Seahawks vs. 49ers: 3 Key Matchups to Watch for Seattle

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterOctober 18, 2012

Paul Sakuma/AP
Paul Sakuma/AP

5-2; that sure does have a nice ring to it. The Seattle Seahawks haven't seen that mark since 2005. Mike Holmgren was the head coach, Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and Matt Hasselbeck threw for 24 touchdowns. Those were truly the days—if history is bound to repeat itself, Pete Carroll's club needs to answer the call on Thursday Night Football.

Coach Carroll's club is coming off arguably the best performance of his three-year tenure. Other than the playoff game against New Orleans, there has been no bigger win. Yet, the personal implications of last Sunday's game probably had the biggest personal impact on PC. A win over his former boss and the man who replaced him had to make him feel pretty special.

This week will provide another rivalry game for the Seahawks' head coach. But this week's game is a different type of rivalry. It stems back to the coaching ranks of both Carroll and Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh currently has the edge, 2-0, in their two meetings.

With that, let's take a look at the three biggest non-coaching matchups for the 'Hawks.


Seattle's Run Defense vs. 49ers' Backfield

Everyone knows San Francisco's offense is on top of its game when they have the running game cranked up. Outside of two particular games, Greg Roman's rushing attack has been top-notch. They already have one 200-yard plus game and another 300-yard performance under their belt.

Not to mention the fact they are averaging 176.8 yards per game through the first six weeks of the season. Despite falling flat on their face in Week 6, Pro Football Focus still has the 49ers offensive line as the most effective run-blocking unit in the NFL. Based on PFF's grading system, San Fran has graded out at a plus-58.8. That's 38.7 points higher than the next closest team.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they are in for a rude awakening. Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Bobby Wagner will all provide a warm welcome to San Francisco's backfield. If they think the Vikings and Giants were a challenge, they haven't seen anything yet. 

The Seahawks are averaging a measly 70 yards per game against the run. And to make matters worse for the Niners, Seattle is only surrendering 3.3 yards per carry. That is the second-lowest rate in the NFL—only Tampa Bay's average is lower.

If Seattle can stuff the run early on, the control of the game will shift in its favor. When Coach Harbaugh's team gets behind, they have shown they will abandon the run early. Surprising considering his old-school offensive approach. By thinking back to the Vikings and Giants games, you could make a case and say they could have gotten back into the game by running the football.

Alex Smith is not who you want at quarterback when playing from behind. With the way Gus Bradley's opportunistic secondary has been playing, Smith might have an even worse game than he did last week if they fall behind. New York's secondary has a couple of strong pieces, but they don't compare to the "Legion of Boom."


Russell Wilson vs. San Francisco's Secondary

From week-to-week we all know what Marshawn Lynch brings in the run game. However, we don't know what to expect from the passing game weekly. Russell Wilson's best game as a pro against New England was a step in the right direction, but can his high level of play become consistent?

That's essentially the million dollar question. Wilson's 8-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio doesn't blow you away, but his statistics when given adequate time are phenomenal. With a clean pocket, the rookie is 72-of-101 for 861 yards and six touchdowns—his quarterback rating is an incredible 100.3. 

The only thing he needs to learn to eliminate is the interceptions. Most quarterbacks throw INTs under duress. Not Wilson; four of his six picks have come when there was no pressure around him. A lot of the throws are rookie mistakes, and he will only learn with more playing time and game experience.

However, in order to be successful, Wilson not only has to perform. He has to have the ability to rely on his wide receivers as well. I was harsh and critical of the wideouts early in the season. They were having trouble getting separation and dropping their fair share of catchable passes. Aside from penalties, there's nothing worse than a drop.

But as of late, both Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have stepped up their level of play. Rice has seen five or more targets in his last three games, and he had his best game of the season against the Pats. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass with under two minutes to go. His 81 yards were a season high as well.

Rice and Tate will have to keep up the impressive performances if they want to beat Carlos Rogers and the 49ers secondary. It won't be easy, yet No. 3 doesn't look for anyone more often than those two. So, it's up to them if they want to succeed in the passing game.


Breno Giacomini vs. Ahmad Brooks

When looking over both rosters, I didn't find myself getting too worked up about this matchup. But as time went on I started thinking about how Ahmad Brooks has done a complete 180 from last season, just like Giacomini has.

Brooks is on pace for a career year in every statistical category, and Giacomini is in one of the worst funks of his young career. At the end of last season his play looked promising and sound, yet he is playing some of the worst right tackle play I've seen in a long time.

He has given up 13 quarterback pressures in pass protection and his eight penalties are the highest mark of any offensive tackle. Out of the six games Seattle has played, Giacomini has been penalized in five of those games. In two of the six games, he has been a repeat offender. And if he gets flagged this week, it will make it the fourth consecutive week it has happened.

Given the fact Brooks has totally turned his game around, especially rushing the passer, I have a feeling we may see a couple more penalties from No. 68. Brooks currently has three quarterback sacks, six quarterback hits and 12 hurries. Last year he didn't record those same kinds of numbers until after Week 8.

Right now, PFF has him as the third-best outside linebacker in all of football. Only Clay Matthews and and Justin Houston are above him in terms of overall grade. This may not be the sexiest matchup on paper, but it may prove to have a substantial impact on the outcome of the game.