Intensity Will Be Key to Success for the Traveling Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks are coming off of a tremendous regular season win over the New England Patriots this past Sunday, 24-23. While the defense allowed Tom Brady to get his yards – giving up a season high 475 total – they also picked him off twice and stopped the run.
This defensive output, along with a breakout performance by Russell Wilson created a huge victory for this emerging Seattle team.
The Seahawks find themselves traveling to San Francisco, to take on the 49ers on Thursday Night Football. Even with several huge wins already over the Cowboys, Packers, and Patriots, this game could very well be their biggest one yet.
The Seahawks are currently tied in the division lead at 4-2 with both the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have a slight lead with a 2-0 divisional record.
The Seahawks are 0-2 in the division while the 49ers have yet to play a divisional opponent.
Seeing how the Cardinals are struggling even more offensively with QB Kevin Kolb out due to a rib injury, this could very well be a match up between the two likely candidates for the playoffs coming out of the NFC West.
Here is what I am watching for Thursday night.
Continuing to Play with Intensity
The common perception of the Seattle Seahawks is a very strong home team who lacks intensity on the road. While our team’s two losses have in fact been road games, the numbers haven’t varied too drastically.
Marshawn Lynch has been the Seahawks’ workhorse this season, consistently putting up numbers at home and away. In fact, he
has had more success on the road, averaging 96 yards per game compared to his home average of 87.
Some may blame the Seattle defense on the road, saying they only play with heart when in front of their home crowd. But the pass rush has yet to differ, totaling 7 sacks in three games on the road, and 10 sacks in three games at home.
With the highly inflated 8-sack game vs the Packers at home, the numbers are far from lopsided.
Now one point to look at, would be rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, and how he has competed on the road.
Both losses on the road came to divisional opponents. One in their season opener against the Cardinals, and another in St. Louis against the Rams. In these games Russell Wilson has had an average QB rating of 63.5—nearly half of his home average of 115.2.
So while a rookie quarterback is expected to struggle early on the road, the remainder of the team has provided a great uplift and kept them in games.
After last week’s performance, it is fair to say Wilson has matured greatly over his first six weeks. He has become more knowledgeable of the offense, has gained confidence in his arm and Pete Carroll has lifted the lid on the playbook and allowed him to make plays.
The road wearies are gradually becoming a thing of the past, and if Russell Wilson can come into his own in San Francisco, the Hawks have a great shot at victory.
Outplaying an Identical Opponent
Soon after Jim Harbaugh was named head coach of the 49ers, their persona instantly changed.
They transformed from a sad excuse in the NFC West to a tough, smash-mouth powerhouse. He instigated a powerful defense, a gritty run game and a game-managing quarterback. Sound familiar?
This is the identity of the Seattle Seahawks after Pete Carroll’s arrival. It may not have been as quick of a transformation, but it has been equally as effective.
The Seahawks now hold the league’s 4th ranked defense—they were number one before allowing 457 yards in their win vs the Patriots—and are 7th in the league in rushing.
While the 49ers are number one in both of these categories, you could argue the Seahawks have had a more difficult schedule.
Nevertheless, the Seahawks and 49ers have similar frameworks. The difference is at quarterback.
Russell Wilson was thought to be a spitting image of Alex Smith. A quarterback with a great defense and run game that just has to refrain from turning the ball over. But after Russell’s recent production, it is hard to limit the talented young man.
Sure he was going against a terrible pass defense in the Patriots, but he has put up solid numbers versus good defenses such as Dallas and Green Bay.
Alex Smith has been very productive over the season with his only poor performance coming last week against New York, when he threw three interceptions without a touchdown.
But the teams seem to be headed in two different ways. The 49ers may dull down Smith’s pass attempts and get back to the basics, while Seattle is getting more comfortable with their quarterback airing it out.
Don’t Get Ahead of Ourselves
While I say Russell is getting more comfortable in the offense and will take more shots down field, I am in no way saying abandon the run. Marshawn Lynch must continue to be the heart of this offense, and must carry the team throughout the season.
He didn’t fair so well against the Patriots, with a season low 41 yards on 15 carries. But Russell stepped up when needed and won the game with his arm.
This was an unlikely occurrence—and while very encouraging—will not change the format of this offense.
The Seahawks travel to San Fran Thursday to face the league’s 9th rated run defense. They are big, they are physical, and they are fast. So is Marshawn.
Lynch was the only running back to surpass 100 yards on the 49ers defense last season. However, it was in Seattle. At Candlestick Park in the season opener, Marshawn put up a measly 33 yards on 13 carries. This will not be the case Thursday.
The Seahawks are seeing red now after their big victory over New England, and they know they can beat this 49er team, taking the division lead. Look for them to unleash beast mode and let him out-muscle the 49er defense to set the pace for the Seahawks.
Bobby Wagner vs Patrick Willis
I know, quite a statement comparing a rookie linebacker to a 6-year stud. Patrick Willis is arguably the top middle linebacker in the NFL, and his rare combination of leadership and athletic ability are traits similar to those of Ray Lewis.
Now this is a huge comparison, and many say it is an overstatement. However, both are freakishly talented—Wagner ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at his pro day—and both came into the league starting right away, producing at a high level.
In six games this season, Willis has posted 50 tackles (35 solo, with 15 assists), 0 sacks and 2 stuffs for 4 yards (stuffs are a stat kept by ESPN and are very debatable, but nevertheless a stat).
The rookie out of Utah State has produced similar stats with 43 tackles (27 solo, with 16 assists), 1.5 sacks and 4 stuffs for 13 yards. Very impressive for a rookie linebacker, who had his best game last week posting a career-high 14 tackles.
So, while Wagner has big shoes to fill if he wants to be compared to Willis, he is certainly starting his career off on the right foot. It will be interesting to see how these two compete against their opposing teams come Thursday.
U Mad Bro?
How could I not put this in my post? I’m sure you have all seen the tweet from Richard Sherman taunting Tom Brady after their Sunday night victory in Seattle with the caption “U Mad Bro?”.
Sherman claims that during a TV-timeout, Seattle safety Earl Thomas informed Brady of the two passes he should have intercepted, and Brady responded with a glance at the scoreboard and a “Meet me after the game” statement. Well sure enough, Sherman was right there at midfield after the game to meet a dispelled Brady with some rather comforting words. “U Mad Bro?”
This story has exploded on twitter, ESPN, and NFL Network, putting the rising star Sherman on the map. He is certainly one of the top cornerbacks in the league, and he feels he deserves some attention.
Well your wish is the media’s command Sherman, you have your audience. And your next game is nationally televised on Thursday night. You better put on a show.
I have no doubt in my mind Richard Sherman will put on a strong performance this Thursday. San Fran is very weak at wide receiver, and their only threat in the passing game is tight end Vernon Davis.
I imagine Davis will be receiving a lot of coverage from safety Kam Chancellor much like Gronkowski did last week, so that shouldn’t be a worry of Sherman’s.
Cannot wait to see what Sherman has to say after a nationally televised victory. “U Mad Alex?”