Podcast: The Fantasy Football Doctors NFL Week 12 – playoffs are coming!

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your hosts: Dr. Vasu Vaddiparty and Dr. Charlie O

 

It’s the final bye week of the season – you have holes in your lineup to fill

Jared Goff is a fantasy bust – who should replace him with?

Is Tom Brady worth a start this Sunday?

Look for the 49ers to rush the ball on Sunday night: start Coleman

Start every Browns player versus Miami

Nick Foles and Ryan Tannehill are worthy of starts

If you don’t start Russell Wilson, we will ban you from Fantasy Football!

Advice to help you win – push play now!!!

 

Raiders wrap up the 2019 exhibition season in Seattle on Thursday

Photo credit: @Raiders

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

Raider Nation, we have finally come to the end of the 2019 exhibition. The Silver and Black will play their final game of the exhibition season in Seattle Thursday night against the Seahawks. With no starters expected to play on both sides, this game will showcase players fighting for roster spots who want to put on a good showing for the coaches.

Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. PDT from CenturyLink Field.

Oakland is looking to close out the exhibition season undefeated. Last week, the Raiders needed a 33-yard field goal from kicker Daniel Carlson as time expired to edge the Green Bay Packers, 22-21, in a bizarre game that featured an 80-yard field for player safety.

End zones were marked by bright orange pylons at the 10-yard lines and there were no kickoffs. The field was reconfigured because of concerns about the areas where the goal posts for the CFL’s Winnipeg franchise were removed and covered with turf.

The game was actually a home game for the Raiders, who decided to move one of their two home games in the exhibition season to Winnipeg in a move that would save the team $500,000 in rent at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Oakland is set to move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Quarterback Nathan Peterman, who is in a close battle with Mike Glennon to be the primary backup to starter Derek Carr, threw a pair of touchdowns, including a 17-yard strike to wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El in the fourth quarter to cut the Green Bay’s lead to 21-19. Peterman’s 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted.

Peterman, who took over for Glennon after the first quarter, finished 23-of-37 for 210 yards in three quarters. Glennon, who struggled in his appearance against the Packers, completed 4-of-9 passes for just 38 yards.

Seattle picked up their second win of the exhibition season last week, defeating the Chargers, 23-15, in Los Angeles.

Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson looked ready for the regular season to begin, leading Seattle on two touchdown drives before calling it a night. The eight-year veteran completed 6-of-9 passes for 73 yards. Wilson also rushed for 31 yards.

San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe Lami: 49ers looking to catch some more breaks this Sunday against Seahawks

msn.com file photo: 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in file photo from Nov. 1st game versus the Oakland Raiders at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara

On the 49ers podcast with Joe Lami:

#1 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said the clock flub at the end of Sunday’s game had quarterback Nick Mullens not taking a knee, but instead the ball was a turnover to the Denver Broncos. Lucky for San Francisco on the last play of the game, the Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick lateraled and the ball rolled out of bounds midfield, which helped SF win and run the clock out.

#2 Shanahan who was fined by the NFL $25,000 for yelling an obscenity at an official and drew an unsportsmanship-like conduct back on Dec. 2 in Seattle. Shanahan said he would appeal a play that he felt should have stopped the clock after 49ers linebacker Fred Warner had lost his shoe and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw it off the field Shanahan said the officials should have stopped the clock and that Warner should have been allowed to get his shoe back, but promised he wouldn’t swear at the officials again.

#3 San Francisco’s George Kittle had a career day in the first half last Sunday against the Broncos with 210 yards, seven catches, with a 85-yard touchdown.

#4 Mullens had a good offensive afternoon 22-33 for 332 yards. Mullens finished with a 102.1 passer rating.

#5 The Seattle Seahawks, who streamrolled the 49ers in Seattle on Dec. 2, will be at Levi’s Stadium this Sunday. Joe tells what the 49ers’ chances are this Sunday.

Joe Lami is the San Francisco 49ers beat writer and does the 49ers podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Raiders Three-Point Stance: Three takeaways from Raiders’ ugly 27-3 loss to the Seahawks in London

Photo credit: @Raiders

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

Russell Wilson threw three touchdowns and the Seahawks held a depleted Raiders team to just 185 yards of total offense in Seattle’s 27-3 victory on Sunday in front of announced London-record crowd of 84,922 at Wembley Stadium, many being pro-Seahawks as Seattle’s “12th Man” traveled across ‘The Pond’ cheering on their team — even though the Raiders were designated as the home team.

