49ers-Seahawks matchups: Boldin v. Seattle’s cornerbacks

The 49ers cannot line up Anquan Boldin at flanker across from Richard Sherman all game and expect Boldin to play well. Sherman will get the better of that matchup.

Sherman got the better of Boldin two years ago when Boldin was a Raven and Sherman was a rookie. Boldin caught zero passes when he was covered by Sherman.

Boldin only caught two passes total in that game. Brandon Browner shut him down as well. Browner may or mat not play this Sunday.

Look for the 49ers to line up Boldin in the slot and try to get him matched up on the Seahawks’ smallest cornerback, Walter Thurmond III, or the Seahawks tiny free safety, Earl Thomas. Boldin can use his size to win those matchups.

But if Boldin starts hurting the Seahawks from the slot, look for Sherman follow Boldin and cover him no matter where he lines up. Sherman doesn’t have the quickness of a prototypical nickelback but he has enough quickness to cover Boldin in the middle of the field.

Advantage: Seahawks

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  1. I think the game plan has to be to get McDonald, Patton, Moore, and Williams involved. The Seattle defensive plan will surely to stop the run (including Kaepernick) and cover Boldin and Davis. The other guys have to have big games. Let Sherman neutralize Boldin, or at least attempt to.

    1. I like where you’re headed with this but I don’t think Williams is going to help much here. Definitely not capable of a 8-10 catch game.

      I think V. Macdonald and V. Davis are key. Especially with Davis as Seattle can only contain him so much without freeing up others.

      49ers need to attack the middle linebackers with passes in the middle of the field. Find seams between the safeties and underneath coverage.

  2. Well, let Sherman line up against Boldin and run the ball. Block Sherman so hard he wont want to line up against Boldin after that

  3. Grant – I’m curious if you watched the tape or if you just looked up the stats for this game. Sometimes a player can be open all game and is just not getting the ball. Other times they are blanked all game but QB still gives them the chance to catch balls. I’m curious what you are basing the above on. Stats or actual game tape.

    1. Mike,

      I know you asked Grant, but I watched the game in question last night and again this morning, and the Seahawks corners cancelled Boldin out for the most part when they came up and played tight.

      Boldin’s first reception came from the slot when he sat down between the corner and LB for a 5 yard gain. His second catch came when they played an off coverage and he was able to get open on a deep in route.

      They tried to go to him with a quick slant on a 3rd and 1 or 2, but the jam was so good that Flacco was forced to look elsewhere.

  4. “if Boldin starts hurting the Seahawks from the slot, look for Sherman follow Boldin and cover him no matter where he lines up.”

    They did this last week when Carolina went to the bunch formation, but part of that was because the Panthers kept only a on the opposite side of the formation with his hand down.

    If they do it again this week, and the 49ers split the man out wide it should create a matchup advantage for SF.

  5. This is a game where we will see just how reliable the other receivers are. While I believe Roman and co will find ways to get Boldin and Davis the ball, the Seahawks DBs should be too good to be repeatedly beat by two guys like the Packers were. If the other receivers can’t win their match-ups it could be difficult to get much going in the passing game.

  6. Grant,
    Boldin and Flacco didn’t seem to have a good chemistry until last year in the playoffs. So Sherman’ good defense is suspect.

    Sherman is a very good and physical CB but I would place my money on Boldin to win the physical matchup.

    But I don’t see GRo having CK throwing to AB like last Sunday. I actually believe that we will see CK do more running in this game. Also, I agree that the ball should be distributed more to other receivers.

  7. I second what everyone is saying on this blog… McDonald, Patton, Moore. These (3) were proven during camp. CK proved he can can make anyone a star. I think if these guys can get a step or find a hole to sit in then we are good. CK can get the ball there. He just needs time to read defenses and throw. It might be harder in Seattle but the cream rises to the top.

    If CK is prime time then he should handle this game situation!!!

