A review of the Seattle Seahawks game last week against the San Francisco 49ers didn't reveal a blowout, as the final 31-6 score would indicate, but a game where the Seahawks took advantage of multiple 49er missed opportunities and mistakes.
Even though the Seahawks were outplayed in the first half, they used the momentum given to them by San Francisco to fire up the home crowd and lead to a convincing win.
The 49ers contributed to their own demise by not closing on important drives in the red-zone and costly turnovers deep in their own territory.
San Fransicso's offense in the first half was efficient and consistent until they got inside the 10-yard line and had three drives stall there resulting in the following:
- A field goal after having first and goal at the eight-yard line following an interception on the games first play. An apparent touchdown was nullified on a coach’s challenge on first down, and a conservative run up the middle and short pass in the flat resulted in the drive dying on the five.
- A turnover on downs after going for it on fourth-and-inches on the Seattle six when quarterback Alex Smith missed an open fullback on a short pass in the flat that would have been a touchdown.
- A field goal after a fourth-and-goal play at the one yard line was stopped due to a delay-of-game penalty and backed the 49ers to the six. The 49ers had already burned their three timeouts and were forced to kick a field goal instead.
The end result of three drives inside the Seahawks give yard line was a meager 6 points.
The Seahawks did manage a decent drive after the second 49ers field goal and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck took advantage of an aggressive secondary that was jumping the outside routes the Seattle wide receivers were running.
After a defensive holding penalty on third down kept the drive alive, Hasselbeck found wide receiver Mike Williams down the right side for a 35-yard gain to the one.
Williams executed a classic double move on the outside defender as the corner-back tried to jump the route and was burned for the long gain. Hasselbeck then scrambled in from the one and Seattle took a 7-6 lead.
Late in the second quarter, with the score still 7-6 for the Seahawks, a Smith pass to wide-out Michael Crabtree bounced off the receiver’s hands and into the waiting arms of Jordan Babineaux, who returned it to the San Francisco thirteen yard line.
Crabtree rubber-necked on the ball looking down-field to where he was going to run before securing the ball and it bounced off his hands right into the defenders arms.
Hasselbeck then hit on a nice pass to Deion Butler for a touchdown after Butler ran another a double move on the outside against an over-aggressive secondary and gave Seattle a 14-6 lead at halftime.
On the opening drive of the second half, Smith’s pass was intercepted at the 49er 22-yard line and returned for a touchdown by Marcus Trufant and a 21-6 lead.
The blame for the interception appeared to be on the receiver, Crabtree, who ran to the wrong spot on the route and the result was an easy interception.
Crabtree didn’t play at all in the preseason and his timing with Smith was clearly off on this and several plays in the game. No matter whose fault it was, the interception was an easy one and a 21-6 Seahawks advantage.
The Seahawks scored once again early in the third quarter Hasselbeck lead the offense 60-yards down short field against a demoralized 49er defense for the easiest score of the afternoon.
The 49ers only scored six points in the first half despite having the ball inside the Seahawks five-yard line three times.
Two costly interceptions inside the 49er 22-yard line lead to two Seattle touchdowns that were both the result of sloppy wide receiver play and less-than-stellar coverage.
An over-aggressive 49er secondary was burned repeatedly on double-move routes by the Seattle wide receivers and made the two Seahawk touchdown drives that didn't involve a turnover a lot easier than they should have been.
The Seahawks did play good run defense, and their 4-3 succeeded at keeping Frank Gore from going wild, but when the game was still competitive in the first half, Gore still got his yards and the 49ers moved the ball with success.
The 49er offense ran the ball but stayed very conservative in the pass game with a mix of dink-and-dunk throws that worked to the Seahawks strength.
The Denver Broncos will have their hands full with Seattle today, but unlike the 49ers, they have a legitimate deep passing game to take advantage of a Seahawks secondary that left a lot of receivers open. The keys to the game for the Broncos are:
- Patience in pass coverage. Hasselbeck is good enough to get his completions, and has decent talent at receiver and out of the backfield to move the ball at times.
The secondary and linebackers have to keep the Seattle players in front of them though and not gamble trying to make something happen.
- Set the tone on defense early and keep the Seahawks running backs inside. Justin Forsett, Leon Washington, and Julius Jones are not inside runners and will wear down as the game goes on, but are very dangerous outside and when they get the ball on screen passes.
- Tough run defense at the point of attack and putting pressure on Hasselbeck. Ben Hamilton and Tyler Polumbus are starting on the Seahawks offensive line. Enough said. Hasselbeck is smart enough to get the ball out quickly, so the goal is not just sacks, but also quarterback hits and constant pressure.
- Take advantage of scoring opportunities in the red-zone. The Broncos must make sure they come away with at least a 70-30 ratio of touchdowns to field goals and make the Seahawks play from behind. This is especially important as this is the opening home game for the Broncos and they need the crowd behind them the whole way.
- Throw the ball well in the medium to intermediate routes.
The long ball can play a part, but in a 4-3 defense the Seahawks are particularly susceptible to intermediate and deep patterns. They remained in the 4-3 even on obvious passing situations last week, and Kyle Orton and his receivers should be able to exploit the coverage down field.
The real value is not underneath, where the Seahawks linebackers have the speed to keep gains at a minimum, but on routes deeper than 10-yards over the middle, in the seams and on the outside.
- Pass protect well and give Orton at least four seconds to throw the ball. The Seahawks pass rush is very good, and from the 4-3 they come with enough blitzes that putting pressure on the quarterback is not going to be difficult against a patchwork Broncos offensive line.
The offensive line needs to give Orton at least four seconds so the receivers can get down field into the deeper patterns. Orton must also get rid of the ball, throwing it away if necessary, and avoid the sacks like he had last week against Jacksonville when he held the ball too long.
- Run the ball well enough to be a threat. The Seahawks defense is good against the run and the linebackers are fast and won’t allow anything cheap, especially on the outside. The Broncos need to punch it up in there often enough to be a threat and to pick up short yardage when necessary.
- Eliminate turnovers, especially in their own territory. This can be said of any game, but was certainly the downfall of the 49ers in their game last week.
- Play solid coverage on special teams. Denver must not allow significant return yards on both punts and kick-offs as the Seahawks have some good return men and can break a long one on any play.
The Seattle Seahawks are not a potent offensive team and the Broncos should be able to exploit their weaknesses sufficiently for a win today. The 31-6 score in last weeks Seahawks win was a result of an easy 14 points off of turnovers and an anemic 49ers offense that couldn’t close when they got in the red-zone.
The Broncos will solve those issues today and will come away with a 27-17 win.