Now at 1-5 and heading into the a much needed bye week, its clear that the Raiders have plenty of work to do.

Check out my three takeways from the Silver and Black’s ugly loss to the Seahawks (3-3) in Week 6:

Oakland’s offense was held together with gum and duct tape
With injuries along the offensive line with guard John Feliciano leaving the game with injured ribs and being already without veteran tackle Donald Penn (on injured reserve with a groin injury) and guard Kelechi Osemele, rookie tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker were devoured by an intense Seattle pass rush for most of the day, which didn’t bode well for Derek Carr.

The Raiders’ franchise signal-caller did complete 23-of-31 passes for just 142 yards, but was under siege the entire game as he was sacked six times. Whenever he dropped back to pass, Carr was almost immediately met by a Seattle defender.

Carr left the game with 8:52 left in the fourth quarter after apparently injuring his left arm on the last of the six sacks by defense tackle Jarran Reed on third down. Carr immediately grabbed his upper left arm after sitting up before being medically evaluated by the training staff.

Even if Carr had time to throw, Carr didn’t have his best wide receiver in the game in Amari Cooper, who was lost for the game after suffering a concussion on a nasty hit from Seahawks strong safety  Bradley McDougald in the second quarter.

Cooper ran a drag route over the middle of the field and attempted to catch a loss pass from Carr, before McDougald led with his shoulder resulting in the hit, that also showed the players made helmet-to-helmet contact was made.

No penalty was called.

Reserve wide receiver Seth Roberts, who replaced Cooper, left the game too with a concussion and didn’t return.

Roberts finished with five catches for 31 yards.

Backup running back Jalen Richard led the team with seven catches (on 8 targets) for 48 yards, largely due to Carr having to get the football out quick and relying on check-downs to running backs.

Early in the game for Oakland, it appeared that the Raiders wanted to get starting running back Marshawn Lynch more involved in the game, touching the football four times on Oakland’s first drive of the game (three runs and one pass), but the former Seahawk only managed one yard.

Lynch finished the game with 17 touches for 59 yards of total offense (13 carries for 45 yards and 3 catches for 14 yards) against his former team. Oakland only managed just 79 yards rushing in the game.

Oakland’s offense lacked fluidity and explosion in mustering just three points on Sunday. In the last two games, the Raiders have scored just 13 points combined after rolling up 45 points against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4.

Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense made life difficult for Raiders’ defense
The former Super Bowl MVP engineered a 14-play, 82-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown thrown from Wilson to wide receiver Jaron Brown that staked Seattle to a 7-0 lead on the Seahawks’ first drive of the game in the first quarter.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time that the Seahawks scored on their first offensive possession in a game since Week 3 of the 2016 season against the San Francisco 49ers, spanning 34 games. It was the NFL’s longest scoring drought for any team without a scoring touchdown on its opening possession.

Wilson completed 17-of-23 passes for 222 yards with three touchdowns and one interception to Raiders’ cornerback Daryl Worley after trying to force a pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who was double-covered.

On top of his touchdown throw to Brown, Wilson  threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver David Moore in the second quarter, and a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyler Lockett that gave Seattle a commanding 27-0 lead in the fourth quarter.

Seattle was nearly flawless on third down, converting 9-of-13 opportunities. By the same measure, the Raiders only converted 4-of-12 third downs.

Running back Chris Carson rushed for 59 yards on 14 carries for Seattle, while rookie running back Rashaad Penny added 43 yards for Seattle who racked up 369 yards of total offense on the day. Seattle held the edge in time of possession, holding onto to the football for 31:26 to Oakland’s 28:34.

If it weren’t for head-scratching penalties by Seattle (8 for 64 yards) to Oakland’s (5 for 38 yards), the Seahawks could’ve really embarrassed Oakland in the United Kingdom.

Rookie Arden Key recorded his first-career sack in the game and linebacker Tahir Whitehead led the Raiders in tackles with six total (4 solo).

Key along with linebacker Bruce Irvin seems to be taking the loss, well per their comments to the media postgame.