  8. “Advantage: Seahawks…”

    Sorry but you are wrong Shrub-san. If Boldin ties up their best cover man, we are the team with the advantage. Davis will eat them up. Boldin and Davis can handle any busines the Seahawk DBs have to offer. Hell, we might lose, but I remember all the pissing and moaning about Detroit’s supposedly invincible defense two years ago when we played in the Silverdome. We kicked their butts big time…

    1. The seattle pass rush will dictate everything else. Avril is back this week. If GB can cause problems it’s going to be a LONG day in Seattle.

      1. What game were you watching Matt? GB’s pass rush was pretty much nonexistent. The pass protection was outstanding.

      2. Matt must be a closet Seahawk fan. Cone on out Matt. Avril is nothing special. Best pass blocking line in the NFL this year. Might want to take a look at the Seattle line. They were horrible last week. Russell took several big hits. Hes goibg to take more this week. Kap will be fine. No rain this week. Niners win big!

      3. Do you miss your big sister DS prime. Heard anything about that 9 mil a year Alex Smith contract? You’re a real misfit. You need a friend. Haha.

      4. I do miss DS but there are others on here rehashing your ignorance. Oh and by the way, Alex is making $7.5 million this year. Not bad for a guy with no completions over 12 yards.
        F&@/)(?!, geez, damn phone!

      5. I watched Clay Matthews record two sacks. Then he tackled Hunter for -7. That’s a sack that was avoided merely by a handoff. In other words, he was unblocked and basically got to the QB/RB at the same time as the handoff.

        Kaepernick sacked himself on a scramble. Kind of a boneheaded play. I blame that on week 1.

        All I’m saying is that Green Bay was able to get pressure where there shouldn’t have been any.

        Now, Carolina has one of the best defensive fronts in football. Last season, Carolina was ranked in the top ten. Carolina’s problem is their offense.

        Seattle and just about every team can count SF for at least 3 sacks a game. Kaepernick’s mobility will help keep that sack per game number down to 3 from what should be about 7.

        Finally, Jordan because I don’t agree with your opinions, you question whether I’m a fan or not. That’s silly. Grow up. In the real world, you live amongst differing views.
        The day I need your acceptance to be considered a fan of anything is truly a sad day in the world.

      6. Matt the seahawks fan. I got you little fella. We’re kicking your teams ass this week Matt. Avril wont even be a factor. He was a waste of money. Just like Harvin and Bennett. Are you sad yet?

      7. Matt says: “I watched Clay Matthews record two sacks.” As Rocket already asked you, what game were you watching? Matthews only had 1 sack.

        “All I’m saying is that Green Bay was able to get pressure where there shouldn’t have been any.”

        Oddly enough most pointed to the pass protection as a key to Kaepernick throwing for over 400 yards.

        “Seattle and just about every team can count SF for at least 3 sacks a game. Kaepernick’s mobility will help keep that sack per game number down to 3 from what should be about 7.”

        Well, in the first game it was only 2 sacks so they are ahead of your expectations. ; )

  9. I’m curious if Harbs/Roman will use the same well-designed pick plays that worked vs Packers. On a few crucial 3rd and short plays, Boldin was split wide and the slot receiver inside of him would run a short curl-out/pick for Boldin. Seattle will prepare for this but can they stop it?

      1. 23J – We ready bro!!
        As far as the pick plays, they work at all levels. Even My kids Jr. All- American team uses them. I’ve seen some high schools get away with illegal picks…some of the H.S. zebras are senior citizens and can’t maneuver or see very well :)

    1. I read that yesterday Jack. Really is ridiculous when you look at some of the things they said vs. what Kap has done. They either did this very early on or they haven’t been paying attention.

      1. I read that article yesterday as well. While reading it, I tried to suppress my “homer” tendencies (for both the 49ers and Nevada) and to look at Kaep as “they” seem to have done. However, even in giving “them” the benefit of the doubt, the article seemed to me to be a piece designed to support a predetermined result rather than an objective analysis. Further, it seems less like it was actually compiled by a panel of experts and more like the author drew his own conclusions from select comments from experts (or, less charitably, chose comments from experts that fit the preconceived rankings).

