Colin Kaepernick Already Holds the Secret Keys to Unlocking the Seahawks Defense

Ty SchalterNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 16, 2014

Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr

Good morning, Mr. Kaepernick.

Over the last two seasons, your San Francisco 49ers have played the Seattle Seahawks four times. You've been outscored 94-48 overall, and 71-16 in Seattle.

Despite scoring 25.1 points per game over those two seasons, you've averaged just 12 points in those four games against the Seahawks. Now, after taking the NFC West title from you and beating the New Orleans Saints, they are one game away from the Super Bowl.

The only force on Earth that can stop them is you and your team.

Your mission, Colin, should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate CenturyLink Field and defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 19.

The Seahawks boast the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL, but they have a few key weaknesses. You and your team already have the tools necessary to penetrate their defenses, but it is up to you to use them correctly.


The Read-Option

The Seahawks have an elite cadre of pass-rushers on the edges of their defense. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons combined for 21 sacks in the regular season. Linebackers Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith added eight more.

When a defense comes off the edge as aggressively as the Seahawks do, you are exceptionally well-qualified to punish them with read-option runs, as you did on this second-quarter 2nd-and-10 in Week 2:

NFL Game Rewind

From the pistol set, your 49ers lined up with two receivers, a tight end, an offset fullback and a tailback. Though the offensive line was set to block down to the right, your fullback and tight end would release to the left.

At the snap, Bennett (highlighted in red) crashed hard down the line, too eager to hit the tailback before the TB could hit the hole:

NFL Game Rewind

You correctly read this and kept the ball for yourself. You and the fullback easily ran past Bennett, and with the FB's block on Wagner, you were sprung for a 12-yard gain and a first down:

NFL Game Rewind

Though extensive deployment of the read-option comes at great physical risk to you personally, the stakes of this game could not be higher. Without your open-field running, and its threat keeping the Seahawks defense honest, the 49ers' hope for a Super Bowl championship will be extinguished.


Inside Running

Of course, you will not be expected to defeat the Seahawks alone.

Your tailback, Frank Gore, may not be as explosive as his Seahawks counterpart, Marshawn Lynch, but the interior of the Seahawks defensive line is vulnerable to his powerful, straight-ahead style.

Recall this 2nd-and-6 in the third quarter of Week 14:

NFL Game Rewind

The Seahawks were in their base 4-3, and your 49ers lined up with three receivers and one tight end, Vance McDonald, lined up between the right guard and right tackle. This is all but announcing a run behind McDonald, and the aggressive Seahawks linebackers are up close to the line to stop it:

NFL Game Rewind

At the snap, the right guard and tackle double-team defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, and tight end Vance McDonald took on end Chris Clemons. Left guard Adam Snyder pulled, bringing yet another body to bear at the point of attack.

Once the quick double-team pushed McDonald well back, the right tackle released to the second level, taking out Wagner.

Gore now had a wall of blockers in front of him and burst through it for a gain of 15 yards.

NFL Game Rewind

Gore won't always be able to capture yards in chunks, but he's an invaluable weapon who should be utilized early and often against the Seahawks defense. He does most of his damage late in the game, so take care not to abandon the run.


Vertical Stretching

In Week 2, you were at a severe disadvantage: Your top vertical threat, receiver Michael Crabtree, was unavailable.

This allowed the big, physical, playmaking Seahawks secondary to clamp down on the top remaining receiver, Anquan Boldin, and stop dangerous tight end Vernon Davis from breaking the defense down the seam.

Now that Crabtree has supplanted Boldin as your top receiver, and Boldin is currently your second receiver, the Seahawks defense can be stretched vertically with high-low route combinations. 

Please recall this second-quarter 1st-and-10 from the Week 14 matchup:

NFL Game Rewind

Note the Seahawks' common single-high set in their base 4-3. Here, the safety is attacked with Davis running a deep corner route, which pulled the safety toward the sideline when he made his break. Then, Boldin cut in beneath the safety, and tailback Gore released into the flat:

NFL Game Rewind

This created a clear three-level combination that stretched the Seahawks coverage schemes to the breaking point, and it resulted in an easy 20-yard pitch-and-catch for Kaepernick and Boldin.

With Crabtree, Davis and Boldin on the field together, you should be able to put immense pressure on the Seahawks safeties and outside linebackers to cover all three.



Mr. Kaepernick, you already hold the keys to the Seahawks' undoing in your hands.

Were it not for a few stray errors, a couple of hiccups, the Week 2 game might have ended differently. There was a pass deflected out of the end zone and into the arms of a defender. There were a few ill-timed (and ill-located) false-start penalties. A few critical passes were dropped. One deep pass of yours was floated a little too high and a little too short.

Though the final score said 29-3, you and your 49ers were down only 5-0 at halftime. You had every opportunity to win the game and didn't. This time, your execution must be picture-perfect, your wits and reactions razor-sharp. You must run with speed and power, and throw with a sniper's accuracy.

In five seconds, this message will self-destruct. If you want to win a Super Bowl, you'd better not do the same.