Pete Carroll seems to be getting a handle on not shooting his mouth off these days. Or his players. His MO has been to do a little too much talking. Before and after games. While Jim Harbaugh tends to talk to the press in non-sequiters (Jive turkey gobble gobble, ropin’ and ridin’).
Still and all this game will be played on the likely rain-soaked turf of Seattle. This game will also bear little similarity to the previous meeting of the Niners and Seattle in week 7 at the Stick. That game saw a lot of Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson had one of his worst days as a rookie phenom, and Carroll was still working on how to use Wilson in the framework of their offense. Wilson went 9 for 23 for 122 yards and a pick. Since that game, though, the Hawks have gone more read option, and have thrown more than earlier in the season. Passing to set up the run. Wilson has gone 13-2 TDs to INTs since that Niner game. And obviously they’ve been scoring at a very high rate. Of course, scoring on Buffalo isn’t all that, and AZ has been on a steady decline since they beat the Dolphins on Sept 30.
The 49ers? Well, beyond the fact that they’ve changed QBs, and they too run the read option now (out of the bug-eye formation), and are a little more aggressive in their passing game, their philosophy hasn’t changed all that much. They still try to pound the ball up the middle with Gore, and hit the edges with LMJ. They use play-action to try downfield shots. Very much like Seattle. Even with Seattle’s recent onslaught of points, the Niners have still outspcred them 357 to 350, but it’s basically a wash.
Defensively, both these teams are similar. A defensive backfield full of big-hitting safeties and good cover guys. The numbers bear this out. Even with Sunday night’s defensive collapse, the Niners still lead the lead in least defensive points allowed 218 points. Seattle is a close 2nd at 219. Both teams have 35 sacks, but Seattle’s defense is slowed by the loss of Jason Jones, Brandon Browner is serving his suspension for PEDs, and the impending suspension of Richerd Sherman is still TBD today. He may or may not be cleared, and even if suspended, could still have the suspension hit next week instead of this game. They do get safety Winston Guy back. He has served his 4 game suspension for PEDs.
The Niners of course may not be getting the services of Justin Smith. He of the 185 consecutive game starting (and 188 games in a row) streak, and the heart of the defensive line for the 49ers. Earlier reports of Smith playing have been clouded by the fact that Smith hasn’t practiced all week, and his status is less clear than when Harbaugh gave his ‘ropin’ and ridin’ report on Tuesday. Ricky-Jean would take his spot, and he had a decent game once the Niners got out of their zone coverage and stopped letting Brady hit 8-12 yard passes at will. Still and all, I think Justin is a game-time decision and could still play if he improves enough. Missing a few practices isn’t a deal-breaker for him.
So, I see a game plan similar to what they did vs NE. Come out aggressive. Try to get up early, and force turnovers in the bad weather. The big hope for me is that Kappy and Goodwin have figured out the center/QB exchange problems which plagued the Niners, to the tune of 4 botched snaps (but no turnovers), in the New England rain. They cannot keep making mistakes like that and expecting to win games.