As I re-watched and analyzed the Packers game, I started think about how Seattle will approach this game and how Roman might plan to counter. Much has been written about Roman's decision to abandon the read option to take away the Packers' preparation point. If I am scouting that game for Seattle it is clear that I need to shut Boldin down and account for VD deep over the middle. I would also want to emulate the Packers' approach to the running game. The gap discipline necessary to stop the read option made it easier to lock down Gore and Hunter. With that in mind, here is my key player:
Vance McDonald - With only one catch McDonald didn't put his stamp on this game, but he did make an impression on me. Vance is the type of TE we haven't seen here since Eric Johnson. Davis and Walker were speed guys last year. They cleared space in the middle for slant passes to Crabtree or they took Linebackers away from running plays. McDonald can be the "post-up" TE that keeps the chains moving. On his one catch we saw him run his route, find space, and just sit. Davis has never been that great at that and Walker never had the size to be effective in this role. Seattle will most likely shade safety help to Boldin's side and double team Davis as soon as he gets 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. They are also going to leave their LBs in to commit to stopping the run. This is where McDonald can make his impact. He will most likely have a LB one-on-one or be accounted for with a zone scheme. I want to see him released into space and allowed to move around looking for holes. I think this will open up the rest of the field. McDonald has a huge frame, long arms, and moves "efficiently". You don't see him trying to juke or cut. He gets the ball and heads north in one easy motion. This should work well against a defense that will be overly aggressive.
Runner-Up: Kendall Hunter - Gore did a nice job of making the most of runs that looked doomed. He is essential to running and pass protection, but Hunter needs to get more touches in this game. Seattle's front four could be susceptible to a power running game and Hunter provides the best chance to stretch them out and hit some big plays. I want to see a big dose of offset I-formations with Hunter following Miller off-tackle with a pulling guard in front of them. This will give Hunter a few more steps to get up to speed and an option of lanes. We may have to establish the pass first, but it would go a loooong way in controlling the crowd if we smashed the ball down their throat to open the game. The OL did very well in pass protection this week, but Boone and Iupati need to get out and move some bodies.
Who is the key for you? Obviously Kaep, Boldin, and Davis will be vital to success, but who else do you see stepping up or what types of plays do you want to see?