Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports



The San Francisco 49ers enter Dante's unmentioned level of Hell today. It's a soul-crushing colosseum of dark blue, neon green, and the number '12' flying on flags or sewn on jerseys. Fans entering the arena dress as comic book characters and blow their vocal cords out for no apparent reason.

Welcome, my friends, to Century Link Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks.

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For whatever reason, Seattle has had the 49ers' number for the last few years. No matter how immortal the 49ers were feeling, the Seahawks could find the weak point in the 49ers and abuse it. This week, Seattle is coming off a stinging loss to Green Bay and playing its first game of the 2017 season at home.

The 49ers may not win this game, but here are three ways they can hang with Seattle.

Exploit Seattle's Offensive Line


Have you noticed the new buzz about Seattle's 'legendary' defense? Indeed, its defense is what helped bring the city its first Lombardi trophy a few years ago. The Seahawks' public relations team is wagging the defensive dog because the team failed, once again, to invest in quality offensive linemen.

In Week One, Seattle's pass-blocking efficiency was 68.2, ranking them 24th among all offensive lines according to Pro Football Focus.

This year, the 49ers have a raw defensive line, but those men are ready for battle. Despite a rough opening week, I'm convinced the defensive line can anchor the 49ers this season.

Now is the time for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to unleash the talent and potential of his front four. He must bring constant pressure to Seattle's offense, and keep quarterback Russell Wilson on the move.

Here's a key point: Wilson loves rolling to his right. He's like any right-handed quarterback: it's easier to roll right, reset his feet, and throw on the run. It takes real ability to move left and be successful.

Saleh needs to force Wilson out of the pocket, and send him left where he has trouble throwing across his body and completing passes.

Don't Worry About a Big Offensive Play


Seattle's defense prides itself on shutting down All-Pro receivers and tight ends. Teams often refuse to throw to certain sides of the formation if Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman is there.

But there are flaws in Seattle's defense, and the 49ers can utilize one by throwing short, quick passes to receivers, backs and tight ends. Seattle wants teams to try and throw deep on it for two reasons.

  1. Seattle's defensive backs want to make a play, whether an interception or a big hit.
  2. Its defensive line disrupts the pocket, severely limiting the time a quarterback has to read his deep progressions. It does not allow enough time to make a good read, resulting in an incomplete pass or an interception.

Offensive coordinators get too greedy and want to test Seattle's defense. Don't bother as we all know the outcome.

Today, head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan needs to employ a passing attack that asks receivers to run shorter routes – think slants, quick outs, or slant-flat combinations.

This game plan is how the Patriots beat Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. Quarterback Tom Brady threw the ball 50 times, averaging 6.3 yards per pass play. They chewed their way downfield with a short pass attack, especially in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers' offense must sustain long drives and control the ball through the air today.

The short game has another advantage: It bores Seattle's crowd. Its fans feed on the big hits and turnovers. If the 49ers are pushing Seattle's defense back slowly and methodically, the crowd is going to get bored. It'll stop that incessant screaming and decide to get a fresh beer.

Please note the 49ers haven't had much of a problem with the crowd. It's an overblown theory. Sure it's loud, but since 2010, the 49ers have only committed six false start penalties while in the unfriendly confines of Century Link Field.

Get a Special Teams Score


Gentle Reader, I'm going to add special teams performance as a key to winning games for the 2017 49ers.

Today, more than ever, the 49ers need a touchdown from a punt or kick return. They cannot rely on the offense to put up 30 points and have to start improving the return game.

Imagine for a moment the deafening silence from the Seattle crowd if Victor Bolden, Jr. or Trent Taylor can take a kick 90 yards to the opposite end zone. It's an immediate momentum shift and can get the 49ers right back in the game.

I'll be covering today's game for the good people at 49ers Webzone, so be sure to keep Twitter and your Facebook page turned our direction!