It’s week 16 and in case you weren’t paying attention, the Seahawks play a game tonight. Actually they play a very important game against division rival San Francisco. While this game has playoff implications, something even greater is on the line for Seattle and head coach Pete Carroll.
By Travis Loucks
1. The Hawks must have a solution to the Niners “Trap” running play. In the first meeting the Niners were able to run for 173 yards mostly up the middle in the second half. The Hawks weren’t able to make in game adjustments and got gashed time and time again. If I were coaching the Niners I would find out early in Sunday’s game if the Hawks had solved this problem. If not, expect to see a lot of Frank Gore. Hawks are ranked 10th against the run, and teams are averaging 4.5 yards per carry against them.
2. Hawks need to win on special teams. This game will have a lot to do with field position. The Hawks and the Niners are two of the best defenses in the league (ranked 3rd and 2nd respectively in Total Defense according to www.nfl.com). Neither team is going to be able to march the ball 80+ yards multiple times this game. Big kick-off and punt returns will give the offenses short fields and this is where points will come from. The Niners averaged 23.8 yards per punt return in week 7. One game comes to my mind: Hawks vs. the Niners in the season opener in 2011. Ted Ginn took over in the fourth quarter after the Hawks had fought their way back in the game. A kick-off and punt return later: Game Over.
3. Pete Carroll needs to prove he can be a better coach than Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has owned Pete Carroll; first in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) and now in the NFL with a 1-2 record and a 0-3 record respectively. Games like this are where coaches earn their paychecks. The Hawks need to have a solution for Frank Gore (he had 181 total yards in the first meeting this year), their defense needs to get off the field on third down, and the coaching staff needs to preach discipline (enough with the stupid penalties), accountability (catch the ball when it hits you in the hands, Golden Tate), and trust in your teammates (believe they are where they’re supposed to be).
My prediction: Hawks: 23 Niners: 19
By Ryan Petitt
It’s week 16 and in case you weren’t paying attention, the Seahawks play a game tonight. The pragmatic Ryan will tell you this game is worth the same as every game. He would assure you, no matter the outcome, Seattle still controls their own destiny and with a Week 17 win are in the playoffs. He would caution that Russell Wilson’s meteoric rise has to logically descend back to earth; he’s a rookie after all. The pragmatic Ryan would even suggest that Seattle, the second youngest team in the NFL, is simply not ready yet.
Don’t worry, the emotionally insensible Ryan woke up this morning and slapped some sense into that asshole.
For the first time since 2005 and perhaps second time in franchise history, the Seahawks have an opportunity to garner national respect. A win against San Francisco on Sunday Night Football and Seattle will be mentioned along with Green Bay, Atlanta, Denver, New England and 49ers as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
But we’re Seattle fans and conditioned not to care what the national media thinks, right? Wrong. I care and I believe most fans do, too. What’s the simplest way to garner national respect? Win.
Win and the division title is still within reach (ok Ken Whisenhunt, now your mishandling of the quarterbacks is pissing me off!). Win and you’re guaranteed a post season game. Win and something special may happen.
This game may even matter more to Pete Carroll than Seahawk fans. When Carroll took the job, I immediately thought he would be motivated by the chance at football immortality. Carroll doesn’t want to be one-of-the greatest college coaches, he wants to be the greatest coach to ever walk the earth. His ego drives him and a chance at both national championships and Super Bowls is what puts him to sleep every night.
Unfortunately for Carroll, a cantankerous nemesis emerged and stands in the way of this goal. To be blunt, Jim Harbaugh has owned Carroll. Harbaugh is 3-0 against him in the NFL and was 2-1 while at Stanford. Also, Jim doesn’t like Pete – then again I don’t think Jim is capable liking anything. Harbaugh ran up the score against Pete in the infamous “what’s your deal,” game. Harbaugh screamed like a psycho after beating the Huskies simply because Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt were “those USC expletives” on Pete’s staff.
This game is personal. The Seahawks need to win so they can take the next step. Pete just needs to beat Harbaugh.
If the 49ers are actually better than the Seahawks it’s very close. Seattle and San Francisco have played nine common opponents and their stats against them are almost identical. In fact, as Seattle has heated up, their numbers against the past six common opponents outshine the 49ers. Seattle is 5-1 against teams with winning records (their loss was against the 49ers), San Francisco is 4-2. Seattle is playing their best football at the end of the season; the 49ers have been good all season.
Don’t forget how close the first game was on the road, when Russell was still growing into a star. The 13-6 loss in San Francisco was disappointing but certainly not insurmountable. Wilson and the Seahawks are playing historically good football and have been unbeatable at home (just ask Green Bay, New England and Dallas). Special teams cost Seattle in their last two meetings but the Hawks special teams are some of the best in the league right now.
The 49ers are going to be without Justin Smith, their best defensive lineman, and just had to play over 90 snaps on defense against the Patriots high octane offense last week. Colin Kaepernick is exciting, but he has no idea what is waiting for him at Century Link Field. Seattle understands they must stop Frank Gore and if they can slow down Kaepernick and the passing game, I think they can key on Gore and the running game.
Sunday Night will be a clash of football Titans. I respect the 49ers and understand a win won’t be easy for Seattle, but Pete and the Seahawks need this more. I think they will get it.