Willis is one of the best young linebackers in the league, and Frank Gore is a very productive running back every year.
Seattle must do a good job on defense and limit Frank Gore’s touches; Arizona held Gore to 30 yards on 22 carries, but Gore still found the end zone twice. The defense must neutralize Gore and force other San Francisco players to beat them.
On the other side of the ball, Seattle must limit the effectiveness of Patrick Willis. Last season at Qwest Field, he intercepted a Matt Hasselbeck pass and returned it the length of the field for a touchdown. Just like Gore, Seattle must limit Willis’ effectiveness and not let him have a huge impact on the game.
WHAT TO WATCH:
The defense will be worth watching today against the 49ers. After posting a shutout against the Rams, it will be interesting to see how this unit performs on the road.
Linebacker Leroy Hill is out, replaced in the lineup by Will Herring. Marcus Trufant is still hurt and ineligible, and Lofa Tatupu is recovering from a minor injury from last week.
The defense will have the difficult task of shutting down Frank Gore, the workhorse back who always seems to perform well against Seattle. After limiting Gore’s effectiveness, the Seahawks need to remind quarterback Shaun Hill that he is a fringe starter in the NFL.
Hill had an effective game in week one, throwing for over 200 yards without an interception. The defense has to make his life miserable and force costly mistakes. Consistent pressure on Hill will not allow him to find any comfort in the pocket.
Seattle wins a close division game on the road.
Seahawks 24, San Francisco 20