Friday, September 13, 2013

5 Burning Questions for Week 2

With the first of two huge matchups coming up  between the 49ers and Seahawks on Sunday night in Seattle here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.

1)  Can the defense slow down Marshawn Lynch?

Over the 49ers last 84 games they have allowed a 100 yard rusher only 9 times.  Unfortunately for the 49ers one player has recorded 4 of those and he will be on the opposite side of the field on Sunday night.  Marshawn Lynch has been tough on the 49ers.  Lynch is a tough runner, with great vision who can pound through you, or cut back on a dime when you over pursue.  The key this week for the 49ers is for the backside of their defense to take the proper pursuit angles and not allow there to be cut back lanes.  This will be the first real test for the 49ers run defense.  Their ability to hold up might be the biggest key to this game.

2)  Will the defense be able to contain Russell Wilson?

I'm not talking about keeping his stats down here, rather containing him in the pocket.  With his small stature Wilson often is at his best when he can move around.  Much like last week against Aaron Rodgers, the key for the 49ers pass rush this weekend will be to maintain their rush lanes and force Wilson to beat them from the pocket.  It all starts with getting a good push up the middle to put guys in his face, and then for the defensive ends to not get deeper than he is.  Force him to step up, but don't get too deep to where he can escape up the middle, and then get your hands up.

3)  Can the 49ers offense stay ahead in the count?

I'm borrowing a common baseball term here to describe the need for the 49ers to keep the down and distance in their favor, 2nd and 5 or less as often as possible.  The Seattle defense is very similar to the 49ers in that you need to be patient to beat them.  Go back to the 3 game winning streak the 49ers had prior to the game last December and you won't find a lot of big plays.  Perfect example of what the 49ers need to do is the 2nd half of the first matchup last year.  Working the short stuff over the middle to the running backs and tight ends, consistently getting positive yardage and moving the chains.  This resulted in the only touchdown of the game, and almost a second before an Alex Smith interception ended the threat.

By staying ahead of the chains and putting themselves in those 2nd and 5 or less situations, the 49ers play action game could become even more effective.  As good as the Seahawks secondary is, they will give a team a few shots each game to beat them deep.  Taking those shots is a lot easier when you know you can come back to 3rd and short and keep chipping away.

4)  What will Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis do for an encore?

Boldin and Davis combined to account for 19 of the 27 completions, 306 of their 412 passing yards, and all 3 of the receiving touchdowns in the 49ers week 1 defeat of the Packers.  How close they come to those efforts in Seattle will have a lot to do with the outcome on Sunday.  Davis has played decent against Seattle in recent years, putting up 101 yards on 9 receptions in the 2011 meetings between the teams, and another 27 yards on 1 reception last season when he was knocked out of the second matchup early on a hard hit by Kam Chancellor while trying to haul in a deep pass from Colin Kaepernick.  Boldin on the other hand struggled in his most recent trip to Seattle, hauling in only 2 passes for 22 yards as a member of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.

While the Seahawks did a good job on Davis last season, they let Davis' TE counterpart Delanie Walker beat them for 2 touchdown receptions.  That could bode well on Sunday night for rookie Vance McDonald.  Frank Gore also had success against catching the ball against Seattle last year hauling in 5 receptions for 51 yards in their 2 meetings.  I also would not be surprised to see the 49ers take more deep shots at the Seahawk secondary with Kyle Williams.  Williams, who missed the second meeting after being injured in New Orleans, was targeted deep a few times early in the first matchup last season at Candlestick park.  In one early series, Williams beat both Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner deep only to have the ball be over thrown.  Look for the 49ers to come back to that on Sunday.

5)  Guinness Book of World Records?

Long known as one of the loudest crowds in the NFL, Seahawks fans will be trying to put themselves in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest open air stadium on Sunday night.  The record is currently held by the Turkish soccer club Galatsary S.K. at an ear splitting 131.76 decibels.  To date the loudest recorded decibel level at CenturyLink Field is 112 decibels, so Seahawks fans will have their work cut out for them.

There has been a lot of talk about the noise level in Seattle and the type of effect will this have on the 49ers, and what they should do to combat the noise.  Everything from hand signals, flashcards, and wristbands with the plays on them has been mentioned.  One that I haven't heard, and this goes back to the days of Bill Walsh, is make plays and get ahead early.

With the exception of the game last December, the 49ers have done a very good job on the road, winning in some of the toughest environments in the league in his first 2 seasons, including Seattle in 2011.  The 49ers best plan for Sunday night is to execute the game plan early and often, as nothing will quiet a crowd faster than a nice long sustained drive or falling behind.

Look at that 2011 game as an example.  After falling behind right away 7-0, the 49ers offense came out and drove down the field.  The drive ended in a David Akers missed FG, but the team had proven they could handle the noise and environment, and would end up scratching out a hard fought 19-17 victory.

Prediction Time:

For my prediction this week I am going to do the same thing this week that I did prior to the week 7 meeting between these two teams last season.  If the Seahawks are able to get their ground game going and Marshawn Lynch ends the day with 25 carries or more the Seahawks will win.

In the instance that Lynch comes away with fewer than 25 carries I will predict a 49ers victory by the score of 19-17.

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