Tale of the Tape: Seahawks Face Battered, Beaten 49er Team

Seattle pulled out a dramatic and improbable win against the Panthers on the road, and now the key to the playoffs sits in their hands. Beating the two-win 49ers twice in the final five games is an absolute must for that key to work. San Francisco enters this game with massive injury issues. Not only did they lose their starting quarterback early, but they lost their starting running back before the season began, and are down to their third string safety. Both starting wide receivers may not play, and they may be missing another safety. Oh, and their starting middle linebacker was cut due to off-field problems.

There is some talent that remains on this defense and in the backfield. Kyle Shanahan is a quality offensive coach who is well versed in how to attack Pete Carroll’s defense. Much will be made of Richard Sherman coming home, but former Seahawks Malcolm Smith, Cassius Marsh, and Tyvis Powell will join him. If I knew nothing about the records of both teams and ignored the injuries, I would see a good case to be made for San Francisco matching up well with the Seahawks. The 49ers have clear strengths that match up with Seahawks weaknesses. This game does not profile to be a blowout, at least not early on.

The way this works: Each offense will be pitted against the opposing defense and compared on an array of key statistical attributes based on their respective rank in the NFL. The tables that follow show the rank of each unit for each of these categories. 

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Seahawks Offense vs 49ers Defense



49ers key advantages on defense

The 49ers rank higher in yards per play on defense than the Seahawks do on offense. That is a sign of a pretty good defense that has suffered due to a terrible offense. Given the load this side of the ball has had to carry, the 49ers have done remarkably well. They are one of the toughest teams to face on first down, ranking 10th in opponent rush success rate and 3rd in opponent passing success rate on that down. Compare that to Carolina, who ranked 5th in rush and 21st in pass. Richard Sherman has been the top-ranked corner in the NFL this season, per ProFootballFocus. He knows Russell Wilson better than any other defensive back in the game, and excels in covering the deep ball, a Wilson favorite. Seattle would be wise to steer clear of Sherman as most other teams have.


Seahawks key advantages on offense

It would be a surprise of the Seahawks add another 150 yard rushing game to their tally this week given the 49ers have yet to give up that much in any game this season, despite trailing in nearly every contest. Brian Schottenheimer showed he can adjust the game plan to go after a team’s weakness in Carolina. He very well could need to do that again versus a team with a stout interior line. The 49ers do not take the ball away, and Seattle does not give the ball away. This is a 1st verus 32nd game in that regard. Seattle needs to execute in the red zone. They can trade touchdowns for 49er field goals all day.

Maybe, just maybe, the Seahawks will work in J.D. McKissic this week and add some explosion to the offense. It’s time for Mike Davis to sit.

49ers Offense vs Seahawks Defense

49ers key advantages on offense

San Francisco has a massive advantage against the run. Matt Breida is having a great season. The 49ers rank 3rd in the NFL in explosive rushing plays and 6th in yards per rush. They face a Seahawks defense that ranks 27th and 32nd in those two statistics. That, alone, could make this a tighter contest than Seahawks fans are expecting.


Seahawks key advantages on defense

49er quarterbacks are not very good right now. They are turning the ball over in bunched and taking lots of sacks. This is a game where the Seahawks pass rush could show up and create some timely turnovers. We might even see our first defensive score.

Special Teams


Michael Dickson is a god.



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  1. Turnovers and quarterback play will make the difference.
    I’m especially hoping that Lockett roasts Sherm on a double move bomb.

  2. Put Baldwin on Sherman. Great decoy.

    I looked at the DVOA stats for both teams and came up with a bit different outlook on this game. I’m interested in which turns out to come closer to the truth, Brian’s method or comparing DVOA.
    Seattle offense: Rush DVOA -2.7% Pass 30.2%
    SF defense: Rush -9.8% pass 14.3%

    So when Seattle has the ball they are going to run at 12.5% worse than usual, bringing their ypc down to 4.0 and expected total yards rushing to 129. However, their passing game is phenomenal and SF’s pass defense is abyssmal so Seattle will throw a whopping 44.5% better than usual bringing their y/a to 11.8 and their total yards passing to 301.

    Should be a good day for Wilson.

    SF offense: rush -17.3% pass -5.3%
    Seattle defense: rush -5.4% pass -1.0%

    This is the head scratcher that made me want to do this little experiment. SF has the 5th most rushing yards in the NFL but ranks 29th in rushing per DVOA. That projects to SF’s rushing attack being degraded by 22.7% and their pass attack by 6.3% which projects to 3.7 ypc rushing and 104 total yards rushing and 7.3 y/a and 206 yds passing.

    That doesn’t pass my smell test honestly and I’ve been questioning the value of DVOA the past year. Seattle doesn’t do a good job stopping the run and SF is a good rushing team. One would expect them to give Seattle problems. OTOH, SF doesn’t have any QB’s and while Seattle’s secondary is not great, one would expect them to look much better vs the 9ers. So that part holds up.

    Of course, there’s a 19% home field advantage. so to factor that in I split it in the defenses favor (crowd noise affecting the opposing offense) 11% to 8%. Final projection for Sundays game:
    Seattle 135 yds rushing, 4.2 ypc, 309 yds passing, 12.1 Y/A
    SF 97 yds rushing, 3.4 ypc, 194 yds passing, 6.8 Y/A

    Anyways, this should be a fun little experiment that will no doubt fall completely flat on it’s face.

  3. I hate these games where most fans think it’s a mortal lock for the Hawks to win. Rarely do they make it that easy for themselves. But if they can stay focused, not make too many mistakes, it’s winnable. Home field advantage? They haven’t capitalized very well on that the past couple seasons. Time to turn that around.

    Of course the Sherm thing is a huge distraction for the media types, they will yammer endlessly about it. Sherm is the ultimate warrior. Smart, opinionated, never thinks he’s wrong, volatile, and still capable. It’s a shame the team didn’t get value for him when they could, and a shame they let him go for nothing. He’ll be motivated. I’ve had the same thought as Scott; put Doug on him all day and let them see who can do what. Sherm wants to “show ’em”, and Doug wants to show him. If DB works him all day he’s bound to get at least one open, and if RW sees it…..ooooo boy! Or, Sherm is busy with DB which leaves Lockett free to fleece the weaker defenders. All good.

    Kittle and Breida are the kind of guys that will make hay on the defensive scheme. Fortunately the red zone is where the D stiffens, so there’s still hope if you can ignore the flashy box numbers. I can’t see a blow out, just another close one.

    Ball for Paul.

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