Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How To Beat The 49ers Defense

As the 49ers prepare to take on the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday I wanted to take a high level look at how to beat the 49er defense and win the game.  I bring this up now because I think Seattle is the first team this season that has all of the variables necessary to get the job done.  There are three very basic things that an opposing offense must be able to do and if they fail in any of these areas the likelihood of them being successful drops precipitously.  Fortunately for the 49ers, there are not many teams that have the tools necessary to execute in all 3 of these areas.

1)  Run the ball at least 25 times

As Axel Rose once sang in the Guns N Roses hit, "all you need is just a little patience."  In the NFL today most teams lack the patience necessary to stick with the running game.  Often they look at the 49ers defense and see how good they are at stopping the run, and they give it only a token effort.  They don't have the fortitude to stick with it and grind it out.

The Seahawks seem to understand this principal as good as any other team in the league.  In two games against the 49ers in 2012 the Seahawks ran the ball a total of 68 times, 29 in game 1 and 39 in game 2.  They look to pound the ball with the combination of Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, mixing in the occasional option run with Wilson.

2)  Convert on 3rd Down

If you can get to 3rd down against the 49ers with 6 or less yards to go you have an advantage.  The 49ers slot corner, Carlos Rogers has struggled mightily from the inside over the last year.  On Sunday against Green Bay he gave up a perfect 158.3 passer rating.  The key to defeating Rogers, is running quick horizontal routes that force him to cut.  He actually does a pretty good job at taking away the more vertical routes, so instead hit him quick and take away the 49ers pass rush.

The Seahawks managed to convert on 15-26 3rd downs in the two meetings between the teams, going 4/13 in their game 1 loss, and 11/13 in their game 2 victory.

3)  Accurate QB play and WR's Catching the ball

This is another basic principal, but against a defense like the 49ers the margin for error is slim.  The Seahawks had 3 drops in the first game last year, 2 of which were key.  The first occurred in the 1st quarter with the ball on the 49ers 34 yard line.  Robert Turbin, matched up one on one with Patrick Willis, ran a wheel route from the backfield and had Willis beat.  Russell Wilson delivered a perfect pass that Turbin dropped on the 10 yard line.  Instead of having first and goal the Seahawks were forced to kick a long field goal.

The second key drop occurred on the Seahawks' opening series of the 2nd half.  Facing a 3rd and 2 from the 49ers 42 yard line, Golden Tate ran a quick slant route and had Chris Culliver beat to the inside.  Russell Wilson put the ball between the numbers but Tate dropped it.  Instead of having first and 10 at the 49ers 35, the Seahawks were forced to punt and the 49ers ensuing drive resulted in the only touchdown of the game and gave them a lead they would not relinquish.

With those three drops Wilson ended the first game a paltry 9-23.  He came back in game 2 with a sterling 15-21 performance.

How the Seahawks perform in these 3 areas on Sunday night will likely determine the victor?

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