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3 More Tur-“Keys to Victory” on Thanksgiving Thursday

Nov 23, 2023 at 11:34 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night, a rematch of the 2014 epic that saw Richard Sherman feasting on the 49ers' home turf. This time, the Niners have the opportunity to return the favor, facing the Seahawks at Lumen Field as 6-point road favorites.

With Seattle just a game behind SF in the NFC West, this game offers the potential for plenty of chaos in the divisional and wild card standings should Seattle win. But the 49ers are chock full of stars like Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, and Brock Purdy on offense, and Seahawks QB Geno Smith may not be fully healthy after an elbow injury sustained last Sunday.

For the 49ers to emerge victorious and put themselves in the driver's seat for the NFC West title (and remain in contention for the no. 1 seed in the NFC), here are three more "tur-keys" to victory. For more, check out Wayne Brown's 5 Keys to Victory vs. Seahawks.

Improve on Perfection

Last Sunday, 49ers QB Brock Purdy became the first SF quarterback since Joe Montana to register a perfect passer rating in a game (minimum 20 attempts). That high-water mark came right off the heels of another personal best the week before against Jacksonville, when Purdy posted an impressive 148.9 passer rating. Purdy had just four incompletions last week, to go along with three passing touchdowns and no interceptions. His 76-yard strike to Brandon Aiyuk was the longest touchdown pass of his career, and the longest of any quarterback so far this season.

Can Purdy put up an even more statistically monstrous stat line this week? Probably not, given that it took more than 20 years between perfect passer ratings to appear for this franchise. But Purdy still has room to keep evolving in his development as an NFL quarterback. Against the Seahawks and their raucous home crowd, Purdy will need to be fully locked in and overcome a tremendously hostile home environment. He's done it before, but now the eyes of the entire nation will be on him and the 49ers as the calendar inches towards December.

And if the 49ers get off to a slow start, they'll need him to drag the team back on course. Purdy's only blemishes this season came when San Francisco fell behind, and Purdy couldn't quite execute consistently enough. If Purdy finds himself in a similar situation but engineers a roaring comeback, then the whispers of an MVP campaign will only grow louder.

Will the Secondary Hold Up?

No NFL team is perfect, and right now, the 49ers have to be holding their breath about the state of their secondary.

The loss of All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga to an ACL tear invites chaos into the 49ers' plans during the back half of the season. Rookie safety Ji'Ayir Brown acquitted himself well in emergency relief of Hufanga against the Buccaneers, notching three pass deflections, including one late-game interception. He looks like the playmaker the 49ers raved about in the postseason, which gives San Francisco a measure of relief knowing that Brown could potentially elevate that unit's gameplay.

But across the entire secondary, depth may soon become a problem. Behind Brown and Tashaun Gipson Sr., George Odum is the only reliable name at safety that could fill in. At cornerback, the 49ers have struggled to find consistent success with Isaiah Oliver in the slot, so they've moved to a Deommodore Lenoir-Ambry Thomas tandem that's worked well, but seen issues in the past. If Thomas struggles or goes down to injury, old friend Jason Verrett could be a potential replacement, but he's also coming off a torn Achilles. If just one more critical domino falls, the Niners could be in real trouble.

How they hold up against Seattle WRs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will be instructive. If San Francisco can shut down Metcalf - one of the biggest, most physical receivers in the NFL - and prevent Lockett from running free across the middle, they'll be able to point to this game as a proof of concept for the rest of the season.

Stabilize the O-Line

Possibly the least glamorous position on the field during any given play is the offensive guard. Not quite as prestigious as the tackle position, not as centrally-located as the center, a team's guards are often the least-appreciated and most-criticized players, especially on offense. But 49ers fans may need to pay special attention to the guard positions today, as they may be without both starters, right guard Spencer Burford and left guard Aaron Banks. Neither player has particularly excelled in pass protection this season, but they've been important facets of Kyle Shanahan's intricate run game, and once that's established, Purdy has been able to do the rest with his underrated mobility from the pocket.

Without them, things could get dicey. Veteran backup Jon Feliciano has subbed in without much problem when needed the past few weeks, but that would still leave a gaping hole in one of the guard spots that San Francisco might not be prepared to fill. Jaylon Moore and Matt Pryor are both veteran backups on the Niners' roster, but primarily have experience at tackle. The practice squad features options like Ilm Manning, Henry Byrd, Jesse Davis, Corey Luciano, and the recently-acquired Ben Bartch. But the option for a second true guard backup is one that few NFL teams have the luxury of reliably fielding, so the Niners will have to get creative to cover their backside and backfield against Seattle.

Kyle Shanahan may have his work cut out for him, maneuvering around this personnel deficit. The Seahawks are a top-12 team in both sacks and pressure rate, which means they'll certainly be able to expose holes in the 49ers' front if San Francisco isn't careful. We've seen things go sideways this season when the Niners aren't able to get their run game off the ground and teams can tee off on them in the pass rush, and it's a fate San Francisco absolutely wants to avoid. Whether it's a robust screen passing game, constant misdirection, or simply Purdy being his surprisingly slippery self, the 49ers need some kind of answer to keep them on track and on pace for a Thanksgiving Day win.

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