“We lost, but I got a beautiful wife I get to go home to… I’m going to try to make some babies man,” Irvin said to reporters after the game.

“I mean, we came in and we got our ass whooped,” Key said. “Like there’s no way around it. We got our ass whooped from the first whistle to the last whistle.  So we just gotta remember that and come out fire next week and continue to come out with fire.”

Sebastian Janikowski scores nine points against former team
Janikowski, who joined the Seahawks in the offseason after 17 years with the Raiders, did his part in defeating his former team Sunday, knocking down both of his field goals — from 44 and 26 yards — and all three of his extra points.

UP NEXT

Seattle faces the Detroit Lions on Oct. 28 on the road after a bye week, while the Raiders will host the visiting Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 28, also after a bye week.

 

The Raider preview: Raiders head to London for Week 6 matchup against the Seahawks at Wembley Stadium

Photo credit: @Raiders

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — The Raiders are off to London to play in their third-straight international game, this time against the Seattle Seahawks. Sunday’s game from Wembley Stadium will mark the 53rd meeting between the two franchises, with Oakland leading the series 28-24 all-time. This will be Oakland’s fourth game in five weeks on the road.

This is the second time that two teams face each other in 2018, as the Raiders defeated the Seahawks 30-19 in Seattle to close out the preseason schedule.

Kickoff is set for 10:00 a.m. PT. So breakfast with football is always nice.

Last week, the Raiders (1-4) fell to AFC West division-rival, the Los Angeles Chargers, 26-10 at StubHub Center in Carson in what sounded like the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with many members of Raider Nation making up the  attendance.

Starting quarterback Derek Carr completed 24-of-33 passes for 263 yards with one touchdown and one interception as the Chargers’ defense held Oakland to just 289 yards of total offense. Through five games this season, Carr has thrown a league-leading eight interceptions, three coming inside the red zone and two into the end zone.

Coming into the Week 5 meeting with Los Angeles, the Raiders were averaging 411.8 yards of total offense per game ranking second in the NFL.

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson caught his team-leading third receiving touchdown of the year, a 1-yard score from Carr in the fourth quarter with the Raiders trailing 26-3. Since 2016, Nelson leads the NFL with 19 receiving touchdowns inside the red zone according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

After rushing for 130 yards on 20 carries against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4, Marshawn Lynch was quiet against the Chargers carrying the ball just nine times for 31 yards. Lynch will look to get back on track in London against his former team in Seattle, whose defense ranks 29th against the run surrendering 129 yards on the ground per game.

Defensively, Bruce Irvin recorded his team-leading third sack of the season, while linebacker Tahir Whitehead paced the Raiders with nine tackles for the second-straight game. It was the fourth time this season that Whitehead has led the team in tackles in a game.

Whitehead leads the Raiders with 37 combined tackles (26 solo and 11 assisted) this season.

The Seahawks (2-3) lost a close game to NFC West division-rival the Los Angeles Rams, 33-31 last week at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-21 passing. In five games this season, the former Super Bowl MVP has thrown for 1,086 yards, with 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

Running back Chris Carson tallied his second 100-yard rushing game in the last three weeks, carrying the ball 19 times for 116 yards against a talented Rams defensive front highlighted by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.

With veteran wide receiver Doug Baldwin slowed by a knee injury this season, Tyler Lockett has become Wilson’s top target in Seattle’s areal attack. Lockett had just three catches against the Rams, but finished with a team-high 98 yards receiving and one touchdown, a 39-yard strike from Wilson in the second quarter.

On the season, the fourth-year wideout from Kansas State leads the Seahawks in catches (20), targets (28), receiving yards (347), and touchdowns (4). His 17.4 yards per catch is second on the team behind rookie tight end Will Dissly, who is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Oakland’s much maligned secondary must account for Lockett, who can blow by defenses in the open field with his speed.

With longtime safety Earl Thomas on injured reserve after breaking his leg two weeks ago in a Seahawks’ win at Arizona, the vaunted Seahawks defense that we’ve all come to know over the last few seasons is unrecognizable. Before the injury, Thomas was playing at a high-level, leading the Seahawks with three interceptions.

In the offseason, the team parted ways with lockdown cornerback Richard Sherman and terrorizing defensive end Michael Bennett. They saw the enforcer of the defense, strong safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril retire due to neck injuries just to name a few.