        The video accompanying the article seemed much more objective overall.

    2. Jack, aside from this not unexpected ranking from ESPN, but going back to your previous blog and comments on here about bunch formations, what kind of routes do you think would be effective when doing so? Do you think any comeback routes like deep-in’s would be effective?

      1. Space,

        I keep going with the bunch, or motion because I think it allow’s the free release of the WR’s and can eliminate a main strength of the Seattle DB’s which is their physical play.

        One example that I liked was from the 2nd game last year, and it was the 3rd down play in the 2nd half after Willis intercepted the screen. On this play they lined up Crabtree inside with another receiver outside. The outside receiver did a short motion in and then ran a 10-12 yard curl with Gore running a flat route from the backfield and Crabtree running a little stop route over the middle against the linebackers. On the play Kaepernick locks on to Crabtree and never sees Gore come wide open in the flat. I attribute that to him being a young QB. This is a combination that Carolina ran last week, and had open guys but Newton just is too inccurate to execute.

        The second example comes from early in the first half of the second meeting, and this time they are in a true bunch formation with Williams on the outside, Davis in the middle and Crabtree on the inside, with Randy Moss on the opposite side of the field occupying Sherman.

        They run Williams deep on a wheel route, Davis on a 10-12 yard curl, Crabtree on a flat and Moss is running a streak. Williams gets behind Browner but Smith’s throw is not on target.

        What I liked about the above play is that it showed exactly what I was mentioning earlier in a comment to Grant. 3rd and 6, 49ers have 11 personnel and to the bunch side the Seahawks have Browner outside with the slot guy #23 inside and Chancellor down also. Seattle was in a zone look on the bunch side, and while Smith took the shot because it was open, he also had Davis open underneath between Chancellor and the inside linebacker.

        Sorry if this is too much, but I have watched way too much film this week. LOL ; )

      2. Thanks, Jack, as always your insight is what I count on to get the picture right in my head. Never worry about giving me too much because though I played Pop Warner and played for a small high school, I didn’t play in college so I didn’t get too much beyond fundamentals. Would have loved to play in college, but it was all about baseball and there was a lot of pressure not to play football. Thanks, again.

  10. The other advantage the Niners will have is in Man to Man coverage the defensive backs have to turn their backs to the QB and run with the receiver. This opens up running lanes for Kap, draws to Gore and short passes to Gore and Hunter out in the flats.
    I think all the receivers besides Boldin and Davis will have to step up there game.
    I also see a few pick plays to scrape the defenders off. Boldin does not need a lot of room to make the catch.

  11. I forced myself to watch last years game in Seattle again as I’m an obvious Masochist, but much to my surprise it wasn’t quite as bad as I remember.
    First off there were a couple of things pop right out that really hurt the Niners in this game:

    - Not having Justin Smith was a killer as the Seahawks just caved in the right side of the Dline multiple times running the ball for big yardage.

    - They lost Vernon Davis in the first half to a concussion on a big hit by Chancellor. Not having him really cut down their effectiveness in the passing game, but also in the run game without his blocking.

    - Just like this past weekend, two 15 yard penalties on the Niners setup great field position and ended in TD drives.

    - They could not contain Russell Wilson at all. On one sequence I hummed the Benny Hill theme as Wilson seemed to run in circles leaving defenders sprawled behind him. It really was bad.

    - Seattle burned the Niner defense with drag routes everytime they played off the receivers. Way too often in this game the Niner CB’s were playing 10 yards or more off the LOS and Seattle just threw under it and picked up first downs. They have to be more physical and aggressive than that this time around.

    - Turnovers in scoring territory killed SF. 5 times they were inside the 20 and they came away with 10 points, 7 on the last drive of the game when it was already long over.

