Niners Live broke down every angle of the loss to the Carolina Panthers. Now the 49ers hit the first of three critical division matchups and our coverage continues as we preview week #2 against the Seattle Seahawks. We will breakdown the key offensive and defensive match ups.
For the first time in seven straight season openers, the San Francisco 49ers began the season with a loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers 23-3. Now they will travel to take on the Seattle Seahawks, an opponent that has dominated them the past four seasons and will be looking to avenge their own loss against the Green Bay Packers. Last season’s defending NFC West Champions looked sluggish as a team last week and are looking to run up the score against their division rivals. Let’s look at the offensive and defensive matchups.
49ers Offensive Line & Running Backs vs. Seattle’s Front Seven
The running game for the 49ers never got a chance to get established last week. Meanwhile, the offensive line, which is the oldest unit on the team showed their age last week as: Center Daniel Kilgore and guards Zane Beadles and Brandon Fusco were routinely beaten or causing penalties against Carolina’s front seven. Carlos Hyde did show flashes of brilliance running the ball and averaging 5 yards per carry, but the 49ers were so far behind that the running game was thrown away, while Matt Breida was not able to stretch the field on the plays he came in on during the game.
The Seahawks made moves to tighten their defense against the run by signing Left Defensive Tackle Sheldon Richardson via trade. Right Defensive Tackle is split between 2nd-year player Jarran Reed and rookie Nazair Jones who had a 67-yard interception touchdown return against the Packers last week only to be called back because of a penalty. The linebacking core is a great strength for Seattle as the middle is patrolled by All-Pro Bobby Wagner and the Right Outside position belongs to K.J. Wright. The left side is guarded by Terence Gavin. This trio possesses great change of direction speed and can easily give a great challenge to fullback Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk.
Brian Hoyer vs, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril
Brian Hoyer needed great pass protection last week and, in terms of throws over 10 yards, he did not get it. The Panthers were 2nd in the NFL with 47 sacks. Pro Bowl Right Defensive End Cliff Avril, who led the team with 11.5 sacks last season and had 1 sack against the Packers last week, looks to make life difficult for Joe Staley. Trent Brown was taken to school by Julius Peppers on passing downs. All-Pro Michael Bennett, who had 1.5 sacks last week, looks to do the same at Left Defensive End. Make no mistake, this will be Brown’s greatest test all season.
49ers: WRS and TEs vs. The Legion of Boom
If Hoyer can get pass protection, and that’s a big if, it could be a big day for 49ers’ receiver Pierre Garcon. He was the lone bright spot on offense last week with 6 catches for 81 yards and was in full control of his man. He will be facing the volatile Jeremy Lane at right cornerback. Lane was ejected last week after throwing a forearm at a Packer player while his team had taken the lead, possibly changing the momentum of the game. If Hoyer can get pass protection, it will be interesting to see whether he is brave enough to throw to Marquise Goodwin as he will be matched up against perennial All-Pro left cornerback Richard Sherman, who has established a no-fly zone on his side. Aldrick Robinson and Trent Taylor were used sparingly last week and will more than likely see action against All-Pro safeties Kam Chancellor in the box and free safety Earl Thomas. Tight end George Kittle will look to improve on his promising, yet inconsistent performance last week by putting these safeties to the test.
49ers Front Seven vs. Seattle Offensive Line and Running Backs
Running backs Eddie Lacy and Fullback Tre Madden will try to get the running game going after only producing 3 yards on 5 carries last week. It will be a game-time decision for Thomas Rawls as he continues to battle ankle injuries. Look for Chris Carson, this season’s leader in yards among running backs to see some action. The offensive line is led by Center Justin Britt and left guard Luke Joeckel. The rest of the line is made up of: Right Guard Mark Glowinski and tackles Rees Odhiambo and Germain Ifedi on the left and right side respectively. This is a man-up game for the front four as DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead on the ends, with Earl Mitchell and Tank Carradine along the interior, and with Solomon Thomas and who managed only one hit and no sacks last week. The status of both Reuben Foster and Eli Harold will be closely monitored since both left the game against Carolina with injuries. Look for Ray-Ray Armstrong to see action in any case.
Russell Wilson vs. Navorro Bowman
Russell Wilson is a matchup problem for any defensive coordinator, as he is more effective when he is running out of the pocket. It’s as if the ghost of dare I say, Colin Kaepernick, haunts the 49ers every time these teams meet. Yet, Wilson is a more consistent passer. So why is Navorro Bowman placed in this category? He’s here for a few reasons. First, no 49er Faithful has to be reminded of how he was injured during the NFC Championship game in 2013 or how Seattle fans hurled things at him as he was carted off the field. Second, he is the quarterback of the defense and while the sack is not his primary objective, keeping Wilson in front of him and keeping track of him at all times is his primary job. As Mon5t3r’s game goes, so go the 49ers’ chances. That, and the lack of a serious pass rush from any other 49er makes this game very scary.
49ers Secondary vs. Seattle’s Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
For the most part, the 49ers Secondary did a fairly decent job against Carolina on Sunday. Corners Donate Johnson and Rashard Robinson more than held their own against the Carolina receivers, with Robinson getting a Key strip and fumble recovery in the game. Box Safety Eric Reid had 3 tackles and 2 assists last week. The play of K’Waun Williams will need to improve this week, as he missed a few key assignments on running plays leading to Carolina scoring drives. They will face a young but talented Seattle receiving corps led by Wilson’s favorite target, Doug Baldwin, the speedy Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett. Will Jimmie Ward or Jaquiski Tartt be the starter at Free Safety? Questions continue to surround the status of supposed starter Ward after he was inactive last week. Is his ankle healed? Or was it that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh preferred the bigger Tartt, who had a brilliant interception last week as seen in this video, but also missed a tackle that led to a Carolina touchdown in this clip. Both will have to, at some point, contend with the Seahawks tight end duo of Pro-Bowler Jimmy Graham and Luke Wilson.
Storylines: The ties that connect the 49ers and Seahawks
This is the first official divisional coaching matchup between Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll and San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. Carroll coached with Kyle’s father Mike on the 49ers as the defensive coordinator during the 1995 and ‘96 seasons. Current Seattle Assistant Defensive Line Coach Dwaine Board earned three Super Bowl rings as a player (1979-1998), and one as a defensive line coach(1990-2002) with the San Francisco 49ers. Current Seattle Defensive Coordinator Kris Richards played with the 49ers in 2005 as a defensive back. Current 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh was Seattle’s defensive quality control Coach from 2011-2013 and helped guide them to their only Super Bowl victory. Current 49er linebacker Brock Coyle is a former Seahawk, and former 49er Michael Wilhoite joined the Seahawks this offseason.
One More Thing
Kyle Shanahan left a lot to be desired in his debut in terms of calling plays on time and in play selection, and he will have no room for error against one of the best defensive minds in the NFL in Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll. While a moral victory against Seattle may instill confidence among the 49er Faithful, it will do little in the win column and for team morale. Expect a very intense divisional game, as always, with a young team that is looking to bounce back from week one. Seattle will dare that offensive line to protect Hoyer and will come in at will on blitzes. If the o-line can respond, it could be a very close game, but if not, look for a beating worse than the one suffered last week.
49er updates, interviews and news:
Post game quotes, Hoyer recaps his play, full highlights, injury updates (including Reuben Foster), and here’s what head coach Kyle Shanahan had to say about last Sunday’s performance (via the team’s website).
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and new Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims