Wyman and Bob: Seahawks’ biggest challenge against 49ers

Dec 15, 2022, 11:38 AM

Seahawks 49ers preview McCaffrey...

San Francisco 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey runs for a touchdown against Tampa Bay on Dec. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The Seahawks and 49ers have met once already this season, but there are very different circumstances around their Thursday night matchup to kick off Week 15 of the NFL season.

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First of all, rather than trying to establish their seasons like was the case when they met back in Week 2 in Santa Clara, Calif., a lot has been settled going into the game. In fact, the 49ers (9-4) can clinch the NFC West title with a victory at Lumen Field.

Then there are the quarterback situations for both teams. In Seattle, the questions about Geno Smith being able to replace Russell Wilson as the starter are now ancient history as he leads the NFL in completion percentage (71.5%) and ranks fifth in QB rating (64.5). For the Niners, meanwhile, they’ve been able to continue winning despite being on their third QB of the season – and even that third QB, Brock Purdy, is listed as questionable for Thursday (though he’s expected to play).

A couple more changes play into the hands of each other, and it will result in what Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob call the biggest matchup of the game.

We know a lot more now about Seattle’s issues defending the run than we did when the 49ers beat the Hawks in September, and making matters worse for the Seahawks is that San Francisco has a new weapon in the running game: Christian McCaffrey, who was acquired from Carolina just ahead of the trade deadline in October.

“Going with Christian McCaffrey, and the reason why (is) just the the running back position in general (has been an issue for Seattle’s defense),” said Dave Wyman, a former NFL linebacker who currently serves as color commentator on Seahawks Radio Network broadcasts, when asked Wednesday about the key matchup in Thursday’s game.

Added co-host Bob Stelton: “He’s one of those guys that when he’s when he’s rolling, he’s fun to watch from a distance as long as he’s not beating up on my team.”

So what’s the Seahawks’ half of that key matchup?

“I think the linebackers are the ones (who need to stop McCaffrey),” Wyman said, “and I admit that it’s because I feel like that’s where the biggest problem in the run defense is. They’re stepping up, and then stopping.”

“They’re playing with uncertainty,” Stelton chimed in.

Run defense has obviously been a huge issue for the Seahawks. They seemed to shore up problems in that regard from early in the season during a four-game win streak, but they’ve regressed over their most recent four games, allowing 838 yards on 163 rushes (5.14 yards per carry) over that stretch to go 1-3 as a result. They have fallen to 7-6 overall this season and are now on the outside of the NFC playoff picture with four games to go.

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Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt spoke about those issues this week and the difficulty of keeping teams from gashing Seattle in the run game, which Wyman and Bob listened to during Wednesday’s show.

“I would say the guys have shown to be able to (stop the run) in spurts, but it’s the consistency,” Hurtt said. “And then when you show that if people keep hammering it at you eventually that you’re gonna find the leak, that’s what happens. … It’s like anything, it’s a copycat league. So you want to put a fire out early. So now that you’ve shown it, you’re gonna have to show for a couple of games that you’ve fixed the issue so that way it doesn’t keep compounding itself and keep happening over and over again. But I would be concerned if they had not shown that; we’ve shown that in a streak of games where we’ve been able to shut down the run. It’s the consistency of doing the right things play after play. That is the most frustrating and that’s hurting us right now.”

Wyman’s take on that is that it may already be too late to get opponents to away from basing their attack around the run game.

“I think, though, that you’re getting to the point now where it doesn’t matter if they’ve done it before. You’ve got to you’ve got to do it now,” he said.

The Seahawks and 49ers meet at 5:15 p.m. Thursday night at Lumen Field. You can hear Wyman on the broadcast on Seattle Sports 710 AM and KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM. Coverage starts at 2 p.m. with the pregame show.

Listen to the full segment from Wednesday’s Wyman and Bob, plus an interview with ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson, at this link or in the player below.

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