All right, the preseason is over. Now it’s time to play for the division lead.
Seattle’s offense struggled to run the ball against St. Louis. The Hawks did break one big run, Julius Jones’ 62-yard touchdown burst. But without that play, they ran for just 105 yards on 33 carries (a 3.2 average).
They’ll probably have an even tougher time running against the 49ers, who held Arizona to 40 yards rushing. That means Matt Hasselbeck can’t come out tight like he did in the opener, when he forced a lot of passes and threw two first-quarter interceptions. He can be excused, considering he hadn’t played since Thanksgiving and because he rebounded to throw three touchdown passes.
He’ll need to be that sharp against the 49ers. History says he will be: In his past 10 games against the 49ers, he is 8-2, with 18 TD passes.
The 49ers will try to get Frank Gore going against the Hawks. He typically eats them up, having averaged over 145 scrimmage yards in six games. He scored two touchdowns last week, but he had a horrible game running the ball – just 30 yards on 22 carries.
That doesn’t bode well against a Seattle defense that shut out the Rams. No, the Seahawks won’t have linebacker Leroy Hill, and Lofa Tatupu is hobbled by a hamstring. But Aaron Curry is one hard-charging, aggressive dude. He’s so aggressive he reportedly got fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness against St. Louis rookie right tackle Jason Smith last week.
The Seahawks will surely focus on stopping Gore, considering the 49ers’ passing game is not that potent. One guy they do need to watch, though, is Isaac Bruce. He killed them in the 49ers’ 33-30 overtime win early last season, catching four passes for 153 yards.
The Seahawks have won nine of the past 12 against the 49ers and have done quite well in San Francisco, including a 34-13 win last October in Mike Singletary’s first game as interim coach.
It might not be easy, but Hasselbeck & Co. should be able to handle the 49ers and take a nice early lead in the NFC West race.
Three & out: Q&A
Three quick questions as the Hawks enter Week 2:
Q: Will we see more of Seneca Wallace on offense with Hasselbeck?
A: Absolutely. The double-pass trick play that resulted in Wallace running for 24 yards against the Rams showed the kind of impact everyone knew Wallace could make for this team. Mike Holmgren always talked about using him that way, but he was far too conservative to do it.
“It’s a great weapon,” Wallace told Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com. “Any time you’ve got two guys who play quarterback and you can get them on the field at the same time, it’s going to cause the defense to be on their toes, because you can do so many things out of that personnel. It can be dangerous.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said we will see more of Wallace.
“There will be a variety of stuff we do,” he said. “That’s just the start of it.”
Q: Will Walter Jones play this week? And if he does, what happens to Sean Locklear?
A: Mora said Walter would play when he tells Mora he’s ready, but you have to think Mora will be cautious and let Jones sit another game.
“We’ve got to make the right decision there with Walt,” Mora told reporters. “We can’t be greedy.”
Once Jones does return, Mora said earlier this week he doesn’t know what they will do on the line, but he called it “a good problem to have.”
The best solution would be to rotate Locklear with Jones for the first game or two, allowing Jones to ease back in. After that, Locklear could swing from left to right tackle, rotating with Jones and/or Ray Willis just as the Hawks rotate D-linemen and running backs.
Locklear needs to play somewhere, and he’s best suited to tackle. If he moves back to right tackle, Willis probably would become the top backup at right tackle and guard, behind rookie Max Unger.
Q: Are the Seahawks already banged up at receiver again?
A: No. As discussed last week, Deion Branch will never be completely healthy for the Seahawks. The only reason he is on the team is because he makes plays when he is on the field and the Hawks would not have saved much against the salary cap by just cutting him (of course, they could have just told him to reduce his $5 million salary).
T.J. Houshmandzadeh is fine. He missed two days of practice with back spasms, but he said he was ready to go Thursday and the coaches told him to sit out one more day.
The former Cincinnati Bengal told reporters he had to get used to the idea that the team actually wanted to rest him as a precaution, because in Cincinnati he apparently was used to the opposite: being told to practice even when he didn’t feel like he could.
In the wake of last year’s Red Cross disaster, the Seahawks obviously are going to be cautious with any injured player this year. That explains why Marcus Trufant (back) is on the PUP, why Deion Branch (hamstring) is being brought along slowly, and why Jones (knee) probably won’t play this week.
**Singletary’s Niners have won five of their last six games, and QB Shaun Hill is 8-3 as the starter.
**Patrick Kerney likes playing the 49ers. He has had a sack in all four games he has played for Seattle against San Francisco.
**Josh Wilson had a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown last October. He got off to a strong start against the Rams, and it won’t be surprising to see him have another good game in San Francisco.
**On the other side, Nate Clements has played well against Seattle. In the past four games, he has two interceptions and a forced fumble. He also picked off a pass last week, so Hasselbeck will need to keep track of Clements.
**Jon Ryan’s excellent punting carried over from the preseason as he averaged 53.2 yards on five kicks, good for fourth in the league after one game.
**Julius Jones knows how to find the end zone against the 49ers; he has three touchdowns in three games against them.
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