I think the Seahawks will beat the 49ers on Sunday. But I’m going to make a case for the 49ers because they are a good team with a good chance to win. And it’s important to look at an issue from all sides.
Almost everything works in the 49ers’ favor:
The Seahawks could have an emotional letdown after Monday night’s boisterous 34-7 victory against the Saints. It will be next to impossible for them to take so much enthusiasm on the road, unless maybe the Candlestick crowd boos them enough.
If the Seahawks have any chance to win, they have to withstand the emotional surge the 49ers will get from the home crowd during the first 10 minutes of the game. They may not withstand the surge. Other teams haven’t. Without the noise of their home crown, the Seahawks are a different team.
The Saints couldn’t handle the first 10 minutes of the game Monday night in Seattle, and look what happened. The Saints were down 10-0 before they could blink. They couldn’t overcome the momentum the Seahawks seized and fed on the entire first half. The Seahawks really didn’t do much in the second half once the adrenaline wore off. By then it didn’t matter.
The Seahawks have one less day of rest than the 49ers and one less day to prepare. They played Monday night. Plus they fly on Saturday. All of this will have an impact.
The 49ers are desperate. Don’t underestimate desperation.
If the 49ers lose this game, there is a good chance they will fall behind the Cowboys or the Eagles in the wild-card race at least for one week, maybe permanently.
But even if the Seahawks lose, they easily can lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC with wins against bad teams down the stretch. They already clinched a playoff spot. The 49ers haven’t clinched anything. The Seahawks have less to play for than the Niners.
The 49ers typically play well at Candlestick against the Seahawks. The Seahawks haven’t beaten the 49ers at Candlestick since 2008. History is on the 49ers’ side.
Last season at the Stick, Frank Gore ran right up the gut of the Seahawks’ defense for 131 yards. The Seahawks put eight and sometimes nine defenders right in front of the 49ers’ offensive line to stop Gore, but they couldn’t stop him. Mike Iupati, in particular, had a great game. He bulldozed defenders, especially in the second half. It was the best game of his career.
Most of Gore’s big runs came on “wham” and “trap” plays. The Seahawks have an aggressive, fast defensive line that wants to charge into the offensive backfield. They’re great at doing this in Seattle on fast fake turf and with that loud home crowd.
But the 49ers use this aggression against Seattle in San Francisco. Think of the trap play. You’ve heard of the trap play. An over-aggressive defensive lineman rushes into the 49ers’ backfield looking to hit Gore. The Niners’ offensive lineman let him do it. As the unsuspecting lineman chargers full speed ahead, an offensive lineman decks the defender from the defender’s blindside. Big hole for Frank Gore. Thank you very much.
The wham play is similar, except the fullback or the tight end cracks the defender with the blindside block.
The 49ers are not so good at whamming and trapping in Seattle, but they are terrific at home. And this is a big advantage for the 49ers.
Iupati is the 49ers’ No.1 trapper and puller. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Iupati probably won’t play on Sunday. He sprained his knee a few weeks ago against the Saints. This may have repercussions for the 49ers. We’ll see.
If Gore can run like Frank Gore instead of the Gore imposter who’s shown up lately, Colin Kaepernick could have a big day. He’s been shaky, but a running game the Seahawks must respect will open up the passing lanes for him. This is the basis of the 49ers’ game plan and it just might work.
The 49ers’ defense is one of the best. it may stop or, at least, slow down running back Marshawn Lynch. If this happens, the 49ers are in good shape.
I see all this and I’m sharing it with you. I admit the 49ers could win this game. I still don’t think they will.
Here are some numbers to think about.
The 49ers are giving up two touchdowns per game at home this season, and the Seahawks are scoring more than two touchdowns per game on the road. The Seahawks are going to score at least two touchdowns against the Niners on Sunday.
On the other hand, the Seahawks’ defense is giving up fewer than two touchdowns per game. Kaepernick never has led a single touchdown drive against the Seahawks’ starting defense – I bet you didn’t know that. He led one TD drive against their backups in garbage time last season.
All of a sudden, Kaepernick is going to lead two or three TD drives against the Seahawks on Sunday?
I don’t think so.
I can’t help believing Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than Kaepernick, Lynch is a stronger runner than Gore and the Niners’ offensive line is compromised by injury.
The Seahawks will score two touchdowns, the 49ers will score one and the final score will be Seahawks 20, 49ers 19.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.