Pressuring 49ers QB Brock Purdy could be the key to a Seahawks upset

The 49ers are a better team than the Seahawks this year. That’s just a cold, hard fact fans have to face, even if you’re the most hardcore homer in the Pacific Northwest. Heading into their Wild Card matchup on Saturday afternoon, San Francisco is on a roll. The Niners have won 10 straight games and swept the Seahawks in their two meetings in the regular season.

Based on when the game was scheduled, the league doesn’t seem to think much of Seattle’s chances. The oddsmakers certainly don’t. At the moment, the 49ers are favored by 9.5 points.

The best team doesn’t always win, though. That’s true in any sport but particularly in football, which has so many factors that predicting what will happen in any one game is a dangerous errand for any analyst. Most of them favor the 49ers, who simply have a lot more talent to go around – especially on defense. The Seahawks do have one key factor working in their favor, though.

While both will be making their first start in a playoff game, Geno Smith is a far more experienced quarterback than 49ers rookie Brock Purdy. If one of them is going to be overwhelmed by the moment and make panicked plays, odds are it will be Purdy, even though Smith has been somewhat shaky in the turnover-worthy pass department lately.

Purdy will have to be induced into making mistakes, though. When he’s kept clean he’s balled out but his numbers are much-less impressive when pressured. Here’s a nugget from Doug Farrar at Touchdown Wire which is probably Seattle’s best chance at an upset.

“The Seahawks have to get Brock Purdy off his spot, because when Purdy has a clean pocket, Mr. Irrelevant has shown that he can do some real damage. In the Week 15 matchup between these two teams, which the 49ers won, 21-13, those four edge defenders totaled no sacks, no quarterback hits, and two quarterback hurries, both by Nwosu. This season, Purdy has a passer rating of 74.4 when pressured, and 113.3 when clean.”

Of course, knowing you have to pressure the QB to win and actually doing it are two distinctly different things.

San Francisco’s offensive line finished the 2022 season ranked No. 7 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Quality pass protection was a big part of that – PFF grades the Niners’ pass blocking as a team fifth-best in the league.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ pass rush has been dismal for most of the season. They head into the postseason ranked No. 27 in PFF’s pass rush grade. However, recent history is on their side. Thanks largely to Darrell Taylor’s late-season surge, Seattle has been getting more productive pressure lately. In Week 18’s win over the Rams they posted five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. The week before against the Jets, they got to Mike White for four sacks and 10 QB hits.

If the Seahawks defense can build on those two strong performances to end the season and knock Purdy off his game, they might just make this one interesting.


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Story originally appeared on Seahawks Wire