Yes, the Seattle Seahawks are a run-first team that plays fantastic defense, tight special teams, and takes care of the ball to win. That’s their recipe for success. All of that is indeed necessary for a win Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, but the run-first plan may not be enough on offense.
The 49ers play very similar ball to the Seahawks. They like to pound defenses with Frank Gore and the run, and they in turn play extremely stingy defense. That defense is especially adept at stopping the run, as they boast the fourth best rushing defense in the league. Because they’re so good against the run, the 49ers are unlikely to let Marshawn Lynch annihilate them like he did to the Saints last weekend. That doesn’t mean Darrell Bevell is going to give up on the run. It does mean, however, that the Seahawks may need to use the pass to accumulate more yards, move the ball into the red zone, and score some points.
To be effective through the air you need a smart quarterback who doesn’t force throws and can break down coverages with an accurate arm. Russell Wilson fits that description exceptionally well. Then you need a solid offensive line that can protect that quarterback enough for him to make the throws. I would say the Seahawks’ offensive linemen are impressive protecting Wilson, and even if Wilson gets forced out of the pocket those guys are still buying him time. They don’t give up, because they know that Wilson can make something happen on every play.
And then you need skilled receivers who are athletic, have great hands, and can separate themselves from coverages to become a target for their quarterback. Seattle has some talented receivers, and it is these receivers whose performance could very well decide the NFC Championship.
As it stands, Percy Harvin is questionable to return Sunday. Seattle’s primary receivers would then be Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse. Throwing in tight end Zach Miller, it’s a talented and athletic bunch. With Percy Harvin, it’s a more formidable group, but I’ll focus on the group that’s healthy at this moment.
Zach Miller is going up against great linebackers in Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, and he might have to help out in pass protection with Aldon Smith being so dangerous on the edge. I don’t envision him making a huge impact every down, but a couple play action passes here and there aren’t too much of a stretch to imagine.
Jermaine Kearse is young and has some height, and he’s also probably the receiver the 49ers are least concerned about. He could be a heck of a playmaker in the slot on Sunday, but only if he can fight off guys like Tramaine Brock and Eric Wright. His height could be of some help if he’s one on one with these corners. He could be an intriguing guy to watch.
Terell Brown will be very interested in Golden Tate’s movements, and though Tate’s play has been impressive this season, I see him being a little frustrated by San Francisco’s secondary. His fight will be the hardest out of all of Seattle’s receivers, especially if Harvin isn’t cleared to play.
I think Doug Baldwin could be the x factor this Sunday. He needs to get open for Russell Wilson, and with Terell Brown no doubt blanketing Tate, Baldwin has the best chance to be dependable. His athleticism and hands have made me keen to watch him all year, and since he and Wilson look comfortable together, I think Baldwin getting open and grabbing passes is crucial to a Seattle victory.
My views don’t really change on this matter even if Percy Harvin plays, save for the fact that the 49ers will be keen on stopping him and will thus give Tate a little more of an opportunity to make his presence felt. Whether Harvin plays or not is irrelevant to my take on Baldwin. I really want Harvin on the field, because Baldwin becomes even more of a threat.
Whatever the injury situation is on Harvin come Sunday, the receivers for the Seattle Seahawks need to make some plays in order to win. Marshawn Lynch can’t do it all on offense, not against such a stellar defense. If Seattle’s receivers get open for Russell Wilson and make some plays, it greatly increases the likelihood of the Seattle Seahawks making a trip to this year’s Super Bowl.