The 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings in a playoff-like atmosphere Sunday and are on to Week 13. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan is preparing the team for back-to-back road games, and the Seattle Seahawks are up first.
Shanahan talked to the media Wednesday and stressed that you could not underestimate Seattle despite their offensive struggles.
What do you make of the Seahawks' struggles offensively? It’s a team that you’ve played a lot of games with, but it looks like a very different version of them right now.
“I know it’s a matter of time with them, they’ve done it before. They’ve got a lot of good players there, some competitive guys. I know their coaching staff too is a good coaching staff. People go through it, especially when your quarterback misses some time. You have different guys in there, it takes a while to get that continuity. But even though they struggled on Monday night, just like typical Seattle fashion, you saw how they almost won the game too. It took stopping the two-point conversion, having an illegal formation on the onside kick, so it really doesn’t matter how they’ve been, you know it’s always going to come down to the wire.”
San Francisco is facing another team that is not playing up to the talent of their roster. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll may finish this season with his worst record as a head coach in the NFL. Seattle’s poor drafting has put them in bad shape, but superstar quarterback Russell Wilson has covered the murky transactions.
The Seahawks are 0-3 since Wilson returned after the bye. Wilson’s poor play is likely due to his (injured) right middle finger. San Francisco's defense must be on their toes without All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner.
Kyle Shanahan is 2-7 against the Seahawks
Shanahan has the utmost respect for Seattle because Carrol has dominated in their head-to-head matchup since he joined the Niners in 2017. This is a must-win game for Shanahan’s morale. Half of the teams remaining on San Francisco’s schedule have a losing record. Seattle is the first trap game that could diminish the Niners' chances of making the playoffs.
Shanahan’s offense has scored 30 points three games in a row, but they have struggled (11/23) on third down in their last two outings. Winning on third down and punching it in for six instead of field goals will be key in beating the Seahawks.
Russell Wilson’s ability to create dynamic plays
Seattle's offense put up a goose egg in Wilson’s return against the Packers. And they haven't been able to score more than 15 points in their last two games. That can change in a blink when you have a quarterback with weapons that can create explosive plays.
At age 33, Wilson does not have the same juice running the ball as he used to. However, Niner fans should remember his yard 16-yard touchdown run from Week 4. The defense turned their back (man coverage downfield), and Wilson capitalized.
The bottom line is San Francisco will have to stay strong against the deep ball. Last week, Kirk Cousins completed three passes over 20 yards, including a touchdown to Adam Thielen just after DeMeco Ryans’ defense prevented completion of 20+ yards in two games prior.
Wilson has six completions over 20 yards in his last two games. The 49er defense will increase the odds of winning if they can limit explosive plays.
Seattle’s dynamic duo
San Francisco’s defense has faced their fair share of talented receivers this year. The run defense has been superb and they finished the game on a high note against Minnesota's pair of receivers. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are capable of chunk play anytime they touch the ball. Metcalf’s impact has been missed in the last three games.
DK Metcalf last 3 games:— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 30, 2021
1 REC, 13 YDS, 0 TD
4 REC, 31 YDS, 0 TD
3 REC, 26 YDS, 0 TD pic.twitter.com/R9EDl1G4d6
Emmanuel Moseley stood strong when facing D.K. Metcalf in their Week 4 matchup. Moseley allowed three catches for 49 yards, but it came on eight targets. He also had two pass breakups and a tackle for loss.
The weight of the offense will be on Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulders
This subheading could be a bit dramatic, but Jimmy Garoppolo has the chance of taking the bull by the horns when you think about what a win would do for the 49ers playoff hopes.
If Garoppolo can finish the season on a STRONG note, then the Niners’ season outlook could change from playoff hopefuls to a Super Bowl run. Garoppolo has to keep the defense honest in throwing the ball deep and becoming more consistent on early downs.
Inconsistencies in Garoppolo’s play can be buried with a monster game. Playing without Deebo Samuel will put more stress on Garoppolo, given the load that has been on Samuel’s plate. Seattle does not have a good defense or pass rush. Jimmy’s path to success should come with minimal resistance.