(TSX / STATS) — The San Francisco 49ers fly up the West Coast to take on the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks in a matchup of 0-1 teams on Sunday.
Many prognosticators saw the 49ers entering the game with one loss, but quite a few analysts had the Seahawks beating the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.
Seattle now has a chance to back to .500, while the 49ers will be looking for their first win in Seattle since 2011.
This will be the 37th regular-season meeting between the clubs, and there is zero love lost.
The Seahawks lead the series 21-15, having won six straight games and eight of the past nine meetings. The last meeting in Week 17 of the 2016 season was the only Seattle victory during that stretch decided by fewer than 10 points.
That does not look to change much if the 49ers’ offense plays as it did last week in a 23-3 home loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The 49ers are in a rebuild mode under new general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. However, in the defeat to the Panthers, starting quarterback Brian Hoyer threw for only 193 yards and did not lead the team to a touchdown. The Hoyer-led offense produced only 217 total yards.
The rushing attack was effective with running back Carlos Hyde averaging 5 yards a carry. The problem was that the 49ers were playing from behind all day, so the team had to pass.
Shanahan, as a rookie head coach, went for two fourth downs instead of punting. Against Seattle, Shanahan wants to settle his troops and get them to play smarter as well.
“(We) shot ourselves in the foot,” Hoyer said. “We were battling uphill, and a lot of it had to do with our own mistakes and not so much exactly what they were doing.”
Those mistakes included 10 penalties for 74 yards.
Seattle has their own offense issues, which begin with the offensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson rarely had time to pass against the Packers and was sacked three times.
To make matters worse, the unit didn’t run block well. The Seahawks rushed for 90 yards vs. Green Bay, but two runs accounted for 59 of those yards. The team averaged just 1.9 yard per rush on all other carries.
“Not good enough. Too inconsistent and not good enough,” Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable said, “That’s why we’re all kind of disappointed. We hadn’t really seen that at all in the preseason. Expectations are very high, which they should be for this group.”
The 49ers have a solid front seven on defense but took a major hit when starting inside linebacker Reuben Foster left the opener with a high ankle sprain. The rookie was a first-round pick this year, 31st overall out of Auburn.
Foster has been in a walking boot and will not play against the Seahawks, which should help Seattle establish the run.
Niners defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are talented but young. The oldest starter on San Francisco’s defense is linebacker NaVorro Bowman, a 29-year-old who entered the league in 2010.
The San Francisco defense allowed an average of only 3.1 yards per carry in Week 1, and it will be looking to hold the Seahawks’ rushing attack to the same standard.
Seattle’s defense can rush the passer and get hits on the quarterback. The Seahawks had four sacks of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and will be looking to rebound as a group versus a San Francisco offense they believe they can beat.
Seattle Pro Bowler Michael Bennett, who already has 1.5 sacks, will be lined up against right tackle Trent Brown most of the game.
Look for Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to blitz multiple times to test the 49ers’ offensive line and Hoyer’s willingness to stand in the pocket.
However, the Seattle defense might be a bit short-handed Sunday depending on the health of several players. Linebackers Terence Garvin (shoulder) and K.J. Wright (ankle) as well as cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring) all missed practice Wednesday.
Other than Foster, the only 49er who didn’t participate in practice Wednesday was tackle Joe Staley. The 33-year-old veteran’s absence was not injury-related, according to the team.