Hawk LogoBack at the beginning of this season I took a look ahead at the Seattle Seahawks schedule and I circled the game they will be playing this Sunday against their archrival the San Francisco 49ers. I noted then that this 49ers game now upon us would be played in San Francisco and would mark the start of the fourth quarter of the season. I thought to myself that by the time this game rolled around the Hawks needed to be in such a position that they could afford to lose it and still retain home field advantage through the playoffs. I thought that way because the 49ers are a talented and tough team and it just didn’t seem real that Seattle would be able to beat them twice in one season, especially the game on December 8th at San Francisco’s own Candlestick Park.

Well, here we are 3 months later and the Hawks have done exactly as I had hoped they would. They sit all alone atop the NFC West Division with an 11-1 record, the best in the NFL, and a 3 game lead on the 49ers (8-4) with 4 games to play. Also, having already defeated the Carolina Panthers (9-3) and the New Orleans Saints (9-3) this season, Seattle holds a 2 game lead on both and possesses the primary tiebreaker on both of victories in head to head competition.[1] In short, the Seahawks have done a fantastic job this season and now control their own destiny as regards that all important home field advantage through the playoffs. A loss in San Francisco this weekend will not change that.

It seems strange to say it but Seattle can actually afford to lose this game, and in the parity driven NFL that is not a circumstance that would lead one to believe that they could go in to Candlestick and pull out a victory. The bookies in Vegas don’t think they will and have installed the 49ers as 3 point favorites. Three months ago I didn’t think they could, which is why I was hoping they would have the big lead they now have in the NFC West.

But now I am not so sure.  If I was a betting man I might just take the Hawks in this game, straight up. My reasons are simple. As evidenced by their dominant victory over New Orleans last week, Seattle is peaking and playing their best football of the season. They have been great defensively from the get-go but against the Saints took it to another level giving up only 188 yards to a team that averages over 400. The Hawks are now ranked number 1 in the NFL in both passing defense AND total defense and are number 2 in points allowed. They are also tied for number 1 in turn-over ratio with 12 more take-aways than give-aways.

Russell Wilson: "In the moment".

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

As great as that defense has been, however, it is the play of quarterback Russell Wilson that is truly elevating the Hawks. Consider the following about Wilson:

  • Since Week 9 last season, Wilson’s 112.9 passer rating is the best in the NFL. [2]
  • His .786 winning percentage (22-6 in his career) is the best of any active NFL quarterback with at least 15 starts.
  • Wilson is one of only three quarterbacks in NFL history to throw at least 48 TD passes in his first two seasons, joining Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. And Wilson will move to No. 2 on that list and pass Manning’s total of 52 if Wilson throws five more TD passes the rest of the way this season.
  • Wilson has a total quarterback rating (QBR) of 97.0 over the past three games, 17 points higher than anyone else in the NFL. His passer ratings for those 3 games are 134.6, 151.2 and 139.6…3 of the top 4 ratings in his 28 game career.
  • Over the past two seasons, Wilson leads the NFL in QBR (86.3), completion percentage (69.3), yards per attempt (9.5) and TD-interception ratio (6.3) in the months of November and December.

All of that, for a 2nd year quarterback, is beyond impressive. Wilson hasn’t thrown an interception since the Tampa Bay game and has only 6 on the season. He just isn’t making any mistakes and is throwing daggers into enemy defenses, spotting and exploiting every mismatch and blown coverage. As good as the Seahawks defense is, it is the “Russell Wilson factor” that gives Seattle a chance to win against any opponent…and this is no less true of this game against the ‘49ers.

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh

Even San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is now acknowledging Wilson’s greatness. Earlier this week in a 49ers press conference he spoke of Wilson as follows:

“He’s a fantastic player.” Harbaugh said. “Wonderful, wonderful player, competitor. Skills of arm talent and mobility. Great field awareness. Understands the scrambling lanes, escape routes out of the pocket…and that feel that only so many quarterbacks have who have ever played the game to extend plays…A lot of great qualities. A lot of wonderful qualities about him.”

Having played quarterback himself in the NFL for 14 seasons and now being a coach of them, Harbaugh knows a thing or two about the position. You can believe what he says about Wilson.

Even so, going into San Francisco and defeating the 49ers is a huge challenge. The 49ers defense is loaded with great players. Defensive linemen Justin Smith and Aldon Smith are All Pros as are linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. The offense is no less talented, dotted as it is with Pro Bowl players like wide receiver Anquan Bolden and tight end Vernon Davis. In addition wide receiver Michael Crabtree has now returned to the 49ers line up following an Achilles tear and looked great last week. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a great arm, plenty of quality targets and is probably the fleetest signal caller in the league while running back Frank Gore is a top tier NFL back. The 49ers are one talented club, no question. The Hawks may be getting a bit of a break for this game as the 49ers may be missing their starting left tackle Joe Staley and starting left guard Mike Iupati due to knee injuries. As of yesterday both were “questionable” (50/50) for this game meaning it will be a game day decision if they play. If they don’t it is a big advantage for the Hawks.

Keep in mind that I am an acknowledged homer when it comes to this Seattle football team and I am definitely looking at this game through Seahawks green and grey tinted shades…but to me this game is not about the 49ers. It’s about the Seahawks and can they play to the same standard they did last week against the Saints, on the road, against another great team and when it is not a “must win” situation. If they do they win this showdown in San Fran, it’s as simple as that.

Don’t bet against ‘em Hawks fans.

This will be one fun game to watch!

Go Hawks!

Copyright © 2013

By Mark Arnold

All Rights reserved

[1] The Panthers and the Saints both play in the NFC South Division and at this point are Seattle’s chief competition for home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. Controlling the tiebreaker gives Seattle what amounts to a 3 game lead on both teams as should either team tie Seattle for the best record the Hawks still would get home field advantage due to having defeated the Panthers/Saints earlier in the year.

[2] “passer rating” is an official NFL statistic designed to measure the passing effectiveness of a quarterback. It is based on passing attempts, completions, yards gained, touchdowns and interceptions. A perfect passer rating is 158.3… “total quarterback rating” (QBR) is a much more complicated system of rating a quarterback’s effectiveness that was developed by a team of people at ESPN sports network . It measures the degree to which a quarterback contributes to scoring points and accomplishing wins for his team using a host of factors too complicated to explain here.

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2 Responses to Seahawks and 49ers: The Showdown in San Fran—by Mark Arnold

  1. Steve Rodriguez says:

    Yep and yep and yep!!! You nailed it! Will they bring their “A” game on the road for a game they don’t “have” to have. I think they will.

    Cool to see Harbaugh actually give praise to Wilson where it is due.

    Go Hawks!!!

    • Mark Arnold says:

      Thanks Steve! To me this is a true “mental side of sports” game…what Pete Carroll specializes in and what he has trained his team for. Now…to do it again against the 9ers! Go Hawks!!!!

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