49ers Week 1: Seattle Seahawks—Know Your Enemy
In 2009, the 49ers played Seattle twice. The two games played out very differently.
In the first go around, San Francisco beat up on Seattle. Frank Gore broke off two huge touchdown runs, compiling over 200 yards on 16 carries. Matt Hasselbeck received a severe wallop courtesy of Patrick Willis, and left the game. The red and gold rolled to victory 23-10.
The second game did not go as well.
The 49ers again found themselves in the midst of yet another identity crisis, and it cost them. Dabbling in spread offense, Gore carried the ball only 9 times for a mere 25 yards. Although he did tack on five more catches for 37 yards, it was not the way to beat Seattle. The Seahawks squeaked out a last-second field goal to beat the 49ers 20-17.
Say what you want about the Seahawks, but they're a division rival who will fight the 49ers beak and talon to win. Respect the enemy for the fire they bring, and watch them be extinguished.
Here's a little preview of the 49ers first regular season foe.
Head Coach—Pete Carroll
Truth be told, I don't like Pete Carroll. Heck, I have a hard time respecting him in the wake of the USC scandal, the man does know a thing or two about football.
Sure it's his first year with Seattle, and they're overhauling just about every aspect of their team, but don't expect Pete to aim anywhere but high. Lofty standards fueled much of USC's success during Carroll's reign there, and I'm sure he falls asleep with visions of playoffs dancing in his head.
Make no mistake, he will motivate Seattle to come out and hit the 49ers right back in the mouth. Game freaking on!
Passing—Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst
A twelve-year quarterback, Hasselbeck is a wily vet who can do damage with his arm. He has the smarts and charisma to rally his offense when needed and takes calculated risks to move the ball and score.
With a reputation for being one of the league's tougher quarterbacks, he'll dive for yards more often than slide. This is where Whitehurst may come in. 34-year-old should still remember the bump Willis gave him last year, but if he doesn't, expect history to repeat it's self.
Poor Matt could be out a while if he gets hit by that train again, which would leave the young Mr. Whitehurst some playing time to show the league what he's got.
Rushing—Justin Forsett, Julius Jones, Leon Washington
At 5'8 and roughly 200 pounds, Forsett isn't going to punish linebackers and safeties. The little fellow is much more of a skill back and a hard target to hit. Between his elusiveness and his speed, it's will be paramount that the 49ers execute their tackling correctly and competently.
Julius Jones is a little bigger at 5'10 and 208 pounds. Although he doesn't have buttery smooth moves, he did rack up over 1,000 yards in 2006 (with Dallas.) Although he won't be the focus of the 49ers defense, he's not to be forgotten about.
Leon Washington is the third back to be wary of. Another little guy with good moves and hands, lookout for Washington on kick returns and third downs.
Strategy: hit 'em good, hit 'em hard!
Receiving—Mike Williams, Deion Branch, Golden Tate
Now Mike Williams is big. How big is big? Try 6'5, 235, with 4 years of NFL experience. The Faithful should actually be a bit worried about this fellow, as jump-ball receivers have been able to damage the 49ers secondary in the past. How many guys does it take to bring this beast down? Sure his career numbers are kind of wimpy, but as a USC alum I think Pete Carroll has plans for him.
Deion Branch may be dwarfed physically by the giant Williams, but his career speaks loudly for itself. Sure he's been slowed by injury in recent years, but can you really knock a receiver who has been a Super Bowl MVP?
And then there's the curious case of rookie Golden Tate. Sensational rookie phenomenons pop up and fizzle out all the time, but Tate looked pro-ready at Notre Dame. If he makes the quick transition to the NFL, he'll be another weapon the corners will need to keep an eye on.
A notable absence is seen where T.J. Houshmandzadeh used to be.
Proposed strategy: don't let give Hasselbeck any time to get the ball out.
More Receiving—John Carlson
Yes, there's another big man that the defense needs to keep tabs on this weekend. Add 6'5 and 250 pounds to 12 touchdowns in two years and you have a little cause for concern.
For perspective, think about Vernon Davis. Our "elite" tight end had only nine touchdowns in his first three years before breaking out for 13 last season. This Carlson kid is legit.
Strategy: do not forget about him, especially in the red zone.
Blocking—Revamped With Russell Okung?
The average weight on Seattle's line is a mere 306.4 pounds. This used to be huge, especially for the west-coast 49ers offense of decades past. In the modern NFL, however, it's a bit on the small side.
Like the 49ers, the Seahawks had two first-round picks. Also like the 49ers, they used their first pick (but not both) on a lineman.
Sixth overall pick Russell Okung will be plugged directly into the Seattle line at left tackle to protect Matt Hasselbeck's blindside.
Okung shows a lot of promise, but lets see how he does against Justin Smith and the 49ers line backing corp of pass rushers.
Strategy: blitz, baby, blitz!!! Open season on Hassellbeck.
Update: Okung is out. Fanhouse.com (and many BR readers who've had too much coffee) reports: LT Russell Okung (sprained ankle), who will miss this week, maybe next week and maybe more. The Seahawks would like to believe he'll be back next week.
Don't bust balls.
Defense—Youth and Energy
There's no real juggernauts on their defense. There's some good beef in the heart of their 4-3 defense, and an all-around kind of attack should be expected.
In the secondary, rookie first-round free safety Earl Thomas will be apprenticing the 15-year veteran strong safety Lawyer Milloy.
Much of this seems to mean a defense that is finding it's own identity.
Also, look at the Seattle line enough and you just might see an old face in a new uniform. Good afternoon Mr. Kentwan Balmer.
Strategy: run hard, and directly at them.
It's loud, it's hostile, and it sucks to be backed up against your own end zone. What more do you need to know?
This is it. The season kickoff against a reasonably tough rival on the road in a hostile and loud stadium. It's not the Super Bowl, but it sure isn't pre-season either. Give the respect, but don't give them an inch.