Tale of the Tape: Seahawks Must Be Much Better to Beat 49ers

Rarely does a team play such a pivotal game so early in the season. Much will be on the line when the Seahawks travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers in their first divisional game of the year. Seattle is coming off their second consecutive loss, and finds itself at the edge of a cliff with the 49ers and Rams doing their best to push them over in the span of five days. No matter the outcome of this game, the Seahawks will need to get ready on short rest to host the Rams next Thursday night.

It may be the most challenging part of the schedule, and it comes when the Seahawks are scrambling for answers in all facets of their game. There are varying levels of problems with the offense, defense, and special teams. Players have bickered with each other on the field, called out coaches, and largely underperformed. Coaches have stubbornly stuck with inferior personnel, malfunctioning schemes, and poor game plans. Point your finger in any direction, and you’re likely to find someone culpable in the Seahawks 1-2 start.

San Francisco has not been playing very well, but they have managed to win 2 of their 3 games, and can point more to injuries as a contributing factor than Seattle. They have been particularly damaged at cornerback and running back. They lost at least one more corner last week when nickel corner K’Waun Williams went down. They may be down another depending on how Josh Norman responds to the fluid that was in his lungs.

There is dissatisfaction among 49er fans about head coach Kyle Shanahan on a variety of levels. The biggest debate continues to be about the quarterback position. Jimmy Garoppolo has been his normal mediocre self with turnovers in 2 of their 3 games and fumbles in all three. Trey Lance is their highly drafted rookie, who many want to see take the field.

Neither Seattle nor San Francisco look like they have what it takes to contend for much this season beyond perhaps a playoff spot. Seattle absolutely must win this game to avoid irrelevancy. Pete Carroll has a good track record against Shanahan and the 49ers. After blowing a 15 point lead at home for the first time ever and then losing to the Vikings for the first time in his Seattle tenure, putting any stock in history seems unwise.

The Seahawks defense will need to coalesce in remarkable fashion to slow down George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. They will be facing the best offensive line they have seen this season. The offense will be facing the best defense they have played this season, which is still not very good. Russell Wilson will need to be far better on 3rd down and keep the pressure off the defense.

Seattle can win this game. I do not expect them to.

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

Arik Armstead and DJ Jones can cause havoc in the middle of the Seahawks offensive line. Nick Bosa is always a handful around the edge. We do not know if Brandon Shell will be back at right tackle for Seattle. His replacements were not good last week.

Fred Warner is a special talent at linebacker, but has not been the same level of difference maker so far this year.

Seahawks key advantages on offense

The Seahawks offense once again has a significant advantage over their opponent. They have looked dominant at times in the first three weeks, and then completely disappear for long stretches. This notion that their struggles fall on the shoulders of the defense ignores the fact that the offense is not converting third downs or picking up enough first downs to sustain drives. They could and should be helping their defense stay off the field, but are not.

I do not think it is a coincidence that the Seahawks defense has played its best when the offense is playing its best, and vice versa. When the offense disappears, the defense is not good enough to hold teams down for long stretches.

Wilson and his receivers are facing a team with third and fourth string corners, down one of their best coverage linebackers in Dre Greenlaw, and with a pass rush that is in the bottom third of the league. They need to put up at least 28 points in this game, and possibly more.

Getting Dee Eskridge back could be a big boost.

49ers Offense vs Seahawks Defense

49ers key advantages on offense

The 49ers have an above average pass blocking offensive line, and the Seahawks pass rush has been arguably the biggest disappointment so far this season. Corners might the worst position group, but that was easy to predict heading in. Guys like Carlos Dunlap have been nonfactors. Jimmy Garoppolo is a different quarterback when under pressure, and Seattle will need to create some to get the 49ers off the field.

That will be tough because the Seahawks corner play has been so abysmal. And not just corners. Jordyn Brooks has been a major disappointment the last two weeks, especially in coverage. Cody Barton has been worse. Jamal Adams has been a nonfactor. Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair have not been good. San Francisco will be eager to attack with Kittle and Samuel.

Seahawks key advantages on defense

Shanahan values the running game quite a bit, so the massive issues at running back are a big problem. Seattle should be able to at least slow or stop the run game, which they have not done the last six quarters. They also only have one truly elite receiver to defend versus the two they have faced the past two weeks.

Of course, you don’t need to be elite to get 8 yards when the corner is 20 yards off you.

The Seahawks are mostly healthy, and the hope is that Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor continue to get more opportunities to rush the passer. They are young and promising, where others are old and disappointing.

Special Teams

The Seahawks are at a disadvantage in special teams. The return game has been atrocious. DeeJay Dallas needs to be replaced as kick returner and Freddie Swain will never be a good punt returner. Michael Dickson needs to be better as well.

Be sure to tune into Real Hawk Talk Wednesday night!

Thanks to Sarah and Chris Rood for sponsoring this series!