Dec 24, 2011, Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) breaks a tackle by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith (94) to rush for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
All the writers have their stories/predictions out and there seems to be a consensus. “It’s going to be a low scoring game with the 49ers eeking out a 4 point victory”. Sure, why not? I could believe that! After all, that’s what logic would dictate, right?
We have the two best defenses in the league and two so-so offenses all in the same game. This combination doesn’t scream “high scoring bomb-a-thon”. And Alex Smith is hitting a rough patch in the road after dropping two recent games in fairly close proximity. Seattle, according to the sports elite, has a rookie QB the coaching staff doesn’t trust to throw down the field. They say look for a Gore vs Lynch grind for 4 quarters.
Well I could just join the chorus and agree with them but that’s not my style. And besides that, I don’t believe that’s how Pete Carroll is going to attempt to win this game. I just don’t see Carroll in his office up in Kirkland saying to is coaching staff “yeah, I think I’m going to game-plan according to all the sports writers and do the VERY predictable thing and run Lynch 35 times”. So, understanding full well that I’m 100% wrong when I try to predict what Carroll is GOING TO DO based on what I would do, but totally get what he DID after the game, Im’ going to try this week to think like Pete and make a bold statement as to how I think this game will go.
The 49ers already know about Lynch. They’re game planning to stop him. They also have a really good pass defense but probably aren’t all that afraid that Russell Wilson can do to them what he did to a mediocre Patriots secondary. They will stop Lynch if they can, and dare Wilson to beat them. Now they have last weeks game film, and they know Wilson can throw a pretty good long ball. So if I’m San Fran, I’m ready for that too. What does that leave? It leaves quick passes over the middle, in the flanks, and screens to backs. If I’m Carroll I’m also working on ways to add some sprint outs and a possible option run/pass into that mix with one of the most mobile young QB’s in the league. If Wilson can get the SF defense to quit worrying about the deep ball by mixing lots of short passes with Lynch runs, then eventually when he does go for the long ball, it will come as a little bit of a surprise to the SF secondary. Maybe there’s a long TD to be had if the timing and match-up is right. That should open up the running and short passing game even more.
And what about defensively? Alex Smith is not Tom Brady. He’s not even Russell Wilson. He’s…pedestrian (I learned that word hearing sports writers talk about Matt Flynn, though I don’t necessarily agree with that). There are already calls in San Francisco to bring in Colin Kaepernick. I haven’t seen the two games the 49ers lost, but I know Smith had some INT’s and wasn’t sharp. Smith’s confidence of last year might be starting to wane slightly with the two losses. With players like Smith if they’re taken out of their comfort zone they don’t do well. So pressure is critical. Getting him running, firing passes on the run, forcing him to make throws to his second or third receiver should help limit the damage he can do. So, stunts, blitzes, combined with getting really physical on SF’s older receivers should help make it a long day for Smith.
San Francisco is an old team. Still good, but getting long in the tooth by NFL standards. The young, tough new kids on the block should be able to keep up the punishment on the 49ers for 4 quarters. The Seahawks are overdue to get all three elements of the game going at the same time, offense, defense, and special teams. I expect the team to be focused and inspired by the challenge of playing a great team on the road. If that happens, this game will not be as close as everyone thinks. The 49ers are ripe for a blow-out just like the Texans were last week. They should not take this game lightly.