Last week we did a breakdown of matchups with Revenge of the Birds. Unfortunately, Field Gulls is a bit busy this week so we won't be able to compare our thoughts. I still like the idea of comparing matchups, so I'm going to go ahead with it on my own. Due to injuries things have changed, but there are still plenty of significant matchups to consider.
Match-Up #1: Seahawks pass rush vs. 49ers pass protection
Advantage: Seahawks (slightly) - I used the phrase pass protection because this includes running backs stepping up to block. The Seahawks linebacking trio of Julian Peterson, Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill are quite impressive. While they are solid dropping into coverage, Peterson and Tatupu are bad-ass pass rushers as well. Patrick Kerney is tough enough on the line, but the Seahawks will also welcome back Rocky Bernard, the man who began the injury saga of Alex Smith. If the 49ers aren't careful, one of those guys could very well take JTO's head off and think nothing of it.
After a strong preseason, the 49ers offensive line struggled a bit against the Cardinals. JTO was sacked 4 times and the pocket collapsed several other times. If they perform the same way this week in pass protection, it could be an ugly day. It will be important to establish the running game, but if the offensive line isn't stopping the speed rush, it won't matter all that much.
Match-Up #2: Seahawks secondary vs. 49ers receivers
Advantage: Even - The Seahawks bring a solid secondary in Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings. Nickel back Jordan Babineaux returns after a one-game suspension, which definitely gives them more depth. The 49ers wide receivers were not exactly spectacular last week, but the talent is definitely there to make plays. While Isaac Bruce was blanketed last week, Bryant Johnson was able to get open a few times to make some solid gains. Throw in Arnaz Battle not getting a reception until the second half and you'd think the wide receivers were completely useless.
However, I remain convinced that the 49ers have enough weapons to make plays against this secondary. Vernon Davis is getting a chance to line up wide, which adds a potent weapon. There were a couple of 3rd and shorts last week where I wished they ran a wide receiver screen with him. On this quick plays, he's a virtual guarantee of 3 or 4 yards simply because of his size.
I leave this as an even matchup because the potential is there for both units to be rather solid. Either side could have a big day and it wouldn't surprise me.
Match-Up #3: Seahawks Running Game vs. 49ers rush defense
Advantage: 49ers - I think I've made it very clear my thoughts on the Seahawks running game. It's not very good. Now, Maurice Morris will be out and Justin Forsett was released, leaving a running back duo of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett. Combining two guys have been relative underachievers for their careers does not create one good running back that will overachieve (I used to be an accountant, I know how this math will work out).
We'll discuss the Seahawks passing game more tomorrow, but with a relative weak passing attack, it puts more of an onus on the running game, which I don't think they can reach. The 49ers linebacking corp provides solid backdoor protection to the defensive line. The 49ers linebackers have a lot of speed which should be sufficient to cut off the outside running lanes. The primary weakness of the 49ers defense is Aubrayo Franklin. If he gets shoved around it opens up holes in the middle of the field. Fortunately tackling machine Patrick Willis and a combination of Takeo Spikes and Jeff Ulbrich can back him up there. The 49ers held the Cardinals to 2.8 yards per carry, primarily because they were busy being shredded through the air. The Seahawks might average more than 2.8 yards per carry but I'd be surprised if they successfully mounted much of an attack. The league average is 4.0 (which they reached last week) and I don't see anything better than that.
We'll have some more matchups tomorrow....