3TFO: 49ers @ Seahawks, Week 16

Their is no love lost between the Seahawks and 49ers as these teams have huge playoff implications here. Peter Damilatis gives you 3 points ot ponder here.

| 5 years ago

Their is no love lost between the Seahawks and 49ers as these teams have huge playoff implications here. Peter Damilatis gives you 3 points ot ponder here.

3TFO: 49ers @ Seahawks, Week 16

The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks last met on a Thursday night back in Week 7, and combined for 19 points in a game where both teams had more yards rushing than passing. With the way these two offenses have since thrived under their young quarterbacks, we may see more than 19 points in the first quarter. The 49ers have gone 4-1 and scored 28.8 points since Colin Kaepernick was named their starting quarterback. The Seahawks have won five of their past six games and just became the first team since 1950 to score 50 or more points in back-to-back games. You could argue that, for the first time in recent memory, the two hottest teams in the NFC reside in the West.

Will the 49ers tarnish the Seahawks’ perfect home record and clinch the NFC West? Or will Pete Carroll earn his first NFL victory over Jim Harbaugh? These three matchups could make the difference here.

49ers Run Blocking vs. Seahawks Defensive Line

The biggest mismatch, and the biggest surprise, in the first meeting between these two teams was San Francisco’s absolute domination of Seattle’s defensive line in the running game. Frank Gore averaged 8.2 yards per carry, with 84 of his 131 rushing yards coming before contact. Every time Gore grabbed a handoff, he ran an average of 5.3 yards past the line of scrimmage before a Seahawks defender even touched him. The 49ers ran at will in all directions, but most of their success came behind their interior line, where they averaged an absurd 15.8 yards on six carries into the A-gaps. That makes sense when the charge is led by Jonathan Goodwin, whose +11.7 run block grade this season ranks sixth among centers, and Mike Iupati and Alex Boone, who’s +21.7 and +18.3 marks rank second and third among guards, respectively.

Needless to say, this performance did not reflect well on a Seahawks defensive line that prides itself on being physical. All four starters recorded a career-low run defense grade in the five years we’ve been charting games. Eight Seattle defensive linemen who took a snap combined for just two run stops between them (both coming from defensive end Red Bryant). Brandon Mebane’s 9.1 Run Stop Percentage ranks third among all defensive tackles, but that Thursday night he was simply pushed around all game by the 49er linemen. And to think, all this happened before the 49ers had an aggressive running threat at quarterback.

Colin Kaepernick vs. Seahawks Cornerbacks

As good as the 49ers were on the ground in Week 7, they were powerless through the air. In a game tailor-made for Alex Smith detractors, the veteran quarterback completed 70% of his passes, but was just two of six for 32 yards on throws that traveled 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Coming off a big win against the New England Patriots (albeit one that he nearly fumbled away), Kaepernick certainly looks like a tougher matchup for the Seahawks. His 101.90 PFF QB Rating is tops among quarterbacks, and his 79.3% Accuracy Rate is nearly as good as Smith’s league-leading 81.2% mark. He still only throws 20+ yards downfield on 11.7% of his attempts, but his 302 yards this season on such throws have already surpasses Smith’s total of 293. More importantly, while Smith took a sack 33.8% of the times he faced pressure (the highest rate in the NFL), Kaepernick has been sacked on only 21.2%, despite facing a higher rate of pressure.

In his first start against the Seahawks, Kaepernick will face a secondary that is flush with depth, but also uncertainty. Seattle hopes that Richard Sherman’s appeal today for a four-game drug suspension doesn’t keep him out of the game. As our fourth-highest-graded corner, he’ll try to bounce back from a tough matchup with Stevie Johnson to shadow Michael Crabtree, who has 301 yards over his past three games. Brandon Browner’s suspension continues, and Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant are both dealing with hamstring injuries, so Seattle may again have to rely heavily on rookie Jeremy Lane and second-year corner Byron Maxwell. Lane held the Buffalo Bills to 29 yards on seven targets, and Maxwell was our Best Defensive Sub for Week 15, but that was the first time either of them had played more than 50% of the snaps in a game. You can be certain that Harbaugh is devising some ways for Kaepernick to test these two.

Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini vs. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks

The 49ers badgered Russell Wilson into a 38.7 passer rating in Week 7, his lowest of the season. But the rookie QB appears to be improving each week, and his 94.52 PFF QB Rating is fifth-best among all current starters. The Seahawks must keep him upright this week, and much of that responsibility falls on the shoulders of their offensive tackles. Russell Okung didn’t surrender a QB pressure against the 49ers the first time around, and his 97.1 Pass Blocking Efficiency this season is the fourth-highest among tackles. On the other side, outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks terrorized right tackle Breno Giacomini with four hurries and a sack. Smith’s excellence is well-documented, as his 12.0 Pass Rush Productivity leads all 3-4 outside linebackers. But Brooks is no slouch either, with an 8.3 PRP mark and the fifth-most QB pressures at his position. If Justin Smith is healthy enough to demand double-teams on the inside, then these one-on-one matchups on the edges will be critical to how much time Wilson has to operate.


Follow Pete on Twitter @PFF_Pete

  • MosesZD

    All kind of interesting, but I notice you’re high-lighting Kaepernick’s positives without mentioning some huge liabilities.   Something you never afraid to do when you were on the bash-Smith Bandwagon.

    For example, he bails on phantom pressure.  Sadly those end up 2-yard runs and the 49ers punt.    He’s really poor in the redzone and as a 50% passer, he’s running about 15%-to-20% poorer than Smith.   And yet you don’t mention it.

    He’s really afraid of the middle of the field.  Dividing the filed into vertical quintiles, it’s 50 passes to left, right & middle combined.  Compare that to 51 left sideline and 52 right sideline.   When one wonders why Davis has been silent in recent weeks…   There’s your answer.

    He’s really only good on the 49ers side of the field. 

    Own 1-20 — 82% passer.
    Own 21-50 — 68% passer.
    Opponent 49-20 — 59% passer.
    Opponent Redzone — 50%.

    As for the yards…  I would think a site that prides itself on analysis would understand that’s not valid measurement.   We know yards don’t materially coorelate to winning and that small-samples tend to be highly biased.

    And right now, Kaepernick has a 75% completion rate in the 21-to-30 zone (6 of 8).   Something no QB who passes deep can maintain.   Or, in short, it’s a fluke.

  • http://twitter.com/PFF_Pete Pete Damilatis


    Thanks for reading, love the chance for some good back-and-forth debate.

    First off, I am not a Smith-basher. He still has the 5th-best PFF QB Rating
    this season (among QBs w more than 150 att). I never understood the argument
    that he couldn’t take the 49ers to the Super Bowl, when he nearly did just that
    last year. And his throw to Vernon Davis with 3:14 left in the Saints playoff
    game was one of the best passes of the 2011 season. Just a hair below

    Although I don’t think Smith deserved to lose his job, that can’t be held
    against Kaepernick now that he has the opportunity. Regarding some of your CK
    points:1)    “he bails on phantom
    pressure.  Sadly those end up 2-yard runs and the 49ers punt.” I went back
    and found five instances in CK’s five starts where he scrambled on 3rd
    down. Three times he failed to pick up the first down. Not much evidence for
    your point. Throw in the fact that Smith was sacked on 24 of 71 pressured
    dropbacks, vs. 14 sacks on 66 pressures for CK, and it’s clear that CK has been
    better under pressure.2)    “He’s really afraid of the
    middle of the field.” Our Passes by Direction metrics divide the field into
    three sections (outside left numbers/middle/outside right numbers). CK’s is
    48-53-44, somewhat of an equal distribution. Smith was 44-98-60, clearly
    favoring the middle. I consider it a strength, not a weakness, when a QB can make
    tough throws to the sidelines.3)    We also chart by the vertical
    depth that the ball travels (behind LOS/0-9 yds/10-19 yds/20+ yds). CK’s splits
    are 15-77-35-18, Smith was 23-119-42-18. All-in-all, 36.6% of Smith’s passes
    were less than 10 yards into the middle of the field, and 71.3% of them were
    less than 10 yards period. Kaepernick may be bad for Vernon Davis’ fantasy
    owners, but he’s good for a head coach that undoubtedly wants to force the
    defense to cover every inch of the field.4)    As for your stats regarding %
    at certain field positions, we focus on technique and performance on each play,
    rather than situational metrics. I’d be interested to see where you’re getting
    your stats from, but at first glance you can’t say that CK’s performance in his
    own territory is too small of a sample size while taking his red zone stats at
    face value.

    to hear your thoughts. Thanks again for reading.