The San Francisco 49ers offense faces what will likely be its toughest test of the season on Sunday when they travel to play the Seattle Seahawks. They’ll face tough defenses when they play the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans (if they rebound from Week 1!), and others, but a road game in Seattle while the Seahawks are mostly healthy will be as tough as it gets.
The Seahawks took a huge downturn when Earl Thomas got hurt last year, but he’s back captaining that defense. There are a lot of strengths to the unit, but Thomas’ absence last year proved how important he is.
49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer met with the media and discussed preparing for the Seahawks. The 49ers run a “Seahawks-style” defense under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Both Saleh and Shanahan have made it clear this is their own version of the defense, but I have to think it offers some help in preparing for the Seahawks. Whether that’s enough to make this a competitive game remains to be seen, particularly after last week’s offensive struggles.
Given that you go against such a similar scheme, is there anything they can do Sunday that would be unexpected?
“I think we talked about this in the past, too. I think every coordinator even though they come from the same tree, whether it’s offense, defense, they put their own spin on it. What we do here obviously comes from the same tree, but it can be a little bit different. There’s definitely some techniques and certain things that can be similar. But, in the same sense, when you watch them on film there are some things that they do differently than our defense.”
You’ve never played them have you?
“I’ve never played against them. No.”
Ever been in Seattle up in that environment?
What are you expecting?
“I just expect what everybody says here who’s played there. It’s loud. Obviously it’s what it’s known for. The bigger task is their defense. Obviously, the crowd has a lot to do with it, but when you just line up and look at their defense and their scheme, it’s a tough thing to go against. That’s just a little thing we have to be able to handle. Handle the environment and still go out and execute and do our jobs.”
Is there any reason this week to sit down with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and ask him, ‘Hey on this situation what’s Seattle Seahawks S Earl Thomas taught?’
“I might try to if we have time. There’s so much, we’ve got to learn our game plan, what’s going in and then you watch the film of Seattle, what they do. Like I said, everyone has a little bit of a spin or twist they put on it. Maybe towards the end of the week maybe you get a few pointers from him. I don’t know. He was in Jacksonville for the past few years, too. Things change on a year-to-year basis. They always come from the same roots and just like a tree the branches go off in their own direction.”
Correcting the pre-snap issues, has that been something of major emphasis this week?
“Yeah. It’s always a major emphasis. You never want to hurt yourself. The holdings, the physical penalties, that’s going to happen. It’s the NFL. The stuff that happens pre-snap, you have to eliminate it because you never really get a chance to even do anything when you do that to yourself.”
Other aspects obviously along those lines, turnovers and third-down efficiency. When you’re going back against the Carolina film are you really digging into the third downs and seeing what was wrong?
“You get 24 hours, you watch it, make the corrections and you move on. Obviously, it’s always a thing that we stress is protect the ball. In the NFL you’ve got to be successful on third down to stay on the field. That goes with every week.”
Is that how you organize your week? Monday is review and then Tuesday--?
“Yeah. You’ve got to move on. You can’t let it linger. I think [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] kind of talks about being in that 24 hours, get in, get it corrected whether you win or lose. You can’t have a hangover from a win or a loss. I’ve had a lot of experience. You come in, whether you’ve won or lost, you see what you did well, see what you did poorly and correct it and then get back on to the next one. Literally even Sunday night I’m starting to watch Seattle stuff. That’s how quick the turnaround is. I think that’s kind of the philosophy you have to have.”
What jumps out about Seattle’s defense?
“There’s not a lot that doesn’t jump out. Earl Thomas back there, he’s a great free safety. Their front seven is loaded. I don’t know how else to put it. Obviously, they’ve got [Seattle Seahawks CB Richard] Sherman at the one corner. [Seattle Seahawks CB Jeremy] Lane at the other. And you’ve got [Seattle Seahawks S] Kam Chancellor at the strong safety. So, they have great players and they run a really good scheme and they play it really well. I don’t think I can complement them enough. I think it’s a great combination of scheme and players. They’ve been playing it for a long time and they play it really well.”
When you go through those 30 plays that coach puts together as a team and he said obviously everyone knows you’ve got to score more than three points and you can’t have penalties. But, really it’s the why that he tries to get across. What was the why this week when you’re gleaning whatever you can from that tape?
“I think it’s more about this week. Protecting the football. Not getting behind on down and distance. That’s when this defense will really get you. You get behind on these guys and you don’t even have to blitz anybody. Those four pass rushers can get after you without a blitz. For us, he kind of always lays it out, this is what it’s going to take to win. That’s more of what we’re focused on this week.”
There were a couple plays against Carolina where you turned for a handoff and the back was on the other side. What’s going on on those plays?
“It’s just a miscommunication. That kind of goes along with the pre-snap penalties that we’ve got to be able to cut that out. You just don’t give yourself a chance.”
Do you guys prepare any differently for noise this week?
“We’ll have the speakers going nonstop. It forces you to communicate. Obviously, you can’t replicate it. You’re not in a stadium. But, I know that we’ll have the noise blaring and just trying to work on that communication right now so hopefully it’s second nature when you get there on Sunday.”
What’s been your message to your offensive line? They had a pretty rough first game and they know they’re going up against a really difficult front-four, front-seven.
“No message in particular. You just keep playing. That’s the NFL. I still feel just as confident about them now as I did last week. It’s just a week-to-week thing. That’s the one thing about football, it’s a total team sport. Just because the line on one play, there was another play where someone else might’ve made a mistake and it just put us in the same situation. It’s just the way it goes. All 11 of us have to come together and execute on every single play. I think that’s the beauty and the bad thing about football is it takes all 11 guys but it can only take one guy to mess a play up. I think we all just have to be on it together on every single play.”