Seattle still has middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who is smart football player that can cover field, sideline-to-sideline, but strong safety Bradley McDougald has quickly become Seattle’s top defender.

Now in his sixth season in the NFL and second season in the Emerald City after spending the previous four seasons between Kansas City and Tampa Bay, the 6’1″, 215-pound McDougald isn’t the menacing presence that the 6’3, 225-pound Chancellor is, but he packs quite a punch. McDougald leads the Seahawks with 32 combined tackles (29 solo and 3 assisted) to go with two interceptions.

After Sunday’s game, both teams will be head on their bye weeks for Week 7. When the teams return in Week 8, the Raiders will host the Indianapolis Colts at 1:05 pm PT, while Seattle heads out on the road to take on the Detroit Lions at 10:00 am PT.

Raiders host Seahawks Thursday in final preseason game; Lynch to play against former team

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch (24) has a laugh on the sideline during the 2017 NFL week 3 preseason football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 in Arlington, Tex. The Cowboys won the game 24-20. (Paul Spinelli via AP)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — With three preseason games now in the books, the Raiders (0-3) look to end the preseason on a high-note with a win over the visiting Seattle Seahawks Thursday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in both team’s preseason finale.

Seattle edged out the Raiders 23-21 in Oakland to close out the preseason schedule last year as both teams rested their starters, which should be the case again this preseason.

Sadly, Raider Nation won’t see new running back Marshawn Lynch carry the football against his former team. Lynch was the heartbeat for the Seahawks during his six seasons in Seattle where he help bring the franchise its first Super Bowl championship in 2013 before retiring after the 2015 season.

Lynch came out of retirement during the offseason and Seattle traded Lynch to his hometown team, where its been nothing but love for the former Oakland Technical High School and Berkeley running back.

Last week, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr looked sharp in Oakland’s 24-20 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas, completing 13-of-17 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to backup quarterback EJ Manuel late in the second quarter.

Carr, who saw the return of starting left tackle Donald Penn to the team following a 26-day holdout during training camp in search of a new contract, threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson that capped off a 10-play, 81-yard drive on Oakland’s first possession of the game.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper hauled in Carr’s second touchdown pass of the game, a 48-yard score that culminated a 4-play, 60-yard drive, faked out the camera man during the television broadcast. Cooper, who looks noticeably bigger in the upper-body to help beat the jam from cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage, led Oakland with 78 yards receiving and tied with Patterson with four catches in the game.

Defensively, Oakland still had some mental gaps in pass coverage but did see their defensive line create some pressure on the quarterback that was seemingly absent this preseason.

Rookie defensive tackle Treyvon Hester continues to make it hard for the coaches to cut him, sacking Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on a third-and-13 for a 12-yard loss that led to Dallas’ first punt of the game.

Hester’s three sacks during the preseason is tied for most in the NFL.

Fellow rookie, linebacker LaTroy Lewis had one of the bigger plays on the night.

On second-and-5 from the Oakland 26-yard line, reserve cornerback Antonio Hamilton sacked Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush and the fumble was returned by Lewis 65 yards for a touchdown.

The final game of the preseason will give Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio and his coaching staff more film to review before all 32 NFL teams must trim their official roster from 90- to 53-man on Sept. 2.

That means, guys like Hester, Lewis, and even rookie middle linebacker Marquel Lee (who still struggles getting off of blocks from offensive lineman), have to make every snap count on Thursday night against Seattle at 7:00 p.m. PT in front of Raider Nation.

Connor Cook and EJ Manuel, who are battling for the backup quarterback job behind Carr, will get extensive action this week. Cook completed 9-of-16 passes for 89 yards, while Manuel was just 2-of-4 for 8 yards against the Cowboys.

Shouldn’t be a surprise if Cook gets the start over Manuel, who was signed in the offseason as the logical backup to Carr, but Cook, who did make NFL history last year by becoming the first quarterback to make his debut in a postseason game, appears to be the front-runner to backup Carr.

Against Seattle last year in the preseason, Cook came into the game in the second quarter in place of former Raiders backup Matt McGloin and played well completing 15-of-30 passes for 145 yards, but did throw an interception that was returned by the Seahawks 42 yards for a touchdown.

