COMMENTARY | The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks will meet in what has to be considered one of the biggest games for both franchises in some time when they face off for a chance to go to the Super Bowl on Sunday. San Francisco's lackluster road performances against the Seahawks the last two years have been well documented.
With that said, it has played outstanding football away from Candlestick Park since its Week 2 demolition at the hands of these very same Seahawks. Let's take a look at four 49ers players who need to step up in order for them to make a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Carlos Rogers, Cornerback
Rogers has said that he will be ready to go against the Seahawks on Sunday. Indications are that he will line up in the slot at nickel back against Jermaine Kearse with Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock playing on the outside. San Francisco should have an advantage against Seattle's two outside receivers, which would then turn the focus to Kearse-Rogers, a type of matchup that seems to favor the home team. Rogers was San Francisco's worst cover corner during the regular season and tends to struggle against the downfield pass, something that Kearse brings to the table for Russell Wilson and Co.
Rogers gave up an average of 12.2 yards per completion and was targeted more than any other 49ers cornerback during the regular year. It goes without saying that Wilson will try his luck against an average veteran who is coming off a hamstring injury and will be playing in relatively cold weather. In order for the 49ers to avoid the big play, Rogers will have to step up in what is likely one of his final games as a member of the team.
Anthony Davis, Right Tackle
More so than really any other 49ers offensive lineman, Davis has struggled with false start penalties, both on the road and at home. Considering the hostile environment San Francisco will be going into on Sunday afternoon, Davis needs to be more guarded than usual. Overall, five of his six penalties during the regular year were on false starts.
In addition, the improved right tackle will be tasked with going up against a combination of Red Bryant and Michael Bennett. Pro Football Focus graded Bennett out as the third-best pass-rushing 4-3 defensive end, while Bryant came in with a positive overall grade according to their metrics. Where Joe Staley will be going up against the likes of Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons on the other side of the line, this is the real matchup to watch and could help determine the outcome of the game.
Vernon Davis, Tight End
A touchdown on Sunday and Davis will possess the NFL record for most touchdowns from the tight end position in playoff history. He's averaging over 90 yards and one score in his seven postseason outings. However, the Pro Bowl tight end will be tasked with going up against the likes of a returning K.J. Wright and the best all-around safety in the NFL in the form of Earl Thomas, the latter of which allowed just a dozen passing yards per game when targeted during the regular year.
With Richard Sherman on lockdown on one side of the field, Davis needs to be able to beat the best defenders the NFL has to offer in order for the 49ers passing game to have success on Sunday. Something to the tune of 80 yards should get it done.
Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback
If Kaepernick performs at the level that was saw in San Francisco's first two postseason games, it will likely leave CenturyLink with a win on Sunday. The issue here, however, is that he's been downright atrocious in two career games in the Pacific Northwest, accounting for one touchdown and four interceptions in those outings. Needless to say, a repeat performance of either of those two games will end the 49ers season.
In addition, Seattle is downright scary at home against opposing quarterbacks. It yielded an average of just 5.4 yards per attempt, eight touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 66.8 rating at the Link during the regular year. If the Seahawks are able to maintain that high level of play and get decent production from Wilson in the passing game, they will win.
It's now up to Kaepernick to quiet the skeptics and treat this game just as he has his last nine outings away from Candlestick. In those nine games, the third-year signal caller has put up 18 total touchdowns compared to two interceptions and boasts a 8-1 record.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Bleacher Report and is currently the head editor at eDraft and a columnist at Pro Football Focus. Vincent co-hosts a weekly radio show called "Football Debate Central" with former NFL player Ryan Riddle and has seen his work featured on CNN, BR and Los Angeles Times, among many other outlets.
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