Wild Card Weekend will mark the third and final edition of the 49ers and Seahawks this season, as they meet in the playoffs for just the second time in the history of this rivalry. For that reason, there’s plenty of familiarity in this matchup, but Saturday has plenty of unique situations going into it.
Things like Brock Purdy, in his first season, and Geno Smith, in his ninth season, both making their first career postseason starts or the 49ers having the chance to become the 15th team in NFL history to finish 3-0 against the same opponent in a season.
Record of teams attempting to go 3-0 against the same team in a season since 1970 — a 60.9 win percentage. The 49ers will also look to become the first team to finish 7-0 against their division since the 2008 Steelers swept the Ravens en route to Pittsburgh’s sixth Super Bowl win. It’s probably just a coincidence the 49ers are also on their #QuestForSix.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the last time a team had a chance to finish a season 3-0 against a divisional opponent. The most recent attempt to accomplish the feat failed with the 49ers losing the NFC Championship against the Rams last season after sweeping the regular season series.
They became the second consecutive team to fall short of a three-game, with the Saints losing to the Buccaneers in the Divisional Round the year before.
There is a silver lining: the 2022 Seahawks aren’t the 2021 Rams, and the 49ers are better than they were last season. The 2022 49ers finished with three more wins compared to last season, with an offense that scored 13 more points and a defense that allowed 88 fewer points, averaging out to 5.2 fewer points per game.
Historically, The “winning three games against a division opponent” narrative has been proven more of a myth. If Saturday goes as the previous two games between these two division rivals, it’ll continue to be so.
Number of rookie quarterbacks to win their first career playoff start since 1970, according to Pro Football Reference. To make that stat sound even worse, rookie quarterbacks are 8-18 in that same span, with Joe Flacco in 2009 and Mark Sanchez in 2010 as the only rookie quarterbacks to win their first two playoff games. Saturday marks the first playoff start for Brock Purdy, who was the last pick in April’s draft.
It’s a steep hill to climb as a rookie, as Mac Jones proved last season when he threw two interceptions in a 47-17 loss to the Bills, but that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom for Purdy. The numbers, however, favor Purdy on Saturday if a closer look is taken at the formula of how the six rookie quarterbacks were able to win their postseason debuts:
Russell Wilson (2012, 24-14 at WAS): 187 passing yards, 1 TD
T.J. Yates (2011, 31-10 vs. CIN): 159 passing yards, 1 TD, win 31-10
Mark Sanchez (2009, 24-14 at CIN): 182 passing yards, 1 passing TD
Joe Flacco (2008, 27-9 at MIA): 135 passing yards, 0 passing TD
Ben Roethlisberger (2004, 20-17 in overtime vs. NYJ): 181 passing yards, 1 passing TD
Shaun King (1999, 14-13 vs. WAS): 157 passing yards, 1 passing TD
The average game from those six quarterbacks comes out to 166.9 yards for less than a single touchdown. Purdy’s average game since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo against Miami has been 218.0 yards for just over two touchdowns and half of an interception.
When Purdy last faced Seattle’s 26th-ranked defense (on a short week and four days removed from tearing his oblique), he threw for 217 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in the 49ers' 21-13 Week 15 win. Purdy has already shown his average game was good enough to beat Seattle last month, so why couldn’t the same happen on Saturday?
Oh, and by the way, the six winning defenses above in the six games above allowed an average of 12.8 points per game. Just wanted to point that out.
Seahawks points per game against the 49ers in their two games this season. That number even drops to 6.5 if you only include points scored against the 49ers' defense, with Seattle’s lone score in September coming on a blocked Robbie Gould field goal that was returned for a touchdown.
The Seahawks' offense this season has been an efficient one, ranking ninth in points and 13th in yards, but struggled against the 49ers. While they averaged 10 points against the 49ers, they averaged 25.8 points per game in their other 15 games, going 9-6 in those games.
The 49ers also held Seattle to two of their three lowest-scoring games this season, with the Chiefs holding Seattle to just 10 points in Kansas City’s Week 16 win. Not only did the 49ers keep the Seahawks off the scoreboard but kept the Seattle offense in neutral, allowing 246.5 per in their two games, a 105-yard drop off from their per-game average this season.
There isn’t much indication things will change on Saturday for Seattle’s offense, as they’ve struggled to put points on the board of late.
After averaging 25.7 points per game and scoring 30 or more points in half of their first ten games, Seattle has averaged just 21.4 points and scored more than 30 just once in their last seven games, going 3-4 in that span. That includes their 13- and 10-point performances against the 49ers and Chiefs mentioned above.
Seattle will take their offense which has averaged just over 21 points in their last seven and try to figure out a 49ers defense that has allowed more than 21 points just three times this season.