By Brady Henderson
Russell Wilson had his finest game of the season last week, throwing for 293 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Seahawks’ 24-23 win over New England.
Facing a shorthanded secondary and an already-weak passing defense certainly helped.
Wilson figures to have a much harder time against the 49ers on Thursday at Candlestick Park, particularly when it comes to the deeper passes he completed against New England. San Francisco’s secondary has two Pro Bowlers – cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson – and the 49ers are second in the NFL in passing defense, allowing 183 yards per game.
San Francisco’s second-ranked passing defense has been particularly strong this season against deeper attempts. (AP)
A closer look at the numbers with the help of ESPN Stats & Information:
• San Francisco’s opponents have completed a league-low 23.5 percent of their passes on throws more than 20 yards downfield.
• Wilson has five touchdowns to one interception and an 18.1 yards-per-attempt average on such throws, but the 49ers are holding opposing quarterbacks to an 8.4 yards-per-attempt average and haven’t allowed a touchdown. They also have no interceptions on those attempts.
Wilson’s home vs. road splits also suggest he could have a harder time against San Francisco. In three road games, his yards-per attempt average (on all throws) of 6.4 is two yards worse than his average in as many home games. He’s thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions on the road, compared to six touchdowns and no picks at home. The Seahawks are 1-2 on the road this season.
The number of pass rushers the 49ers send against Wilson also figures to factor into his effectiveness. Wilson has fared much better when facing four or fewer pass rushers, as these numbers from ESPN Stats & Information indicate:
• Wilson has completed 68.6 percent of his passes against four or fewer pass rushers, compared to 50 percent against five or more.
• All eight of Wilson’s touchdown passes and four of his five passing plays of at least 30 yards have come against four or fewer pass rushers.
• Wilson’s yards-per-attempt average is much better against less pressure – 8.4 compared to 5.0.
Coach Pete Carroll told “Brock and Salk” earlier this week that the Patriots’ high-scoring offense necessitated more down-field throws from Wilson, the implication being that we shouldn’t necessarily expect that from Seattle’s offense each week. Should Wilson find similar success against San Francisco’s tough defense, we may have to rethink those expectations.