The NFC West steps into the prime time spotlight when the Seattle Seahawks travel to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night. We break down this huge divisional matchup with our tale of the tape:
The Seahawks offense got a shot in the arm from rookie QB Russell Wilson last week. The first-year pivot passed for 293 yards and three TDs, helping the Seahawks steal a come-from-behind win against the Patriots at home. However, Wilson faces a fiercer pass rush in the 49ers and will lean on RB Marshawn Lynch to relieve the pressure. Lynch rumbled for just 41 yards last Sunday with Seattle playing from behind. He’s third in the league in rushing with 549 yards but has just two touchdowns.
San Francisco’s offense hit a speed bump versus the Giants last week. After throwing just one INT through the first five games, QB Alex Smith was picked off three times and failed to connect for a TD for just the second time this season. The Niners may turn to their NFL-best rushing attack to get them back on track in Week 7. San Francisco leads the league with 176.5 yards per game, sharing carries between RB Frank Gore, speedster Kendall Hunter, and wildcat threat Colin Kaepernick.
Edge: San Francisco
The Seahawks defense ranks fourth in the NFL, giving up just 294.7 yards an outing and stuffing opposing rushing attacks for only 70 yards a game – second best in the league. The 23 points they allowed versus New England last weekend were the most given up through the first six weeks. Defensive end Chris Clemons leads the team with 5.5 sacks while CB Richard Sherman paces the Seahawks with three INTs, including one against Tom Brady last Sunday.
The 49ers defense ranks No. 1 in yards allowed, giving up only 275.8 yards per contest. The anchors of that stop unit are linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, who have combined for 69 tackles but neither has yet to record a sack on the season. Fellow LB Aldon Smith is benefiting from all the attention Willis and Bowman draw, picking up 4.5 sacks so far. San Francisco is also tops in the league in opponents’ first downs, limiting foes to just 16.5 first downs per game and boasting just 4.6 yards against per play.
Edge: San Francisco
Seattle is averaging 29.3 yards per kick return – third in the NFL – but just 8.2 yards per punt return. Leon Washington is always a threat in the return game, with his longest return of the season going for 83 yards. On kick coverage, Seattle is holding opponents to 20.6 yards per kick return – fourth lowest – and 10 yards per punt return. Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka is 11 for 12 on FG attempts and missed his only attempt of 50 or more yards.
San Francisco’s top return weapon, Ted Ginn Jr., continues to rehab an ankle injury that has left the special teams to rely on Kyle Williams. Ginn returned a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown versus the Seahawks last September. Williams is averaging 27.5 yards per kick return and 13 yards per punt return this season. On kick coverage, the Niners have allowed opponents to pick up 33.1 yards per kick return – second worst in the NFL – and run back for an average of 17.1 yards per punt return – third worst in the league – including a 75-yard punt return TD from Packers specialist Randall Cobb in Week 1. Kicker David Akers is just 11 for 16 on FG attempts (68.8 percent is third worst in NFL) and is 1 for 3 on FG attempts of 50-plus yards, that lone hit coming on a 63-yard boot that bounced off the crossbar and over.
Word on the street
“Consciously, obviously putting this one away quick with the quick turnaround Thursday. After a loss like that, yeah in some ways it’s nice because you can’t dwell on it, even as a team. You’ve just got to move on.” – 49ers QB Alex Smith, on how the short week will help him get over his three INTs from Week 6.
“It’s a much-improved aspect of our football team and it’s with a first-time quarterback so we’re excited that we’ll continue to get better, continue to focus on it and make it a great priority in the program.” – Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on the team’s improved two-minute drill, which pulled out a last-second win over New England in Week 6.