Seattle (3-0) defeated Oakland’s bitter rival, the Kansas City Chiefs, 26-13, last week at CenturyLink Field. Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson completed 13-of-19 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown for Seattle in the first half of the game.

The Seahawks have won three of the last four NFC West crowns and enter 2017 as the favorite to win the division this year, thanks to a stout defense led by the “Legion of Boom” and the aforementioned Wilson, who has won at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons as the starting quarterback for Seattle.

Both teams open up the 2017 regular season on the road, with Oakland traveling to Tennessee to take on the Titans in Nashville, and Seattle kicking off their schedule in Green Bay against the Packers.

 

Oakland to face tough test in Seattle for win No. 1

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Still in search of win No. 1 this season, the Oakland Raiders heads to the Pacific Northwest Sunday to face the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Kickoff is at 1:25 p.m. PDT.

The Silver & Black are coming off a disappointing 23-13 Week 8 loss to the Browns in Cleveland.

Raiders (0-7) quarterback Derek Carr completed 34-of-54 passes for 328 yards and a touchdown with 7 seconds left in the game, but three costly turnovers (highlighted by running back Darren McFadden’s third quarter fumble) that sealed Oakland’s 13th straight loss dating back to last season.

Worse, it was Oakland’s 16th straight loss in the Eastern time zone dating back to 2009.

“Anytime you come out on the road and you turn the ball over three times, you’re not going to win,” interim coach Tony Sparano said. “You’re not going to win anywhere.”

Seattle (4-3), are coming off a tough 13-9 victory over the Carolina Panthers, led by quarterback Russell Wilson.

Wilson didn’t have the greatest of games (completing 20-of-32 passes for 199 yards and an interception), but engineered a nine-play, 80-yard drive, that ended with a 23-yard touchdown strike to tight end Luke Wilson (no relation) down the middle of the field with 47 seconds left to play in the game.

“He truly is an extraordinary player in the fourth quarter,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He finds a way to make the play that we need to make.”

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for Seattle.

Oakland’s 31st ranked offense  will need to limit the turnovers against a Seahawks defense that ranks 5th overall in total defense if they even think about having a horse racer’s chance at knocking off Seattle at CenturyLink Field. The Silver & Black have only gotten into the red zone 11 times all year, so scoring opportunities need to be taken advantage by Carr and the offense.

This is the defending Super Bowl champs at their house with great players all over the field. It’ll be a challenge and something I’m looking forward to.”

Players to Watch

Oakland – QB, Derek Carr – There is no question that all eyes will be on Carr Sunday facing the “Legion of Boom” and the 12th Man. Carr will need to get the ball out quick against a Seahawks defense that rotates its defense line a bunch, but be smart when passing the football with cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas lurking.

Seattle – SS – Kam Chancellor – The days of “Enforcer” safety may be coming to an end with the new league rules on player safety, but don’t tell that to Chancellor. The 6’3″, 232-pound Chancellor is an intimidating player that relishes at delivering big (mostly legal) hits to anyone who comes across the middle.

 

 

 

 

Raiders host Seahawks in preseason finale

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — As the NFL preseason draws to a close, the Raiders will host Oakland native Marshawn Lynch and the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at O.co Coliseum Thursday night as both teams look to finish off strong before the games start to really count.

Oakland is coming off their third preseason game, losing to the Packers, 31-21, in Green Bay last week. The Raiders first-team defense played strong early, forcing the Packers into back-to-back three-and-out drives and three straight punts in the first  quarter. Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack was active all over the field, collecting five tackles and an interception.

Linebackers Miles Burris and Nick Roach each finished with six tackles, while defensive end LaMarr Woodley recorded his first sack as a Raider.

Offensively, Oakland’s first-team showed progress, after running back Maurice Jones-Drew stormed for a 40-yard touchdown run on the Raiders’ first possession to tie the game at 7-7, after Eddie Lacy’s 1-yard run on Green Bay’s first possession.

Quarterback Matt McGloin, who has made a strong case to be the Raiders’ No. 2 quarterback, finished 10-of-17 for 162 yards passing, and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver, Bryce Butler. Butler added three catches for 60 yards receiving.

Even with McGloin’s impressive play, rookie quarterback Derek Carr is slated to start Thursday. Carr sat out the Green Bay game to rest his bruised ribs he suffered in Oakland’s second preseason game.

