There is no question in my mind that the game will be won or lost down in the trenches. Two teams that have a new-found hatred for each other as they are division foes, the San Francisco 49ers (14-4) and Seattle Seahawks (14-3) will be preparing themselves for an all-out backyard brawl. A take no prisoners attitude from both sidelines, you can be sure the game will be filled with violent blows and brutal hits. A perfect scenario and one in which Vegas predicted to be playing in the NFC Championship Game, these two NFC West teams will be looking to tear each other apart while moving onto the Super Bowl in the process.
A key to the game, it will be the 49ers offensive line that will need to come up huge. Led by 49ers 2013 second-team All-Pro T Joe Staley, Pro Bowl G Mike Iupati, C Jonathan Goodwin, G Alex Boone, and T Anthony Davis, they will all play an instrumental part that will play a big role in deciding the outcome of the game. A team that prides themselves on dominating down in the trenches, the 49ers are built for the playoffs as they boast the No. 3 ranked rushing attack.
A rushing attack made easier by RB Frank Gore as he continues to be the workhorse for the 49ers offense, his patient running style is what separates himself from other running backs. A player that trusts his teammates to blow up holes for him between the tackles, rarely do you see Gore having to bounce outside. And with 49ers OC Greg Roman often using multiple offensive lineman to further pave the way for him, Sunday should be no different as Gore racked up 17 carries for 110 rushing yards in their last meeting. And despite 51 of those rushing yards coming on the game’s final drive, Gore should be able to keep the Seahawks defense honest.
From the wham to the trap running plays, Roman will be out to confuse the Seahawks defense pre-snap while gaining a competitive advantage with mammoth-like offensive line. A coordinator that loves to utilize two tight-end sets, look for TE Vance McDonald to play a bigger role this Sunday as he is built like a fire hydrant. Not to mention, 49ers guards G/C Daniel Kilgore and G Adam Snyder will also be looking to pancake Seahawks defenders as they hit the second-level, the 49ers offensive line must do their part.
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A task easier said than done, as the Seahawks boast the No. 7 ranked rushing defense, it will be up to players such as Seahawks DT Brandon Mebane, DE Red Bryant, and MLB Bobby Wagner to impose their will. A defensive scheme that prides themselves on bringing the blitz at the “LEO” position, the 49ers must account for those players that will often line up at that spot including DE Chris Clemons, DE Cliff Avril and DE Bruce Irvin.
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A “LEO” position that is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker with the sole purpose for rushing the quarterback, Roman should devise a game-plan to counter this strategy and having Kaepernick run may be the answer. A quarterback that plays his best when scrambling outside the pocket, Kaepernick should have some easy running lanes to exploit as those pass-rushers will neglect the run. In addition, three of the Seahawks five sacks in two meetings this season have came at the “LEO” position, Roman should take notice and make them pay.
With the 49ers preparing for yet another defensive struggle, make no mistake it will be a close one, and one in which points will be scarce. Two teams that absolutely hate each other, it will be a battle. And with the 49ers riding an NFL best eight-game winning streak, look for them to continue that run as they are the hottest team in the NFL. And it all starts up front with the 49ers offensive line.
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