The season is young, and the San Francisco 49ers have shown that they fight hard and that many of their players have a lot of raw talent and potential. Despite that, they still have many holes that HC Chip Kelly needs to plug up.
After a decisive 28-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in week 1, the 49ers were pummeled by the Carolina Panthers, 46-27.
All the 49ers can do now is look to week 3, where they will be playing the Seattle Seahawks on the road, to get themselves back on track. The Seahawks are coming off a 9-3 loss to the Rams in which their offensive life was completely sucked out of them. They are also looking to get back on track at Century Link.
If the 49ers want a chance to beat Seattle, they must take away Seattle’s largest offensive strength of the past few years: the running game. Last season, despite losing RB Marshawn Lynch to injury, the Seahawks ranked 1st in rushing yards at 1304. In 2014, they ranked 3rd in the NFL.
With a young defensive line, led by players like DT DeForest Buckner and DT Arik Armstead, the 49ers have a chance to take down a Seattle run game that has been weaker this season thus far. So far, Seattle ranks 18th in the NFL with just 179 rushing yards in two games.
So why will the 49ers be able to shut the Seahawks’ running backs down?
Seattle Lacks Proven Running Backs:
- RB Christine Michael has emerged as Seattle’s starting running back this season. Michael was the Seahawks’ second round draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2013. He bounced around a bit before finding his way back to Seattle. Although his career average of yards per carry is high (4.8), the Seahawks clearly don’t trust him like they trusted their RB’s in the past because he is unproven. Much like Lynch, Michael is a power runner. But he lacks the lateral speed of Lynch, therefore making it difficult for him to burst through small holes in the defense. LB NaVorro Bowman, who has been looking like his old self this season, should be able to take away any opportunities that Michael has for any big gains. Additionally, when helping cover the rush, FS Eric Reid and SS Jaquiski Tartt will be able to bring Michael down with their hard hits, which they are known for.
- RB Thomas Rawls garnered an admirable nickname last season for the way he played while Lynch was injured. In the locker room, players called him Baby Beast Mode, and rightfully so. In 13 games last season, Rawls racked up 830 yards as an undrafted rookie. Against the 49ers in Seattle last year, Rawls had a whopping 209 rushing yards on 30 attempts with one touchdown. This season, however, he has been relatively quiet as the Seahawks’ backup RB, with just 19 attempts for 25 yards. Against The Rams he had -7 rushing yards on 7 attempts. Against the Baltimore Ravens in 2015, Rawls suffered a season-ending ankle injury and hasn’t been the same since. He is also questionable to play this Sunday as well. This season, Rawls doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness he had last season. The 49ers’ defensive line and linebackers such as LB Gerald Hodges and Bowman shouldn’t have any trouble bringing him down if he plays.
The Seahawks’ Offensive Line is Relatively Weak
- Seattle arguably has one of the worst offensive lines in football. It’s actually quite surprising that the Seahawks had a top-notch running game until this year. Additionally, the weak offensive line also tells us how good of a QB Russell Wilson is when he is not throwing from the pocket. The 49ers have both a veteran and youthful presence to rush the quarterback. LB Ahmad Brooks, Buckner, and Armstead are all capable pass rushers. Additionally, DE Quinton Dial and DE Mike Purcell are two very capable players on the 49ers’ line. They may not be elite, but the Seahawks’ offensive line is still no match for them. A frustrated defense that rarely pressured QB Cam Newton is sure to overpower the Seahawks’ offensive line and help stop the running game. Buckner and Armstead must prove that they know how to bounce back from a tough week.
#49ers DE Arik Armstead & DeForest Buckner both need to show up in pass-rush. They weren’t drafted in 1st round to simply be edge setters.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 20, 2016
The Seahawks Don’t Have TE Greg Olsen or WR Kelvin Benjamin:
- It’s a safe bet to say that one of the most apparent holes in the 49ers’ defense against the Panthers was their inability to cover Benjamin and Greg Olsen who combined for 230 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Every time the 49ers seemed to have something going defensively (3rd and long), Benjamin or Olsen would make a huge play and the Panthers would score. The Seahawks have decent receivers in WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Doug Baldwin, TE Jimmy Graham, and WR Tyler Lockett, but none of these receivers are mentioned in the same breath as the Panthers’ pro-bowlers. Graham was one of the best TE’s in the league when playing with QB Drew Brees in New Orleans, but has regressed a bit and is yet to find his groove with Seattle. Lockett was a 2015 pro-bowler, but as a return specialist.
- The 49ers should adopt a similar defensive strategy as they used in week 1 against the Rams, but in a limited fashion. The 49ers were able to stuff the running game because QB Case Keenum is not a very big threat to rack up a lot of passing yards. Wilson, however, has a history of making something out of nothing, even with an incompetent offensive line. If they adopt a similar technique, but do not throw multiple defenders at Michael or Rawls every single play, they should be in good shape to stop the run and manage the passing game.
— Tej Kamaraju (@TejKSports) September 20, 2016
This is a Seahawks team that managed just 3 points against the Rams. An angry 49ers’ defensive line who couldn’t do anything against QB Cam Newton means they’ll be ready to take out some of their frustration on one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
If LB’s Bowman and Hodges help stop the run, which they are more than capable of doing, safeties such as Reid, FS Antoine Bethea, and Tartt should be able to do a good enough job patrolling Seattle’s receivers. Someone many need to help out CB Tramaine Brock, however. He might have his hands full with Baldwin.