The Seahawks earned an emotional victory over Russell Wilson and the Broncos last week in front of a huge national audience. Next up, they’ll face the NFC West rival 49ers on the road. Seattle has dominated this series in recent years, having won four in a row and 15 of the last 17 meetings overall.
To keep that streak going, the Seahawks will have to win several individual matchups. Here are six we will be keeping a close eye on Sunday afternoon.
Geno Smith vs. DeMeco Ryans
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The biggest surprise of Week 1 around the league may have been the showing from Geno Smith, who proved he’s more than just a capable backup at this point in his career. For an encore, Smith will have to face a wicked San Francisco defense, now led by former inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans. Denver used a lot of two-high shells to keep the deep passing game in check. That seemed just fine by Smith, who thrives at taking what’s given underneath. We should probably expect the Niners to come with a more aggressive approach to defending No. 7.
Rashaad Penny vs. Fred Warner
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The run game was relatively quiet last week as the Seahawks embraced a quick, short passing game. We are still expecting Pete Carroll and Shane Waldron to embrace a run-heavy offense this year, though. This week that means Rashaad Penny will have to try to get past one of the league’s best off-ball linebackers. Fred Warner posted 137 combined tackles last season and earned an elite 80.9 tackling grade for the year. Penny will have to do his best to make Warner miss to gain those precious yards after contact.
Seahawks tackling vs. Deebo Samuel
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Seattle missed 12 tackles in their narrow win over the Broncos and looked especially helpless trying to bring down Javonte Williams. Deebo Samuel is even harder to tackle and he is likely to run wild in space if the Seahawks’ back seven doesn’t show a dramatic improvement in their technique. Samuel has made a habit of feasting against this defense so far, averaging 134.6 yards from scrimmage in three games.
Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton vs. Kyle Shanahan
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is a good guy by all accounts, but he can be positively cruel to opposing linebackers. Shanahan excels at putting linebackers into conflict – especially ones that tend to struggle in coverage. If George Kittle sits out it’ll be a lucky break, but we should still expect San Francisco to go after both Brooks and Barton often.
Uchenna Nwosu vs. Trent Williams
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Uchenna Nwosu had a brilliant debut for the Seahawks last week, performing well enough to win himself the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award. Now he’ll have to test his might against the top left tackle in football in Trent Williams. Last season Williams earned the highest PFF grade of all time, so obviously getting past him is easier said than done.
Seahawks pass rush vs. Trey Lance
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
The offensive line certainly has a part to play, but as Seattle fans have learned the hard way in recent years, pressures allowed can be a quarterback stat, too. One big key for the defense this week will be getting to second-year QB Trey Lance. Last week the Bears only managed two sacks and four QB hits against Lance. It will be interesting to see if the Seahawks can do any better.