    - Delay of game Penalties were a problem in the first half.

    - Rogers dropped an easy int. that would have ended a Seattle TD drive.

    Now the good things:

    The pass protection was fantastic. Kap did not have a very good game but he was given time to throw all night.

    - While they didn’t score TD’s, the Niners did move the ball effectively at times including passes down the field, one of which was a deep throw to Crabtree in which he beat Sherman. Between the 20′s was no problem but once they got to the Redzone they self destructed.

    LaMichael James had a good game, especially returning KO’s.

    When watching it this time I saw a clear difference in energy level between the teams. The Hawks came out with fire; the Niners just looked like they wanted to get through the game and back on the plane. I chalk this up to the travel and toughness of the NE game the week prior, but as we saw in the playoffs, the Niners developed a terrible habit of coming out dozey and starting slow. In this game they were down 14-0 before they knew what hit them and then a chip shot field goal was blocked, returned for a TD and that was pretty much all she wrote.

    In order to win this game they need to score TD’s in the redzone and keep Seattle’s running game from moving the ball. If they force Wilson to win it solely with his arm they have a good shot, but that also means the pass rush has to keep him contained in the pocket. The Panthers did a pretty good job of that last week and it was effective. The other key is not to get too caught up in the moment. They have to ignore the crap Seattle gives and just take it to them. As Kap said “when you make plays, the chirping stops” and he’s right on the money.

    Another thing I noticed was that much like GB last week, Seattle was really crowding the LOS, often keeping 8-9 in the box and daring Kap to beat them with his arm. I doubt they do it to that extent again this week after seeing what happened to GB, but if he sees them do it, Kap has to take advantage of it.

    It’s going to be a tough one, but if they cut the mistakes out and score in the Redzone, they’ll have a good shot at getting a W.

    1. Rocket,

      One of the things that jumped out at me when I watched it a couple days ago was how poorly Kaepernick played. His inexperience really showed up in that game, locking on to receivers, inaccurate, just a step behind like the rest of the team that night.

    2. Yeah that stood out to me as well Jack. He looked a little flustered and really didn’t throw the ball well overall, which was surprising because as I mentioned above, the pass protection was excellent for most of the night. Now that he’s had the experience of playing there he should be better prepared.

    3. Luckily his experience playing the biggest game you can play should keep him from getting flustered against the She-Hawks (for you Boobie). I bet we see some fire out of the team. This is a revenge match.

  12. I think Boldin will have a tough day, but I dont think the hawks have anyone to shut down Davis. I think we’ll line Davis up all over the field and allow him to clear out some guys so other can get open.

    I think someone steps up and has a big day for us. I say Kaep gets some good runs this week too.

    1. Earl Thomas would be my guess to line up against Vernon and has done more than a good job against him in the past. SEA has one of the best secondary’s in the league even without Browner.

      This game will be decided moreso on how well we can sustain the run and use it throughout the game. The reason SEA is so good at home is they get ahead and force teams to pass and the crowd noise becomes more of an advantage.
      Gotta be patient and play the field position game, kick FG’s, attack deep occasionally, and stop Russell from scrambling. Make him a pocket passer, close lanes and stop Skittle man!

  13. I’m not as well-versed on Marlon Moore as I am about Patton ..
    but .. I’m thinking if these two make some good catches
    in the 1st qtr .. then, from the 2nd qtr on ..
    whenever they’re on the field with Boldin and Vernon..
    you won’t see any double teaming of any of them ..

    It’s like several people said in earlier threads …
    “… Pick your poison..”

    Last year, we got a taste of what G-Ro can do ,,,
    (the Green Bay playoff game) …
    He showed McCarthy something he had never seen before …

    With the addition of Mangini …
    I’m thinkin’ .. they’ll be able to totally baffle Carroll …
    as well !

    and the scary thing is …

    I think they’ll get to a point where
    they’ll be able to do it at will !