Seattle showed why many experts believe that they can repeat as Super Bowl champions with another dominating performance, dropping the Chicago Bears, 34-6 at home.

Quarterback Russell Wilson looked in midseason form, scoring three touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing) while passing for 202 yards on 15-of-20 passes. Wilson also had a robust 140.o quarterback rating.

Lynch, who held out the early part of training camp after being unhappy with his contract, had three carries for 16 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run on the Seahawks’ opening drive of the game. Lynch would watch the remainder on the game from the sidelines, tossing the cleats for some basketball shoes.

Even the Seahawks’ punishing defense appears to be ready for another run at the Lombardi trophy, having surrender only 20 points in three preseason games.

Oakland will also see a familiar face Thursday, with Terrelle Pryor returning to the Black Hole. It will be a good test for the Raiders’ defense who haven’t faced a quarterback with the frame and elusiveness quite like Pryor.

Both teams will see each other during the regular season, when the Silver and Black travel to CenturyLink Field for a Week 9 match-up.

With all 32 teams having to reduce their rosters down to 53 players by Saturday, August 30, it will be a busy week in Oakland. The Raiders have 10 open positions on the practice squad to fill as well.

After Thursday night’s game, the Seahawks will open up their title defense on Sept. 4 when they will host the Green Bay Packers, while Oakland will begin the season on the road when they will travel 3,000 miles to New York and face the Jets on Sept. 7.

You can watch the game on KTVU/FOX 2, or listen on 98.5 KFOX.

49ers one giant step away from another Super Bowl birth

By Gabe Schapiro

For the San Francisco 49ers, the road to their second straight Super Bowl appearance fittingly runs through Seattle. This Sunday at 3:30 pm, the 49ers and Seahawks face off in the NFC championship game. The two heated rivals finished first and second in the NFC West this season, and split their two regular season matchups.

Last weekend San Francisco suffocated the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round, winning 23-10. Colin Kaepernick’s stat line won’t blow anyone away, but he did what he had to, and didn’t make any costly mistakes. He completed 15-of-28 throws, for 196 yards and a touchdown, to go along with a rushing score. Anquan Boldin had a stellar game, with eight grabs for 136 yards. Ultimately though, it was the defense that dominated and won it for the 49ers. They sacked Cam Newton five times, and had two interceptions. The Panthers scored 10 points in the second quarter, but were shut out for the second half.

This week features two very similar teams. Both have young and athletic quarterbacks, run-heavy offenses, and fearsome defenses. For the 49ers, the Seahawks may well be their toughest opponent. Russell Wilson is wise beyond his years, and rarely makes a mistake. Marshawn Lynch is a bruiser, and despite a lot of mileage on his legs is still one of the leagues best running backs. They don’t have a real stand out number one receiver, but they get production from a lot of different sources. Six targets have multiple touchdown grabs this season, and four of those have four or more. In the regular season they scored the eighth most points per game.

However, their defense is their real calling card, boasting the leagues best. They allowed the fewest points and fewest yards in the NFL. They easily have the league’s best pass defense, with their only very slight weakness coming against the run, where they finished seventh. Similarly to their offense, they get production from a lot of different sources, with 10 different players recording more than one sack, and 10 more recording at least one interception in the regular season. Richard Sherman headlines the group as the teams best corner.

The good news for San Francisco is that they won their last matchup with the Seahawks, and they are a team you can run against. The bad news, is that this time they are playing in Seattle, where they may have the leagues biggest home field advantage. Including the playoffs they are 8-1 at home this season.

The last time the 49ers traveled to Seattle they were blown out, 29-3. With San Francisco playing their best football of the year, and the addition of Michael Crabtree to the lineup this time around, things should certainly be more competitive. However the mountain to climb remains steep. Kaepernick will have his hands full, and they’ll need to get Frank Gore going to be successful.

They’re just one step away from another Super Bowl appearance, but that step is an awfully big one.

49ers sneak past Seattle on Dawson’s field goal in the final minute

Image

By Morris Phillips

After snarling at the officials, exhorting his team, and stalking the sidelines on a bitterly cold afternoon with a constant grimace on his face, 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh wasn’t about to declare the experience of besting the Seahawks, 19-17, an enjoyable one.

