Normally I'd get to this sort of issue when the injury reports come along, but I think this is sufficiently big enough to discuss now. Seahawks WR Nate Burleson is out for the season.
Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are both out for the foreseeable future, leaving Seattle with a wide receiver corp consisting Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne. I'd imagine they'll sign somebody in the coming days, but that passing game is in a world of hurt. This is definitely a bit different than facing the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
EDITOR'S NOTE 3:30PM - I forgot that Seneca Wallace played some WR the last few years for them. Not a big addition, but certainly another option.
During his midday press conference today, Mike Nolan was asked about giving up the short stuff in order to prevent the long ball:
No. It wasn’t until the second half where they were able to. Now, obviously, they are a big play offense. They make big plays, and that’s one of their m.o’s. I thought that the secondary did a good job on [Larry] Fitzgerald. But that was not our goal – to give them anything underneath. We typically play a lot of man[-to-man defense] so it’s very tight coverage. There are certain situations they created some formations that they’ve done in the past as well. But we didn’t execute as well underneath the second half to get off the field. Some of those third downs for example were a case of that.”
First, it's entirely possible one of the three guys mentioned above becomes a big play threat this weekend. It's entirely possible Hasselbeck just shreads the secondary. I'm not betting on it, but anything is possible.
However, the 49ers should show very little respect for the pass to start the game. Hasselbeck is a very solid QB, but if he doesn't have legit receivers out there, why not stuff the box against the run? Does the combination of Seattle's receivers and the trio of Clements/Harris/Spencer inspire confidence that straight man-to-man coverage is sufficient? This could open up increased blitzing and increased protection against the run.
The Seahawks did get a decent performance from TE John Carlson. If you're looking for a tight end in fantasy football, he might be a guy worth having until Branch and Engram return. Until the Seahawks receivers show they can make plays I'd expect to see a lot of passes to the tight end.
While there Seattle running backs are certainly decent, they do not inspire fear. They managed 4 yards a carry (much better than Arizona's 2.8) against the Bills so they can certainly gain some ground. If the 49ers don't worry about the big play they could provide solid depth in the defensive secondary to prevent large gains.
So am I getting ahead of myself? The Seahawks have a solid defense so I'm not going to say this is anything remotely resembling an easy win. The 49ers will have to play a great game to win. However, I believe the game plan has been somewhat altered with this injury. Mid-game adjustments are certainly a possibility, but why not be a little more aggressive early on?
EDITOR'S UPDATE 5:00PM - Apparently Maurice Morris is also out for this weekend with a sprained knee. TJ Duckett will get more carries and I'd imagine former Cal Bear Justin Forsett will be active for the first time. He had a great preseason, so we'll see what kinds of touches he gets on Sunday. I've never been a huge Morris fan, but we'll see who brings the backup for Julius Jones...