If you don’t remember the last meeting between the Seahawks and 49ers, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. A whole 14 days ago, Seattle smashed San Francisco 43-16 in Richard Sherman’s return to Seattle. Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes in just 17 attempts to lead the Seahawks offense. 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens threw for a staggering 414 yards in defeat, but more memorable was a 98-yard pick-6 from Bobby Wagner to seal the blowout.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Pete Carroll vs. Richard Sherman
Everyone is probably tired of hearing about Sherman, but one has to wonder if the Seahawks coach will take this opportunity to run some more plays the cornerback’s direction. After what seemed like an icy exchange between the two pre-game in the previous meeting, Seattle rarely tested Sherman on the field and Sherman was loathe to give Seattle’s passing game any credit after the game. Carroll outwardly doesn’t hold grudges, but it sure seemed like he enjoyed beating former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when the two squared off. It’s likely Seattle will again target Akhello Witherspoon on the other side of the field, but here’s to hoping they take at least a couple of deep shots on Sherman.
Russell Wilson vs. The Shoe
Will Wilson throw the shoe again or won’t he? That has to be the biggest question heading into this game. Let’s rewind: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after yelling at the refs in the last meeting between the two teams. Why was he yelling? Shanahan says Wilson threw the shoe of one of his defenders down the field, thus causing an offsides penalty when the defender had to retrieve it. Wilson admits throwing the shoe because it was right where he was standing to take the next snap. Such controversy. If presented with another shoe conundrum, expect Wilson to act in a similar manner and Shanahan to throw another fit.
Tre Flowers vs. Dante Pettis
Pettis, a former star at the University of Washington, has finally burst onto the scene for the 49ers. He’s caught a touchdown in three straight games, including two against the Seahawks two weeks ago, and has built a rapport with Mullens over that time. Flowers has played well at times this season, but gave up a 75-yard touchdown to Pettis on a slant in the last meeting. For some reason the 49ers won’t let Pettis, the all-time NCAA leader in punt-return touchdowns, return punts, but his evolution as a pass-catcher is a big boost for San Francisco.
Playoff Berth vs. Trap Game
With a win over San Francisco, Seattle can clinch a playoff berth. Football Outsiders currently gives the Seahawks a 99.2-percent chance to make the playoffs. But there’s something disconcerting about facing a team twice in three weeks, the second time on the road. Seattle definitely needs to stay focused, something Carroll will surely preach before the game. The 49ers’ offense seems to be trending upward a bit, so hopefully Seattle’s effort against the Vikings is a springboard for its defense. Frank Clark says this is his team now? Time to prove it.
210 — The number of receiving yards from San Francisco tight end George Kittle in the 49ers win over the Broncos last week. Kittle, who now has over 1,100 yards on the season, caught six passes for 70 yards against the Seahawks in the last meeting. Kittle’s confidence seems to grow every week, and he’s turned into a legitimate weapon for Mullens and the 49ers offense. Seattle needs to be wary of Kittle, who has the speed to turn a short gain into an explosive play, as seen by his 85-yard touchdown against Denver that featured 71 yards after the catch. The Seahawks can’t let Kittle run wild, or else the 49ers might be poised for an upset.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Seahawks are ranked first in the NFL in allowing just 59.6-percent of passes thrown over the short middle to be completed. Call this “The Bobby Wagner Effect.” While Wagner gets rightfully credited for his stellar run defense (he hasn’t missed a tackle this entire season, according to Pro Football Focus), he is also a tremendous cover linebacker, as seen by his beautiful interception return for touchdown against the 49ers two weeks ago. Think the Seahawks miss Sherman? Seattle is second in the NFL in allowing just 23.8-percent of passes thrown deep right to be completed. Shaquill Griffin has had some ups and downs this season, but, like Sherman, he is terrific in defending this particular kind of pass. The Seahawks’ pass defense needs to continue to grow, but these are two areas of the field the team has been very good.
Allow a quick break from the normal content in this space for a few gift ideas during the holidays for your burgeoning love of the intricacies of a football game. There are a few books out there that are extremely helpful in explaining different schemes and concepts in football. Pat Kirwan’s “Take Your Eye Off the Ball” and “Take Your Eye off the Ball 2.0” are two of my favorites. Kirwan does a great job of explaining things in laypersons’ terms without making the reader feel stupid. If you feel like something more advanced, Steve Belichick’s “Football Scouting Methods” is the Bible for pro and amateur scouts alike. Belichick, who is the father of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, wrote this book in 1962 and it still holds water today. Another must-read is Bill Walsh’s “Finding the Winning Edge.” Walsh was a genuine football genius and in this book he explains the philosophies he used throughout his brilliant coaching career. This book is so sought after, it sells for upwards of $300 on Amazon.
For a day that will hopefully end in celebration over a clinched playoff berth, burgers are the way to go. Everybody has their own way to make burgers as they like, but three things are a must: 1. Don’t skimp out and buy cheap beef, you are better than that; 2. Don’t overcook, a little pink is absolutely fine; 3. Never buy a bag of buns from the bread section. Go to the bakery and find some brioche rolls or something similar. For something to drink with a Northern California flair, Grab a Lagunitas Imperial Stout. Brewed in Petaluma, California, Lagunitas calls this beer “dark, thick, and scary.” Sounds both a delightful way to celebrate a playoff berth, or an angry way to rue a potential missed opportunity.
Seahawks 30, 49ers 20
Seattle is a better football team than San Francisco. But the 49ers did do some good things in the last meeting, including piling up 452 yards of offense and sacking Wilson three times, and looked very good in the first half against the Broncos this past week. It’s a weird thing to play a team twice in three weeks, so it would not be a surprise to see some unexpected things happen on Sunday. But there’s enough motivation for Seattle, with a playoff berth there to be clinched, to assert its will late and put away the 49ers for good.