If there was any doubt about the 49ers position in the NFL hierarchy it was wiped away yesterday with their 19-17 win against the Seahawks. On a day that featured the most touchdowns in NFL history, the 49ers and Seahawks played an old school battle royal that showcased the best of what the NFL has to offer. There were big hits, bit throws, big runs, and drama until the final snap.
The 49ers still find themselves in a battle for a playoff position, but a victory over the best team in the conference should provide a big boost as they go into their final stretch of the season.
Here are the answers to the 5 burning questions I asked on Friday.
1) Can the defense slow down Marshawn Lynch? - Yes
"Perhaps more important than the number of yards Lynch gains, is the number of carries that he gets. In the last 5 meetings Lynch has carried the ball more than twenty five times only twice and those happen to be the two Seahawks victories. Keeping the ball out of Lynch's hands should mean the 49ers are controlling the tempo and time of possession, both of which have gotten away from them during their recent trips to Seattle."
Lynch was held to only 72 yards on 20 carries for the game with a long of 11 yards, which happened to be his touchdown run. The tone of the game was set in the first quarter when Navarro Bowman drilled Lynch on an outside run.
Holding Lynch to fewer than 25 carries allowed the 49ers to own the time of possession advantage in the second half, and they ended the game having held onto the ball for 32:28 to 27:32 for Seattle.
2) Will the defense be able to contain Russell Wilson? - Yes
"I'm not talking about keeping his stats down here, rather containing him in the pocket. With his small stature Wilson often is at his best when he can move around. The key for the 49ers pass rush this weekend will be to maintain their rush lanes and force Wilson to beat them from the pocket. It all starts with getting a good push up the middle to put guys in his face, and then for the defensive ends to not get deeper than he is. Force him to step up, but don't get too deep to where he can escape up the middle, and then get your hands up."
The 49ers defense made a concerted effort to keep Wilson in the pocket, often having Ahmad Brooks drop as a spy on Wilson and as a result they held Wilson to only 2 yards rushing on the day.
In the first half it didn't look like this tactic would work out as Wilson went 8-11 for 144 yards and a touchdown, but that all changed in the second half. Over the final 2 quarters Wilson was able to complete only 7 of 14 passes for 55 yards, and the only time the Seahawk offense crossed midfield was the when Golden Tate set them up deep in 49ers territory with a 38 yard punt return to the 27 yard line.
3) Will Roman get Gore involved? - Yes
"Greg Roman opened his tenure as the 49ers offensive coordinator with 3 straight wins over the Seahawks. In those wins he called Frank Gore's number an average of just slightly over 20 times per game, with the lowest being 16 in their victory in the first matchup last season. In the two games since, both 49ers losses, Roman has called Gore's number a total of 15 times combined.
With the exception of his 16 carry 131 yard performance in that Thursday night contest last season Gore has averaged only 3.1 yards per carry against Seattle since 2011. Despite that low average, the 49ers need to keep some semblance of balance if they are going to win on Sunday. Look for that to come from a combination of Gore and Kaepernick off read option runs."
Roman finally went back to his horse in this game and Gore made it pay off, finishing the day with 110 yards on 17 carries. His 51 yard burst off left tackle set the 49ers up for the game winning field goal.
4) Can Colin Kaepernick play like Alex Smith? - Yes
"Smith's numbers against Seattle were never anything to write home about, in his three wins he never got to 180 yards passing. The key numbers for Smith were 2, as in number of turnovers in those three games, and 62.3, and is 62.3% completion rate.
These are both areas in which Kaepernick has struggled during his two games against the Seahawks. In those starts Kaepernick has accounted for 5 turnovers, while completing only 50% of his passes. Perhaps a change in scenery will be just what the doctor ordered."
Kaepernick's day was very similar to the one Smith had in the first matchup last season, all the way to a touchdown pass and a bad red zone interception.
For the first time in his career Kaepernick showed that he could lead the 49ers to a win in a physical, beat them up style game. Yeah I know he led them from behind in Atlanta in the NFC Championship game last season, but that was a more wide open style of game.
This was an old school, punch you in the mouth contest and to lead the team to a win is another big step in Kaepernick's development.
5) Can the 49ers play a clean game on offense? - No
"This question is very similar to the one above. The 49ers offense has shot itself in the foot during it's last two meetings with Seattle whether it was the result of a turnover or penalty that pushed them back and took them off schedule.
The margin between victory or defeat in the NFL is very small each week, and it gets even smaller when playing a team as good as Seattle. To have any shot at winning on Sunday the 49ers need their offense to play as mistake free as possible, I don't believe in saying they have to be perfect."
The fact that the 49ers did not play a clean game on offense yet were still able to win made it all that more special. After an offensive pass interference call on Boldin inside the 10 yard line, they were able to battle back and still end the drive with a touchdown on a pass to Davis that sent them into the locker rom with a 16-14 lead.
Then they were in position to go up by 5 or 9 late in the third when Kaepernick threw an interception on a pass to Crabtree. Despite these mistakes the 49ers offense fought through and in the end made the plays they needed to win the game.
49ers 17 Seahawks 13
Jack Hammer is the writer for ninerchatter.blogspot.com
5 Burning Questions Answered - Seattle Edition
Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:28 AM | Comments
By Jack Hammer
By: mlop61Date: Friday, December 13, 2013 at 3:49 PMComment: Sad the 9ers can feel like top dawgs in the nfc west by barely beating the hawks at home. In reality the Hawks beat themselves. The 9ers are no doubt a top 5 team but are no where near good enough to beat the Hawks in Seattle and remember those were not close loses in Seattle, the 9ers were never in either of those games, maybe next year for the 9ers, but not if the Hawks get home field again.
By: shawnrhodDate: Monday, December 9, 2013 at 3:10 PMComment: Jack, Good write up. I see a lot that needs improvement on offense. Some will have to wait until the off season, but other stuff is simple coaching and execution. CK's delivery has a slow and predicable wind-up, CK's play action fakes are unimpressive and become counter intuitive and last but not the least...what I think is the most important is CK's ability to call multiple plays at the line. It seems he is still in a significant learning phase, which is understandable. Not everyone can be lights out their first two years. The reason I expect more is b/c this is a Superbowl win or bust year. I believe the way to the promise land will be through CK.
By: AJ DembroskiDate: Monday, December 9, 2013 at 11:09 AMComment: It was an ugly win in an ugly game and that's OK, but I really want to see them start putting the ball in the end zone. The number of field goals this team settles for is unacceptable. Three of the first four scores in the game, and we only led by 2... that's gotta start changing quick if they're going to make a deep post season run.