“Enjoy it?  That’s not the word I would use,” Harbaugh said.  “It feels like you go to the dentist chair and three-and-a-half hours of getting root canal work done.”

Now that Harbaugh’s found a better place, the nicked up players in both team’s training rooms have been cleared, and the game of the season—so far—has been played, we assess:

For the Seahawks, a bump in the road, and for the 49ers, a win in a game that they had to have in advance of bigger games that they have to have with all but one of them most likely to be played away from Candlestick Park.

Phil Dawson’s 22-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining capped a carefully-orchestrated final drive and allowed the 49ers to overcome Seattle’s one-point lead and keep the drama in the NFC West alive for at least one more week.  The 49ers (9-4) trail the division and conference-leading Seahawks by two games with three to play.

If the task of catching Seattle seems daunting, that’s because it is.  The Seahawks travel to New York next week to face the 5-8 Giants before finishing at home against the Rams and Cardinals.   The 49ers get the rejuvenated Bucs—winners of four of five—before the finale at Candlestick against the Falcons and a season-ending trip to Arizona to face the Cardinals.   If the 49ers can’t catch the Seahawks, they would open the playoffs on the road as the fifth or sixth seed.  If they win there, road games at New Orleans and at Seattle could be next.

“We don’t feel like we’ve put it all together just yet,” Anquan Boldin said after the game.  “I do feel like we are getting better each week and we’ll continue to strive to get better.  Hopefully, you guys will see us play that complete game coming soon.”

On a day of touchdowns in the NFL—85 were scored in the afternoon games- the 49ers found themselves in a tight ballgame attempting to survive on just one touchdown, nursing a 16-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter.  Then Seattle’s Golden Tate set up the Seahawks with his 38-yard punt return.  Six plays later, Russell Wilson faced a 3rd and 8 at the 49ers’ 13-yard line.  With his initial target blanketed, he scrambled left with room to run or pass.  But with Jerome Kearse having a step on his guy at the goal line, Wilson played it safe, sailing one past Kearse out of bounds.

“Try to make the smart decision, too, to not force anything.  We have a field goal and it will give us the lead.  So that was kind of the decision there,” Wilson said.

Just like Colin Kaepernick, Wilson was having a tough afternoon.  Lacking talented deep threats in the absence of injured Percy Harvin, Wilson would go without a completion of a pass thrown more than 10 yards downfield to a wide receiver.   The second-year starter earlier threw a well-executed play-action pass to tight end Luke Willson that went for a 39-yard touchdown and a 14-9 Seattle lead.  But on this day, the Seahawks’ offense started slow and finished dull as the 49ers’ defense was up to the task unlike the last two trips to Century Link Field in Seattle.

“That’s a very tough offense,” Harbaugh said.  “Their run game and just their weapons and the way the quarterback moves around, it’s tough to contain.  To hold them to 17 points is really a great accomplishment.”

With the 49ers trailing by one, Kaepernick found himself on the spot, having lost to Seattle in his only other appearances and needing to engineer a game-winning drive.   But he did, while throwing just one pass in an 11-play drive.  The key was a Frank Gore run through an interior gap that the veteran broke for 51 yards and the presence of mind to stay in bounds at its conclusion.  The same type of Gore runs had keyed the 49ers’ second half surge in last season’s home win over the Seahawks, 13-6.

“(Offensive coordinator Greg Roman) G-Ro had been saving that call in his back pocket and picked the exact right time to call it,” Harbaugh said.

“We just got out played on that play,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.  “They blocked us really nicely and they took advantage of it.”

Three plays later it was Kaepernick’s turn: his 7-yard run on third down surprised in what appeared to be a pass-situation, and picked up a critical first down at the Seattle 8-yard line.   After two more plays and a couple of timeouts, Dawson added his game-winner.

It was Dawson’s 20th consecutive made field goal, setting a team franchise record.

“I think we showed championship effort,” Donte Whitner said.  “I think everybody around the country knows who the 49ers are now.  But that was a championship football game in a playoff atmosphere and we just made a few more plays than they made.”

“Penalties hurt us, really got us off schedule,” Carroll said, referencing nine penalties that erased 85 yards.

But that was about as far and as upset as Carroll would get.  A big game no doubt, but afterwards just one of 13 in the rear-view mirror.

“All of our goals are still in front of us,” Carroll said.