Knowing Your Opponent: Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson (Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers have been badly out-played in their last two games against the division rival Seahawks. But Sunday marks the first time they've hosted Seattle since last October when they won a defensive battle 13-6. Inside we break down the Seahawks, owners of the league's best record at 11-1.

Seahawks' Statistics Through Week 13

Offense (rank)

Points per game: 28.3 (#2)

Yards per game: 364.3 (#11)

Passing Yards (per game): 218.2 (#22)

Rushing Yards (per game): ): 146.2 (#3)

3rd-Down Conversion Rate: 40.52 percent (#9)

Red Zone Scoring Rate (TDs): 60 percent (#7)

Defense (rank)

Points per game: 15.5 (#2)

Yards per game: 294.5 (#1)

Passing yards (per game): 177.3 (#1)

Rushing Yards (per game): 107.2 (#13)

Opponents 3rd-Down Conversion Rate: 38.04 percent (#14)

Opponents Red Zone Scoring Rate (TDs): 40.74 (#4)

NFC West Standings (record, division)

Seattle Seahawks (11-1, 3-0)

San Francisco 49ers (8-4, 3-1)

Arizona Cardinals (7-5, 0-3)

St. Louis Rams (5-7, 1-3)

Elite of the Elite

The Seahawks are the NFL's best team headed by one of the leading candidates for league MVP honors in Russell Wilson. They have talent across the board and even worse for the 49ers, they feel like they have their number. Rightfully so.

The last two times the teams have played (both in Seattle) San Francisco has been outscored 71-16 in games that felt like the road team never had a chance. Both came on prime time in front of a national audience and have scripted the narrative coming into Sunday's tilt between two of the best teams in the conference.

What makes the Seahawks elite – aside from the most significant home field advantage in the NFL – is their ability to win without being overly exotic. Relative to other teams, Seattle's way of defending the pass on the back end is basic. They don't try to confuse quarterbacks as much as they try to disrupt the offense's rhythm by using their physicality to their advantage.

The same goes for their down-hill running game. They don't try to disguise much with Marshawn Lynch on the ground. They rely on a physical offensive line that gives Lynch enough room to get into the second level where linebackers and defensive backs struggle to get him to the ground.

But the most notable thing about the Seahawks ascendancy in 2013 has been the constant evolution of Wilson, who has been the league's highest-rated passer (107.2, ahead of Peyton Manning's 104) and has vaulted himself into discussion for the MVP.

"He's a very mobile quarterback so he can make plays with his feet," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "And he does a really good job of throwing the ball in the seams and deep. He's been able to get some big chunks that way. "Everybody thinks this guy's a freak quarterback. This guy's just a really good quarterback. He happens to very fast, very quick and very elusive. He's not just a guy that runs around, he's a passer too. He can run any offense and be a competent quarterback."

Adding Talk to the Walk

Corner Richard Sherman has become one of the league's most eccentric personalities and has been able to back up his chattiness with his play on the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Sherman is the least-targeted corner in the league while quarterbacks have completed just 26 of 47 targets of his man in coverage.

But he's just one of a few outstanding players in Seattle's secondary. Safety Earl Thomas has become one of the league's premier players at the position and commands the league's best pass defense that's allowing just 177.3 yards per game.

In the first match up between the two teams this year, the Seahawks allowed just 107 passing yards to the 49ers and three interceptions – a career-worst for third-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Seattle has allowed 200 passing yards only five times this season. Meanwhile San Francisco's passing attack is the second-worst in the league, averaging 180 yards per game.

The team hopes that number improves with the return of Michael Crabtree. San Francisco had its most productive passing day since Week 1 against the Rams with Kaepernick throwing for 275 yards.

San Francisco has been a run-dominant team of late and teams have game planned towards that. It's allowed Kaepernick to improve through the air in the last two games when he's averaged 241 net passing yards after combining for 161 against the Panthers and Saints.

It's no coincidence, then, the improved passing numbers have come with the return of Manningham and Crabtree.

"It's a little bit of both. I think anytime you can bring some of your best players back on the field, it's going to have a huge impact on things. I think earlier in the season, we didn't have that kind of chemistry, but I think we see it starting to develop now. And the fact that some teams make the decision that we're going to do everything and anything to stop the run game, it just opens up even more avenues. So, it's a little bit of both," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.

Clinching

With their 34-7 win over the Saints on Monday night, Seattle was the first team to clinch a postseason birth. They could clinch a division title for the first time since 2010 when they went 7-9.

With a two-game lead over New Orleans for the top overall seed, the Seahawks need just two wins over the final four games to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. If current standings stood up, the 49ers would have to go through Seattle in the second round of the playoffs should they win their wild card game.

As viable championship contenders, the Seahawks are hoping to go further than last season when they lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round after netting the No. 5 seed and beating the Washington Redskins on the road in the first round 24-14. They would benefit greatly from home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Wilson is 14-0 at CenturyLink Field compared to 8-6 on the road in his career.

*Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used in this report*

----------------------------------------

Follow Editor in Chief Chris Biderman on Twitter.

Get updates from NinersDigest by following here and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and analysis.

CardinalFootballTalk.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


Forums


0 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets