Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 9:24 PM
By Jack Hammer @NinerChatter
On Sunday the 49ers will try to break a 2 game losing streak to the Seahawks. Looking back over the last two losses one thing became clear, they needed Alex Smith.
Before you think I've lost my marbles, let me say that they don't actually need Smith on the field, just for Colin Kaepernick to play like him. Let me explain further. The Seahawks thrive at forcing opponents to make mistakes by becoming impatient and trying to do to much. Opposing offenses have to protect the ball and meticulously work it down the field if they are to have a chance, and this is something that Smith thrives at doing. And he did it almost flawlessly during three straight victories against Seattle from 2011 to the first half of 2012.
Smith's style of play was boring. He constantly leaned on his defense and his special teams, but most importantly he protected the football and rarely put those units in bad situations. Especially against Seattle. In his three starts against the Seahawks after the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, Smith threw a total of 1 interception. In Kaepernick's two starts against Seattle he has thrown 4 interceptions, and in the 29-3 loss back in September, Seattle's first 5 points and 15 total can be traced directly back to Kaepernick.
Now to be fair, both of Kaepernick's starts against the Seahawks have taken place in Seattle. That's a tall task as we were all reminded of while watcing the Seahawks take apart the Saints. In fact, the Seahawks haven't lost at home since December 24, 2011 when the 49ers defeated them 19-17.
That fact doesn't change what Kaepernick will need to do if the 49ers are going to win on Sunday. The Seahawks defense doesn't give up many big plays in the passing game, something that the 49ers passing game tends to need to be successful. For example, in Sunday's victory over the Rams 167 of Kaepernick's 275 total passing yards came through 6 completions.
The Seahawks defense also comes into the game leading the NFL by allowing the fewest yards after the catch. On Sunday over half of the 49ers passing yards were the result of big yards after the catch plays by the wide receivers, 141 of 275.
Go back to the last time the 49ers defeated Seattle. After trying to take some deep shots in the first half and coming up snake eyes, the 49ers opened the second half with a different approach. On that opening possession the 49ers went 85 yards on 10 plays including 5 completions on 5 attempts for 65 of those yards, Gore for 15, Hunter for 11, Gore for 12, Crabtree for 10, and the money shot to Delanie Walker for 12 yards and the only touchdown of the game. That drive set the Seahawks back and opened up the running lanes for Frank Gore who had runs of 37 and 20 yards on ensuing drives.
During his time in San Francisco, Smith came to be known by some as Captain Checkdown for his propensity to not take chances with the ball and instead make the safe throw underneath. The check down is something we have not seen a lot of from Kaepernick during his time as the starting quarterback, but it is something that he will likely need to do quite a bit this week. If the 49ers are going to beat the Seahawks they will need Kaepernick to play a lot like Smith.
Overall, I agree to an extent. Kaepernick has to play mistake-free football, not force anything, and take what the defense gives. That is the recipe for beating Seattle. Establishing the run game is huge too, and that's what led to Tampa nearly beating the Seahawks IN SEATTLE. I hope we come out with a plan that stresses these things.
[ Edited by OnTheClock on Dec 5, 2013 at 1:57 PM ]