The Garoppolo Game. After being acquired in a trade earlier in the season, Jimmy Garoppolo made his 49ers debut after starting quarterback C.J. Beathard got hurt and went 2-for-2 with a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of a 24-13 win by Seattle in late November last season. Garoppolo went on to help San Francisco win its final five games, stoking the fire that the 49ers finally had a franchise quarterback. Garoppolo signed a $137.5 million deal in the offseason and tore his ACL in Week 3 of this season. And the beat goes on for the struggling 49ers franchise. In that game last season, Eddie Lacy had his best day in a Seahawks uniform, toting the rock for a staggering 46 yards on 17 carries. Lacy would play exactly one more game for the Seahawks before being released to the delight of a frustrated fanbase.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Doug Baldwin vs. Richard Sherman
This one will likely be must-see TV. The former Stanford and Seahawks teammates and fiery competitors finally get to do battle in a meaningful game after years of having it out on the practice field. It’s not certain how much the two will line up across from one another, with Sherman locked into his left outside corner spot on the defense and Baldwin often lined up in the slot, but rest assured both will make sure to at least have a few snaps in which they lock horns. Much has been made of Sherman’s return to Seattle, but more importantly he is still a good player and the Seahawks would be wise to steer clear of his area for the most part. That being said, don’t be surprised if Seattle takes a few deep shots with Baldwin or Tyler Lockett to test the veteran cornerback’s bum leg.
Seahawks’ run defense vs. Matt Breida
The Seahawks had a heck of a time stopping Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey on the ground and in the air in last week’s win. Enter Breida, who is third in the league with 5.8 rushing yards per attempt this season. With rookie quarterback Nick Mullens set to receive just his third start, the 49ers will likely rely heavily on Breida against Seattle’s struggling run defense, which is allowing a league-worst 5.3 yards per carry. The Seahawks should be prepared to sell out against the run and force Mullens to beat them through the air.
0.1 — The number of yards per game more that the Seahawks’ offense averages over the 49ers. So could an argument be made that San Francisco’s offense is on par with Seattle’s? Not really. According to Football Outsiders, an analytics website, the Seahawks’ offensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average; measures a team’s performance to a league baseline) of 5.1-percent is 11th-best in the NFL, while the 49ers’ -16.9-percent is fourth worst. DVOA numbers are adjusted based on situation and strength of opponent. So a team piling up yards in the final minutes of a blowout is not given as much credit as a team doing it in the fourth quarter of a one-score game against a playoff-level opponent. That’s why total yardage numbers can often be deceiving and should always be looked at with a skeptical eye.
DID YOU KNOW?
If Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is feeling a little old in this game, he wouldn’t be to blame. Not only is his offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, the son of a famous NFL coach (Marty Schottenheimer), but so is 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan (Mike Shanahan). Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Shanahan had many, many battles in the AFC West — Shanahan as coach of the Broncos from 1995-2008 and Schottenheimer as coach of the Chiefs from 1989-1998 and Chargers from 2002-2006. As 49ers defensive coordinator from 1995-1996, Carroll would have had a front-row seat to watching these two legendary coaches on the opposing sideline. And now he his coaching with and against their sons. As if that weren’t enough, Chris Kiffin, son of legendary NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, is also on the 49ers’ defensive staff. Carroll has said that the single biggest influence on his defensive principles in Monte Kiffin.
“RPO” seems to be the hot (overused?) term in the NFL these days. Often confused for the simple “zone read” that Seattle runs a ton, “RPO” stands for “run-pass option.” The “zone read” that Seattle runs is easy to spot. Quarterback Russell Wilson takes the snap and holds the ball out to the running back while at the same time watching the defense’s unblocked edge defender. If the defender attacks the running back, Wilson keeps the ball. If the defender stays in his position to contain Wilson, he hands the ball off. Pretty simple and there is no passing involved. In an “RPO” the quarterback has the option to either hand the ball off or throw a quick pass to a receiver. The decision is, again, usually based on the movement of a single defender, most likely a linebacker or safety. Run-pass option plays aren’t necessarily easy to identify without being in the offensive huddle, so it’s doubtful that announcers or analysts using the “RPO” term are always correct. But watch the quarterback’s eyes on a play and see if it looks like he’s making a split-second decision to hand the ball off or pass based on the movement of a defender.
It may be San Francisco, but it’s definitely not time to bust out the Rice-A-Roni. Instead, go with a fresh, homemade sandwich made with sourdough bread. Why sourdough? The San Francisco area claims to have invented sourdough during the gold rush years, and it’s awesome. Always choose fresh meat from the deli and go heavy on the mustard of your choice for best results. For a beverage, grab something available locally from Sierra Nevada, brewed in Northern California. And even better, take a quick minute and hop on Sierra Nevada’s website (www.sierranevada.com) and donate to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, a fund set up by the company to help with the devastating Camp Fire that ravaged parts of Northern California. Drink beer and do a good deed. It’s a win-win.
Seahawks 27, 49ers 13
The 49ers haven’t defeated the Seahawks since Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick were running the show, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where San Francisco pulls this one out. Seattle needs to keep piling up wins to stay in the driver’s seat in the NFC wild card picture, so there should still be a sense of urgency against a division rival. The Seahawks may have to go to the air again, as the 49ers’ run defense is pretty decent, but Seattle proved it could pass effectively when called on to do so last week against the Panthers.