Former 49ers linebacker and now 49ers Radio Network Analyst Gary Plummer breaks down this upcoming game against the Seahawks in his latest online and 49ers GAMEDAY program column, Points of the Game.
Mike Holmgren guaranteed that his team would not be swept by the 49ers this year. Usually bulletin board material sometimes is overrated, but it's one thing for players to say it, especially in this day and age where players can get cocky. It is rare for a head coach to come out with such a bold prediction. I'm sure that's going to have a positive effect on a lot of 49ers players in terms of motivation for this game.
It's also to the 49ers benefit to play these guys at home because Quest Field offers Seattle one of the best home field advantages with it being so loud. I encourage the 49ers Faithful to do their best to generate that kind of volume because Matt Hasselbeck is so good at audibiles. His ability to do that will be affected from some serious crowd noise.
Holmgren runs one of the few pure west coast offenses that for the most part has turned into a lost scheme in the NFL. He is one of the original disciples of Bill Walsh. He loves to run a two back pro set with two receivers and a tight end. He still runs the trapping plays, power plays off tackle, and a lot of slant and crossing routes by the receivers. It's what the 49ers used to run with Jerry Rice, Steve Young, and Joe Montana, so it should be a very familiar offense to the 49ers fans. Hasselbeck is one of the most accurate quarterbacks we will face. He has the ability to move in and out of the pocket unlike the first two quarterbacks the 49ers faced in Matt Leinart and Marc Bulger and he can scramble for big yards. You've get to get pressure on him to throw off his accuracy, but you also have to know he's going to run when that pocket collapses.
Shaun Alexander sprained his wrist and is wearing a soft cast on it right now. He's averaging almost 4 yards a carry with about 22 touches a game. It certainly isn't the Sean Alexander of 2005, but it certainly isn't the broke Alexander of 2006. The 49ers did well in containing Alexander last season, and they'll need to do so again this Sunday.
In terms of the 49ers trade with Seattle for Darrell Jackson, you can look at it as addition by subtraction for the 49ers. Darrell had 10 touchdown catches last year for Seattle, which is more than the entire 49ers receiving corps had. When you take that away from the Seahawks, that's a big blow. Darrell always had good games against the 49ers. So he knows the audible systems for the Seahawks and Matt Hasselbeck like the back of his hands. I guarantee Nate Clements and a sultry veteran like Walt Harris will be spending a great deal of time with Darrell this week.
The Seahawks defense is in the middle of the pack. They have given up a lot of yards, which I think is attributed in part to trying to integrate new players. Defensive coordinator John Marshall runs a lot of different schemes. He's going to try everything, including using outside linebacker Julian Peterson all over the field a lot like we do with Joe Staley. You'll see Peterson dropping into a deep third.
You can also expect zone and corner blitzes from Marshall, and eight men in the box and 4 deep coverages. If pressure works early for Marshall, he will keep coming at you, so the 49ers have to weather the storm of those blitzes early.
A huge factor in Seattle's losses last year to the 49ers was their inability to stop Frank Gore. You lose two games to the same team in your division, you're going to want to do something to correct that. How well the 49ers ran against them last year probably had a little to do with bringing in two new starters in DE Patrick Kerney and S Deon Grant this off-season to shore up their defense. Grant is a good run support guy and Kerney is a high motor player who has to be accounted for on every down.
Despite some new faces, I'm sure the 49ers offensive players feel like they match up well against the Seahawks. If anything, Seattle's line got a little smaller with the additions of Kerney and Darryl Tapp, so the match-up for the 49ers is still favorable to run the football. If it isn't broke, don't fix it. I see them trying to run the ball down their throats.
Marcus Trufant has been a really good corner for them, while Kelly Jennings has struggled. As much as I think Jackson can help out our secondary, I think he'll also be a big advantage this week in the passing game. He's has practiced against those guys so many times, and he knows exactly what works and what doesn't against them. I think that's a huge advantage for the 49ers in terms of the passing game.
I think this game is the perfect scenario for the 49ers. They are tied with Seattle with the best record in the division and the winner of this game takes sole possession of first place in terms of standings. It also gives the 49ers an opportunity to improve to 3-0 within the NFC West. You really can't ask for more as a player than to have that opportunity. The excitement at Monster should be electric. Beating them twice last year, that was great but it wasn't for first place in the division.
It was a great sign to see that the 49ers took the loss so hard last week and it means that you don't just think you can win, you know you should have won. I can remember that expectation to win being the biggest difference for me when I came from San Diego to the 49ers. It wasn't hoping, it was expecting and that mindset goes a long way towards success in the NFL. Sunday was one of those things where you eat something that you don't know how it's going to taste and you realize it's terrible so you spit it out. That was how guys were feeling after the game in Pittsburgh and that bad taste stays right up until game time on Sunday when they've got a chance to get that out. Hopefully, they'll be eating some nice dessert by the end of Sunday.