    Hang on to yer hats, ladies and gentlemen ..
    I think this is gonna be a fun season !

  14. Niners are going to blow out the Seahawks.

    Grant will never understand football.

    Kaepernick is the best player in the history of the game.

    1. I’ll agree with your #1 & #2 .. but ..I’m gonna wait
      awhile before I’m ready to make that bold proclamation ..

      I will, however .. stick my neck out
      with a bold one of my own …

      “… Colin Kaepernick will be named
      Super Bowl MVP …. this season ! ….”
      and again … (for the 2nd or 3rd time) …
      in Super Bowl L ..!!

      (of course …if that doesn’t happen …
      I’ll feel like an idiot )

  15. I wonder if this game would be a good one for the Niners to take a Chip-like approach that had Washington backpedaling all of the first half past Monday night. Is there any fundamental drawback in the Niners running the kind of combo packages that the Eagles use under Kelly? Use formations, each of which could generate any one of 3 or 4 plays (run or pass). Cut down the playbook for this game. Occasionally run no-huddle. Anything that will reduce the effect of crowd noise (Kaep having to call out protection changes), and keeps the Seahawks’ defense off-balance.
    Here’s a good analysis of the Eagles’ offense on Monday night.
    http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/74191/the-power-of-the-chip-kelly-offense

  16. Bubble screen to the General to start the game. I would mix in some screens to Hunter as well. VMac is a big target and the seam route should be open.

    Defensive pocket containment is a priority. When rushing Wilson, you must break him down and anticipate his spin move. Don’t allow him to scramble outside. Contain and funnel him up the middle.

    1. I’m thinking the same. Use there energy against them. Maybe a middle screen play or draw play or counter play. No huddle would be good too. It also would not hurt to win the opening coin toss and defer.
      Use their aggressiveness against them. Vd and vm down the seems.

    2. Good call Razor. I wish SF would use more screens. Funneling Wilson back to the middle was Carolina’s game plan. He did not look comfortable most of the game.
      It’s going to put some pressure on Aldon Smith to just attack Wilson and ignore the read option. I personally hope that Reid introduces himself midway through the 1st quarter.

  17. Richard Sherman CAN NOT cover A. Boldin!!! 2yrs ago Boldin didn’t have KAEPERNICK throwing him the ball! I guarantee you if Sherman man up on him alone, Boldin will win that match-up!!! Sherman is good but so is BOLDIN!!!!

    1. I was surprised to see the same assertion. Boldin wasn’t open every time he was thrown the ball against Green Bay. In fact, he was double teamed on a couple occasions. The scouting report on Boldin is that he catches the ball whether he is open or not.
      Last week was a perfect example of that.

    2. Sherman has a huge mouth, but also plays with a bunch of physicality. Boldin will win some match ups and just grab the ball, but I expect Sherman will also be capable of punching a few out.

      If Kaep and Boldin can win consistently against Sherman one on one then this game is ours. Still going to be a great game.

    3. This may be the toughest pill for Niners fans to swallow but Sherman, for all his talk and bravado, really is one of the greatest CBs in the game right now. Boldin can do great when mismatched against mid tier CBs but respect what Sherman can do.

  18. You can’t use what Boldin did two years ago, as a recipe for Sunday. Boldin was mis-used by Cam Cameron in his scheme. Part of the reason he was fired. You look how Boldin was used against us in the SB and how we utilized him against the Packers….alot of stacked releases/bunch formations and used mostly inside. If you keep Boldin outside, he’s a liability. CBs can squat on everything short without having to worry about getting beat over the top. Same with Crabs. They need space and room to work the middle of the field. But I think the ‘Hawks know they won’t see Boldin outside too much. So how will they counter?

  19. Sherman is strictly a LCB. Line up Boldin in the slot or opposite of Sherman and win the matchup. With no Browner the seachickens are short at corner. Advantage Niners if they gameplan efficiently

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