Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Road Ahead For The 49ers

In the wake of the 49ers second straight defeat in Seattle the primary question has been, did the Seahawks take over control atop the NFC West?  The answer to that is quite simple, yes they did, they sit alone at the top of the division as the only team with 2 wins during the first two weeks of the season.  The good thing for the 49ers is there are still 14 games left to be played, and a lot can change over that time.

Please take a moment to remove your 49er fan hat, and let's talk realistically about what the 49ers will have to do if they want to get back to at least the NFC Championship game and possibly the Super Bowl.  They need to make sure they win the NFC West Division.

Right now you're probably saying to yourself, "Of course they want to win the division Jack!"  Allow me a moment to explain the significance of that.  By winning the division the 49ers assure themselves a home game should they have to face the Seahawks in January.  That is huge, but even that may not be enough.

In the last two meetings the Seahawks have proven that they are the worst possible matchup for the 49ers in the NFL.  Their aggressive defense, led by possibly the best secondary in the NFL and a defensive line that flat out gets after the quarterback has basically shut down the 49ers offense in each of their last 5 meetings.  In those meetings the 49ers offense has managed an average of 13.4 points per game.  What is even more concerning is that the Seahawks defense has done progressively better against the 49ers, giving up 19 points in both contests in 2011, 13 points in both contests in 2012, and finally only 3 on Sunday night.  It appears that Pete Carroll's defense has the number of Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman.

The mastery of the 49ers is not limited to the Seattle defense.  One key against the 49ers defense is for the opposition to stick with the running game, and the Seahawks do this better than anyone else, having averaged 32.6 rushing attempts per game over their last 5 meetings.  In addition to this the Seahawks offense has averaged 20.4 points over that span.  The biggest change the Seahawks have made offensively over those 5 meetigs was the introduction of the read option to their offense.  Since doing that the Seahawks offense has averaged 31 points in the last two meetings, and Marshawn Lynch has become even more explosive.  In the last 2 meetings the Lynch has run the ball 21 times out of the read option look and gained 135 yards (6.4 ypc avg) and 2 touchdowns.

Before you say, "yeah, but they still have to come to Candlestick in December and our offense should have Manningham back and possibly Crabtree" remember that the Seahawks will also have Brandon Browner and Chris Clemons back on their defense, and to a lesser extent Bruce Irvin as well.

The good news for the 49ers is that there is no other team in the NFC that matches up with them as well as Seattle, with the possible exception of St Louis.  This means the rematch in December could end up being a make or break type game for the 49ers Super Bowl hopes.  Until then all they have to do is handle their own business, fix the problem areas that the Seahawks exposed, and put themselves in position to make December 8 count.

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