After what must be the most turbulent offseason in Seahawks history, today is the day that we start seeing the pieces come together. A win today — especially a decisive one — could go a long way towards changing the trajectory of this season. So, how do the Seahawks win this game?
- Run the ball. This is going to be very difficult if the preseason is any indicator. Still, the most important thing the Seahawks can do is get that unit rolling and keep the 49ers on their toes. A few successful runs early on can go a long way towards setting up our play-action game and buying a bit of additional time for Matt Hasselbeck.
- Stop the run. This game is fitting to be an old school, head-knocking battle. Frank Gore has made the majority of his money in this league based on routinely gashing the Seahawks. We have built the front four around the idea of stopping the run. This is Red Bryant’s first real test as a starter, and he needs to succeed. Expect Lawyer Milloy to have a big role in this area, too, especially after watching Jordan Babineaux fail to even be near Gore on his two 80-yard runs last year.
- Don’t sell out to the run. Wuh oh! This is the troublesome part. Despite the 49ers being a big scary running team, they have some legitimate threats outside of the run. While Michael Crabtree will be better this year, it’s Pro-Bowl TE Vernon Davis who poses the biggest threat. None of our linebackers are particularly skilled in coverage, but then, neither is Lawyer Milloy. Earl Thomas could be up to the task, but do you really want to take away the centerfielder? Davis presents a serious mismatch regardless of who the 49ers are playing. The biggest concern is the play-action pass, especially when factoring in Aaron Curry’s problems with play recognition in the preseason.
- Yards after Catch. Expect a lot of screens and short passes. This was a big part of Bates’ 2008 Broncos offense, and the team has two Eddie Royal-esque players in Tate and Butler. Mike Williams can also get involved in the screen game. The key will be solid blocking at the point of the screen and downfield. That’s not something we saw a whole lot of in the preseason, but to be fair there were a lot of tight end screens which can only go one of a couple ways.
- Protect Matthew. Who is starting on the O-Line? Left to right, we’ve got Polumbus – Gibson – Spencer – Unger – Locklear. I’m okay with the center-right, but Polumbus was mediocre on a good day last year, and is clearly the third choice for the Seahawks. You’ve got to hope Chris Baker can step in and keep life good, but blocking the 49er LBs is a challenge at full-speed. This doesn’t help at all. If the Hawks can limit Matt’s hurries and hits (there will be some, and definitely some sacks), we have a pretty good shot here.