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Every NFL team plays down-and-distance defense. However, the Seahawks excel at it, to the point of baiting opposing offenses in specific game situations. For instance, on, say, third-and-thirteen, Seattle will sometimes "invite" a quarterback to throw an eight-yard pass to a check-down receiver, whom the Hawk defenders then stop for an eleven-yard gain. The opposing offense then trots off the field, thinking, "dang, another couple yards and we would've had that first down." But the Seahawks purposely accumulate proficient tacklers, and expect to stop the majority of these "catch-then-run-for-the-first-down" attempts.
Although famous for their man-coverage corners, the Hawks mix schemes, and incorporate some traditional cover-two concepts, which rely on offensive mistakes, turnovers, and sure tackling. For their part, the Niners do have some potential check-down guys (Gore, Hunter, James, Boldin, Williams, Patton) that pose problems for even the best tacklers. However, teams that completely abandon deeper downfield passing usually play into the Seahawks' talons.
Seattle Coach Pete Carroll not only learned some defense from the Kiffin school, but soaked up, during his mid-nineties stint with the 49ers, some lingering Walshian offensive ideas. Chief among them, the Seattle offense tries to put defenders in uncomfortable positions. Today, of course, most teams do this. Seattle, however, has two distinct advantages, both based primarily on the talents of one player: Russell Wilson. First, Wilson has the smarts, and, despite his supposedly non-NFL-caliber-stature, the field vision to "see" plays in all areas of the field. The Seahawks attack the field vertically and horizontally, and Wilson has an uncanny knack for finding these holes and for exploiting mismatches all over the place. Seattle also frequently gets the ball to players with running lanes in front of them. The 49ers must play smart, disciplined, patient defense. And, even if they do
And, even if they do, Russell Wilson can also scramble. Wilson may be the best scrambler among current NFL quarterbacks; maybe not the best runner, but the best scrambler, because he scrambles not just to elude pass rushers, but with both purpose and a plan. Seattle's entire offense routinely practices these scramble plays, with receivers alert to their possible individual options after the initial plays have broken down. Wilson, for his part, has perfected the art of knowing the whereabouts of all his receivers at any given moment and of getting throws to them from multiple cockamamie positions behind the line of scrimmage.
Yes, Brady, the Mannings, and other drop-back passers can dodge and deliver, Aaron Rodgers remains an adept scrambler, and Big Ben mans the pocket like a steel stanchion. But, as with his other fellow fleet young QBs, Mr. Wilson, when he does run, can gobble huge chunks of yardage. And, if Russell does throw after a meander or two behind the line, his receivers know to attack the ball in the air. They do not just wait for the pass. They, as per their training, aggressively fight for it. This leaves defensive players at an enormous disadvantage. Even after they've already covered their man/zone for several seconds, they must immediately transform into ballhawks themselves to compete with the maniacal Seabirds. Eric Reid may mature into just that sort of stymie-the-scramble safety.
Bring da noise
The Seahawks claim the biggest home-field advantage in the NFL. They actually had a losing record on the road last year. Aside from the usual benefits from playing at home, CenturyLink Field's acoustics, when combined with the shrieks, wails, and screeches of the fans, can drive opposing players to distraction and make audibles inaudible. The 49ers have a slight advantage over many opposing teams, because they play at CenturyLink every year. Veterans have played there before, and the aural onslaught helps prepare newcomers for subsequent hostile venues.
However the constant, consistent loudness induces such psychic stress that ordinary humans (including some Seattle fans) find difficulty even existing in the clamor, never mind concentrating on snap counts and football assignments. More than in most other stadiums, the Seattle fans sustain their din, even unto overtime. Some Washingtonians say they build up the vocal stamina necessary to maintain this incessant roar because of the continuous practice they get at projecting high-decibel volume over the sounds of raindrops pelting rooftops during innumerable Pacific Northwest storms. Yeah, sure.
And about those Seahawk uniforms
I know, I know: beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that. But still. Those Seattle uniforms. Well, admittedly, the home unis may not buffet eyeballs as badly as the road ones. Maybe the Hawks assume their attire will induce more blunders from opposing teams. Or maybe they take perverse pride in their visual dissonance, a compliment to that eardrum-busting stadium cacophony. Certainly, some Seahawks fans criticize the 49ers' uniforms, claiming gold represents the garishness of greed, and red the blood of plunder, while the Seattle outfits mimic the more pacific tones of Pacific Northwest timberlands and seascapes. Likewise, some 49er fans assert that the Seattle colors look more like the droppings that actual seahawks leave behind. As if the two fan bases needed more to intensify their rivalry. Well, let Seattle fans keep their puffed-up pride in their pretty, oh-so-pretty uniforms. After all, the team with the prettiest uniforms doesn't always win.