Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs Seahawks: Five Keys to Victory and Score Prediction

Matt Andruscavage
Dec 28, 2019 at 2:39 PM


It doesn't get much bigger than this. One game for all the marbles. It's an amazing opportunity, especially when considering where the 49ers were the last six seasons. A season ago, San Francisco was flexed OUT of prime time matchups as the season was lost by mid-October. This season has been a different story as the Niners have been flexed into those very same prime time matchups and will have played six times in front of the nation.

Despite overcoming doubters on every front throughout the season, having the goalposts of success moved repeatedly, dealing with wave after wave of difficult injuries, and most importantly, finding different ways to win, no matter the situation, the 49ers are 12-3 and control their own destiny. Now, they must overcome their longtime adversary. Win Sunday and the demons of Seattle that have haunted the 49ers since December of 2012 will be exorcised, home field advantage will be clinched, and the chances of a Super Bowl berth will greatly increase.

For the 49ers, the time is now. The playoffs start Sunday and don't think for a minute that coach Kyle Shanahan doesn't realize this. On paper, this should not be a contest as San Francisco beats Seattle in nearly every metric or category. The Seahawks have won several games due to amazing quarterbacking that at times has been nothing short of miraculous. Winning on paper does not matter. Seattle is still Seattle and Russell Wilson is still Russell Wilson. Until the 49ers solve Seattle, there will still be a difficult barrier to overcome and this year's road to the Super Bowl will be much harder.

Defensive end Dee Ford will miss the game and Safety Jaquiski Tartt is listed as doubtful, but both will be available for the playoffs. Julian Taylor tore his ACL in practice on Thursday and is out for the year. Mike Person is listed as questionable, but I would bet Brunskill starts for him again.

For the Seahawks, last week's loss against the Cardinals was made much worse with the injury report. Running backs Chris Carson and C.J. Procise were lost for the season. Left tackle Duane Brown needs surgery. Safety Quandre Diggs could miss the game due to an ankle injury. Guard Mike Iupati hasn't practiced all week, but is no longer on the injury report.

The running back situation was so dire that Seattle had to bring in A.A.R.P. recipients Robert Turbin and Marshawn Lynch. (After Rashaad Penny was lost for the season, it appeared Lynch was already joining the roster for the playoffs, but I digress.) The additions of Lynch and Turbin change nothing for the 49ers. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh put it best when he said, "For us, it doesn't change how we prepare. Lynch is no different than Carson and the way he runs the football. It's cool that they need the emotional boost, we look at it the same." No matter who has the ball, San Francisco's run defense needs to hit him as hard as it can and make Seattle's offense one-dimensional.

When and Where: Sunday December 29th at 5:20 PM (PST) at Century Link Field

Here are five keys for the 49ers to win this game:

1) Don't Let Jadaveon Clowney Take Over the Game


In their first matchup, Jadaveon Clowney destroyed the 49ers. He beat tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey repeatedly. He harassed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo time after time and even scored off a fumble recovery. San Francisco did not have an answer. This must change if the 49ers are going to win. Jimmy Garoppolo will need time to complete passes and move the sticks.

Seattle did not score a lot in the November matchup, but when it did, it was due to a turnover and excellent field position. On Sunday, expect the 49ers to have a sound plan in place to ensure that Clowney does not overly disrupt the passing game.

2) Run. The. Ball.


This is a no-brainer. San Francisco has the NFC's best rushing attack (second in NFL behind Baltimore) and Seattle fields the 24th best run defense. With George Kittle playing in this game, the 49ers will have a much better chance to gash the Seahawks for a lot of yardage and several "chunk" plays.

Tevin Coleman has rushed well the last two games and will get carries. Raheem Mostert has emerged as the go-to back and Matt Breida will get carries in this game. All three of these backs are capable of controlling the game and even scoring from anywhere.

3) Convert on Third Down


The key to getting running backs a lot of carries is to have long, sustained drives. This is where the 49ers have done very well this year. While there's no denying that Garoppolo usually has at least one head-scratching throw per game, he has been real good this season. The key to much of the success of the offense, especially lately, has been its ability to convert on third down.

Hopefully we won't see the 49ers have to convert third and 16, but Garoppolo has been money on big downs, especially late in games. The numbers have been very impressive this year as Jimmy G leads the NFL in overall third down conversion percentage (50.4% - 62 completions on 123 attempts). Critics of Garoppolo will quickly exclaim, "Well, yeah! He only throws five yard passes!". Well, you're wrong. On 3rd and 8+ attempts, Jimmy G is second in the NFL (39.6% - 21 for 53). He has been money all season long and the team will need him to work his magic once again.

Century Link Field has been a nightmare for the 49ers, who have not scored 20 points in any of their meetings there this decade. Converting on third down consistently will give them a great chance to put up well over 20 points, as they have several times this season on the road.

4) Bring the Heat


As always, the key to the defense is the pass rush. The defensive line has been somewhat depleted with injuries, especially in the depth department. Earlier this season, the defensive line was dominant due to being able to rotate several players in and out and limit the snaps of the starters to keep them fresh. Dee Ford has missed a large chunk of the second half of the season. Ronald Blair, Demontre Moore, Julian Taylor, and D.J. Jones are lost for the season. Sheldon Day, Solomon Thomas, Kentavius Street, and Jeremiah Valoaga have not been able to pick up the slack and the pass rush has struggled. Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Nick Bosa have seen a major increase in their snap counts and it has taken a toll. Something has to change.

Against the Seahawks' depleted offensive line, the 49ers should be able to find some success in rushing four, but will need to work in some creative blitzes to keep the pressure on Russell Wilson and not let him run free.

If the pass rush can get home even just a little more than it has lately, it will go a long way in helping the 49ers get a win.

5) Avoid Costly Turnovers


We have seen the 49ers turn the ball over a little too often this year. While Jimmy Garoppolo completes over 90% of his passes that usually result in touchdowns after he throws an interception, turnovers must be avoided in this game. Take a sack. Throw the ball away. Do whatever it takes to not give the Seahawks good field position.

If the 49ers take care of the football, they should have enough on defense to do what they did to Seattle in their first meeting. Russell Wilson didn't sniff the 49ers' 30 yard line until his defense forced those three turnovers.

Score Prediction


This is it. Everything is on the line and the 49ers are ready. Expect San Francisco and Jimmy Garoppolo to step up and get the job done. The defense will limit the Seattle ground game, get after Russell Wilson and force at least two turnovers. The ground game will take the pressure off of Garoppolo and the offense will take over the second half.

49ers 30, Seattle 21
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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