The Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) on the move to throw to a receiver during Oct 11, 2020 game against the Minnesota Vikings at Centurylink Field in Seattle in first half action (AP News photo)
By Joe Hawkes
Its no big secret that the key for any team into stopping the Seattle Seahawks is to corral quarterback Russell Wilson.
Easier said than done.
Wilson’s uncanny ability to avoid would-be pass rushers and find an open DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett downfield for big gains has become routine this season. You almost take him for granted because we expect him to turn a broken play into a great play.
Both Lockett (45 catches/542 yards/7 TD) and Metcalf (24 catches/519 yards/5 TD) have made huge plays for Wilson this year that has put Wilson in prime position to win his first MVP award.
Simply put, Wilson is amazing at playing quarterback in the NFL.
San Francisco’s defense will have its hands full with Wilson as the 49ers (4-3) travel to the Pacific Northwest for a pivotal NFC West matchup against the Seahawks (5-1) on Sunday afternoon from CenturyLink Field.
The last time the 49ers were in Seattle, Week 17 of last season, San Francisco prevailed 26-21 in a heart-wrenching game that was decided by a goal-line stop by then-rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw on Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister. Greenlaw’s tackle wrapped up the NFC West title and the No. 1 seed for San Francisco in front a loud sellout crowd.
This time around, the division isn’t on the line and there won’t be any raucous fans at CenturyLink Field due to the pandemic. But a win for the 49ers would pull them within half-game of first-place Seattle, making for a tighter race with both the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams both at 5-2.
The same Arizona Cardinals that handed the Seahawks their first loss of the season last week, 37-34, in overtime in Phoenix on Sunday Night Football. In that game, Wilson completed 33 of 50 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns, but tossed three costly interceptions in losing for the first time in his nine-year career when leading by four or more points at halftime.
He had been 59-0 in such situations according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Oh yeah, that same Arizona Cardinals team that shocked the 49ers 24-20 in Week 1 at Levi’s Stadium.
You don’t think the 49ers, the reigning NFC champions, wasn’t paying attention like the rest of America when Wilson looked mortal in game for once this season?
The answer would be a resounding yes.
Despite season-ending injuries to defensive end Nick Bosa (knee) and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (knee), along with cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and defensive end Dee Ford (back) both missing significant time this season, San Francisco’s defense has remained steady this season.
The unit ranks fifth in total defense this season allowing just 19.4 points per game, which includes the 43-17 home drubbing at the hands of the Miami Dolphins that left the 49ers at 2-3 and many declaring their season over.
Seattle’s offense ranks tops in the NFL in scoring, averaging 33.8 points per game. Wilson leads all quarterbacks in touchdowns (22) and passer rating (119.4) to go along with just six interceptions.
Last week, the San Francisco’s defense played without both starting safeties in Jaquiski Tartt (groin) and Jimmie Ward (quad) and limited the New England Patriots to just 241 yards of total offense in a 33-6 demolishing in an empty Gillette Stadium. The defense recorded four interceptions.
San Francisco must find a way to generate a consistent pass rush against Wilson, who is an escape artist when the pocket collapses. Tackling Wilson is harder than tackling a tadpole in shallow water.
Through seven games, the 49ers have sacked opposing quarterbacks 19 times this season, which is good for ninth in the NFL. Defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. leads the 49ers with 3.5 sacks.
Fellow defensive end Arik Armstead has had some success at getting to Wilson in the past, registering 2.5 sacks in eight games.
Since the Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he’s 12-4 against the 49ers (the most wins against any team) with 3,347 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 97.9 passer rating.
With injuries to Chris Carson (mid-foot sprain), Carlos Hyde (hamstring) and Travis Homer (knee), rookie DeeJay Dallas is the only healthy running back on Seattle’s roster, so the game could be in Wilson’s hands even more come Sunday.
The last three matchups against these two rivals have come down to the final possession. So we could very well see a replay Sunday of Week 17 where Wilson has the football in his hands and San Francisco’s defense will need a stop to walk away with a victory.