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Sunday's game at Candlestick Park will mark the second meeting of the 49ers and Seahawks this year. The first meeting, a 33-30 overtime win for the 49ers, was the first positive result of the 2008 season. While many speculate that the down and out Seahawks are due to lose at the 'Stick this Sunday, the 49ers will have to win several key matchups to make that happen.
49ers OL vs. Seahawks' Front 7
In their first meeting, the 49ers surrendered 8 sacks. They also left Frank Gore exposed on a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Can the 49ers turn the tide? Much of that will depend on the 49ers ability to pick up the blitz. Can the 49ers scheme effectively to pick up the pressure dialed up by Seahawks' defensive coordinator Jim Mora, Jr.? It will depend greatly on Barry Sims' ability to protect J.T. O'Sullivan's blindside, and the interior line's ability to create a pocket for him to step up in. The line must keep formidable defensive tackle Rocky Benard on his heels. Expect to see Vernon Davis and Frank Gore used to pick up pressure if the line slips early.
J.T. O'Sullivan vs. Seahawks' Secondary
In the first meeting between these two teams, J.T. O'Sullivan torched the Seattle secondary for 6 plays of over 20 yards. For the 49ers to have any kind of success Sunday, it will be critical for J.T. to provide an equally impressive encore. In recent weeks, J.T.'s ability to read defenses has seemed to regress. For the 49ers to win this Sunday, he needs to play a near error-free game, resist the urge to force the ball into coverage, know when to pull the ball down and run, and know when to throw the ball away.
Frank Gore vs. Seahawks' Front 7
Last week, Frank Gore rushed for 11 yard in 11 carries. A performance like that this week will doom the 49ers early. For the team to have any kind of success against the Seattle defense Gore must run early and often to counter the blitz. Frank should return to form against a pedestrian run defense. If Gore carries the ball 20 times, the 49ers should win this game.
49ers Defense vs. Seneca Wallace
Wallace will be starting under center for the injured Matt Hasselbeck this Sunday. Under normal circumstances, this would add an extra dimension to the Seattle attack, as Wallace is a threat to run should a play break down. Circumstances are far from normal, however. Wallace is still bothered by a calf injury suffered in warm ups week 2. His performance last week, for just 75 yards passing, is indicative of how limited his ability is at present. If the 49ers decide to blitz and blitz often, they could take advantage of his limited mobility, and his relative mediocrity as a passer. If the 49ers force Seattle to pass, they should win this game.
Mike Singletary vs. Mike Holmgren
Well 49er fans, this is the big one. This is the first game of the Singletary era.It may be the most important game of the season thus far. Can Mike Singletary out-scheme Mike Holmgren? Will he succeed where Mike Nolan failed? Can he come up with solutions for sub par pass protection, a seemingly non-existent pass rush, and the tendency to fold in the 4th quarter? Tune in Sunday, and find out.