NFC Championship Game – 49ers vs Seahawks Preview

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So many similarities, so much disliking between these two teams. The Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers have been on a trajectory for a big playoff showdown these last couple of seasons, and those hoping to see it happen got what they wish with this year’s NFC Championship game.

Where to begin? Usually the quarterbacks get mentioned first. Both players are great runners and very good passes, but seem to struggle when facing each other, or more accurately the opposing defense. Kaepernick completed just over 50% of his passes when he faces the Seahawks (opposed to over 60% against everyone else), his yards per attempt drop to 5.9 (from 8.4) and his QBR drops from 78 to 27.3 according to ESPN.

Wilson, despite being the dominant one when it comes to games in Seattle, hasn’t done that well against the 49ers either. It’s usually him making less mistakes than Kaepernick, like in this year’s 29-3 demolition early in September. Wilson completed only 48.3% of his passes against the Niners’ 4-man pass rush, gets sacked 9.3% of the time (compared to 6.2% against everyone else) and his TD-INT ratio is 3-3 compared to 30-11 against the rest of the NFL when four or fewer try to sack him.

There’s the coaching differences – Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have both turned their teams into defensive juggernauts, but there’s a looser feeling about the Seahawks. Richard Sherman and others in the secondary are as vocal as you can get. It’s different in San Francisco, who have an OK secondary unit, but an excellent front seven, maybe the best in the NFL. The Seahawks don’t exactly have a weak front seven, but their true superiority comes from their secondary being able to dominate wide receivers.

The Seahawks feel confident at home; they’re 7-1 this season (losing to the Cardinals), beating the New Orleans Saints 23-15 in the divisional game, and winning their last six postseason games at home, including¬†a 34-14 victory over Carolina in the NFC championship game during the 2005 season. While the 49ers would have loved to avoid playing in Seattle, where they’ve lost by a combined 55 points in the last two visits, they did very well in Green Bay (23-20) and Carolina (23-10) these playoffs.

Once again, despite the focus on the quarterbacks, it might be the running backs that decide. Frank Gore has only 44 yards on 15 carries in his last two games in Seattle, but did very well against them when the 49ers won 19-17 in December, rushing for 110 yards on 17 carries. Marshawn Lynch had a great game against the Saints (140 yards, two touchdowns), and he’s averaged 112.5 yards and scored four TDs in four home games versus San Francisco, not to mention catching a touchdown pass in each of the last two home wins over the 49ers.

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