How the 49ers Can Put an End to the Seattle Seahawks' Hot Streak on Sunday

Dylan DeSimone@@DeSimone80Correspondent IDecember 19, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 16:  Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

With a combined record of 19-8-1 in the 2012-13 season, the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have been representing the NFC West well.

Seattle has caught fire in the past few weeks. Following their bye week, the Seahawks have gone 3-1—currently riding a three-game win streak, defeating the Bears, Cardinals and Bills. In Weeks 14 and 15, the ‘Hawks outscored the Cardinals and Bills 108-17, breaking the 50-point mark in consecutive games.

It should be noted, though, that Arizona and Buffalo have a combined record of 10-19, as both teams are dead last in their respective divisions.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have put up 30 or more points in six of 10 wins this year. In perhaps their most impressive performance under Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco went on the road to face New England in December, where Tom Brady and the Patriots were riding a 20-game win streak.

Colin Kaepernick and the Niners outscored Brady’s Pats in their own environment, putting up 41 points—their second-highest total in 2012.

This Sunday, the 49ers and Seahawks will face off for the second time this season. The Niners are currently in control of their 2012 series, having won their first matchup 13-6 at Candlestick Park.

Seattle’s Strengths

It starts with Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for 328 yards and five touchdowns during the team’s three-game win streak. He has been averaging 8.2 yards per attempt since Week 13 and has had a strong history against the 49ers.

The Seahawks also bring a notoriously aggressive, physical secondary. Each of their starters brings unique measurables and a knack for getting hands on the football. They play instinctively and take chances that often pay dividends.

They also have a very athletic front seven that brings a great deal of strength and speed to the game. Overall, the Seahawks are very tough defensively.

49ers' Edge 

San Francisco has the No. 3 run defense heading into Week 16 and has not left the top five in that category for a couple of years now. The truth is, 100 percent of teams the Seahawks have played this year can’t stop the run like the 49ers. The Niners make it very difficult for teams to move the ball because they can make them one-dimensional.

If any team has a chance to slow the pace of this Seattle offense, it’s their rival in the Bay Area.

From an offensive standpoint, San Francisco preaches ball security, which could become very frustrating for a team like Seattle that capitalizes on turnovers. They count on their defense to provide Russell Wilson with opportunities—something that may be limited in Week 16.

Another interesting aspect of this game is that San Francisco and Seattle are the No. 2 and No. 3 rushing offenses in the NFL. The 49ers are one of the most, if not the most balanced team in the league. Their ability to run the ball will help them win T.O.P and wear down this aggressive Seattle D.

In their first game against one another this season, 49ers running back Frank Gore played an intricate role. In Week 7, the Niners' all-time leading rusher and scorer accounted for 182 all-purpose yards versus their division rival.

Seattle’s Weaknesses

Pete Carroll and the Seahawks made a bold decision to go with rookie QB Russell Wilson to start the season. In an attempt to figure out who their franchise passer will be going forward, the team decided to roll the dice on the golden boy from Wisconsin. And while he has provided some dynamism within from the position, Seattle currently has the 27th-ranked passing offense.

This is a bit misleading in terms of their capability, considering they are just outside the top 10 in total points scored this season. But Russell Wilson’s worst game did indeed come against the 49ers in Week 7.

Wilson went 9-of-23 for 122 yards and an interception, managing a measly 38.7 passer rating.

Russell Wilson's first 7 games: 8 TD. 7 INT, 79.2 QB rating. Last 7 games: 13 TD, 2 INT, 111.6 QB rating. #49ers #Seahawks

— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) December 18, 2012

 49ers' Edge

San Francisco is in the top five of every defensive category, including total yards, passing and rushing. The 49ers are coming off a strong game against Tom Brady and the Patriots, showing that No. 1 defense trumps No. 1 offense.

Total QBR for passers facing the 49ers in 2012:

Week 1 Aaron Rodgers 55.1
Week 2 Matthew Stafford 31.9
Week 3 Christian Ponder 89.9
Week 4 Mark Sanchez 2.8
Week 5 Ryan Fitzpatrick 44.1
Week 6 Eli Manning 96.0
Week 7 Russell Wilson 26.0
Week 8 John Skelton 25.9
Week 10 Sam Bradford 82.0
Week 11 Jason Campbell 2.1
Week 12 Drew Brees 33.0
Week 13 Sam Bradford 59.8
Week 14 Ryan Tannehill 37.0
Week 15 Tom Brady 55.9

The Niners have shown they can limit any team, starting with their quarterback. While Wilson has grown as a player throughout the season, so has San Francisco’s secondary. While everyone is quick to discuss the secondary in Seattle, Carlos Rogers, Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown have had tremendous campaigns.  

Moreover, with the move to Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers have become more explosive. They have become capable of outscoring teams and have not been afraid to take chances downfield. This will be a very different Niners team going to Qwest Field on Sunday. 

Stats where Kaepernick would lead NFL if he had enough attempts: YPA (8.4), comp. % while pressured (60.4%), @pff QB Rating (101.9). #49ers

— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) December 18, 2012

The X-Factor

The Seahawks could potentially be without two marquee players in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.

The team’s notorious corner tandem may be suspended for presumed Adderall usage. For breaking the league’s substance abuse policy, both players were dealt four-game suspensions by the NFL. While Browner decided to begin serving his in Week 14, Sherman has elected to appeal. 

His case will be heard on Friday, when the league will likely take action regarding Sherman’s use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Appeal of the four-game suspension for Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will be held Friday, two days before game vs. SF.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 17, 2012

Browner will miss Sunday's game, but there is a possibility Sherman joins him. 

This would be a huge blow to the Seattle Seahawks, but it would not necessarily be condemning. With the nature of sports, division games are always a dogfight because there is a great deal of familiarity between the teams.

And since the 49ers already clinched the postseason with a win against the Patriots, the Seahawks are more desperate for a victory. Seattle is also 1-3 this year against their division foes, which cannot be sitting well with them.

Even if the explosive Seattle team comes to play, the Niners may still have the edge and more than a fighting chance. The 49ers (357) and Seahawks (350) are neck-and-neck in total points this year, with San Francisco edging them out by only one score.

Whether it's a low-scoring affair or a shootout, it's been well-documented that San Francisco has the tools to compete in any game. 


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