Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers: Breaking Down Seattle's Game Plan

Keith Myers@@myersNFLContributor ISeptember 12, 2013

Sep 8, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) reacts in the first quarter. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 12-7 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks Seahawks take on the San Francisco 49ers in a Sunday night prime-time rivalry matchup.

Pete Carroll likes to remind everyone that "It's not how you start, it's how you finish," yet both teams enter this game 1-0 after winning their openers last Sunday.

The all-time series between these two teams is tied at 14 with each team winning at home last season. The Seahawks are 9-1 in home openers since 2003. 

A representative from Guinness will also be on hand as the 12th Man will attempt the break the world record for the loudest fans. 

The Competitive Edge


With Russell Wilson in Seattle and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, this team is a showcase for two of the league's top young passers. 


Both teams failed to get their running games going in Week 1, but that had little to do with the talent at running back. Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore are both Pro Bowl backs, and there's plenty of depth behind each of them.

Wide Receivers

This is an obvious edge for Seattle, a team that has a great deal of talent at the position even with Harvin on the PUP list. The 49ers have Anquan Boldin and not much else. 

Tight Ends

San Francisco's Vernon Davis is the better pass-catcher, but Seattle's Zach Miller is the better blocker. At this point it's fairly even, though that might change as the young players on both teams continue to develop.

Offensive Line

This is an obvious edge for the 49ers. Seattle's offensive line struggled in Week 1, and for much of last season as well. The 49ers, on the other hand, have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.

Defensive Front Seven

This is another advantage for the 49ers, especially with all of the Seahawks who are currently injured or suspended. 

Defensive Backs

The Seahawks have a significant edge in the defensive backfield. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner are all Pro Bowlers, and Richard Sherman was first-team All-Pro at cornerback a year ago. 

Special Teams

This is another area where the Seahawks have the advantage.

The Seahawks specials were rated among the best in the league in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), while San Francisco's special teams were among the worst. 

Seahawks Offense vs. 49ers Defense

The Seattle offense will be facing a similar defense situation to what it faced last week in Carolina. The 49ers have a very good front seven but are suspect along their back line. In that way, the Seahawks will face the same challenges and advantages they did a week ago.

The Seahawks have to find a way to establish Marshawn Lynch and the running attack earlier than they did against Carolina.

Pete Carroll said that he and the coaches were at fault for the problems in the running game in Week 1. Apparently the Seahawks went away from their own strengths in an effort to take advantage of Carolina's scheme. It didn't work, and Pete Carroll vowed not to let that happen again.

Many fans might think he was referring to the read-option, but that isn't the case. The Seahawks actually ran the read-option seven times against Carolina, which is a typical amount compared to least season. 

What Carroll was almost certainly referring to was the outside zone, also known as the zone stretch. The outside zone is a staple play for any team that uses the zone-blocking scheme. The Seahawks only appeared to run it twice in Week 1. (It can be difficult to tell, since failed blocking assignments make charting this difficult.)

Alex Gibbs used to say that teams needed to spend 70 percent of their scripted runs in practice on the outside zone in order to execute it properly. If a team is spending that much time in practice on one play and not using it in games, that would create a problem. 

The Seahawks will undoubtedly get back to to their identity in this matchup with the 49ers, and that will definitely include more use of the outside zone. 

Seahawks Defense vs. 49ers Offense

The Seahawks are likely to get two of their four missing starters back on defense for this game. Cliff Avril and Brandon Browner are both likely to play on Sunday, which would be a boost for Seattle in this game. There is also a report from ESPN that Chris Clemons might play, but given his lack of practice time thus far, it remains unlikely. 

Boldin is a uniquely talented wide receiver, but he doesn't match up well against Seattle's big cornerbacks. The size and strength advantage Boldin has against most cornerbacks won't be available this Sunday against the Seahawks.

The difficulty for the Seahawks will be in trying to stop the 49ers rushing attack. The Seahawks gave up 5.2 yards per carry against the Panthers in Week 1, and Gore has had success against Seattle's defense in the past. The key for Seattle will be finding a way to stop Gore without also opening themselves up to big gains on play action.


The Seahawks finally added a third tight end, signing veteran Kellen Davis and releasing linebacker Allen Bradford, according to Tony Drovetto of the team's website.

Davis is a solid blocker but isn't much of a threat in the passing game. In 2012, Pro Football Focus rated Davis's performance as a blocker as a plus-1.3. His performance when running routes was rated at minus-10.9. In five season, all with Chicago, Davis has caught just 47 passes. 

Against Carolina, the Seahawks lined up backup offensive tackle Mike Person at tight end for three plays, and he struggled. Davis is likely to take those snaps once the coaches believe he's ready. 

Game Stats and Facts

The 49ers scored 13 points in each of the two games against the Seahawks in 2012. They averaged 26.5 points per game in their other games. 

For two players who are considered "running QBs," Wilson and Kaepernick sure did a lot of passing in Week 1. They combined for 732 yards, and both of them has a passer rating over 115. 

When passing on third down, both QBs were 6-of-11 in throwing for first downs last week. 

Boldin and Vernon Davis accounted for 306 of Kaepernick's 412 passing yards in Week 1. 

Eight different Seahawks caught passes in Week 1. Just five 49ers did so. 

The last time that Gore was held to few yards than the 44 he had in Week 1 was last year against the Seahawks, when Seattle held him to just 28. 


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