Heaps: What the Seahawks need to do to be successful against 49ers
The Seahawks are heading into their biggest game of the year on Sunday when they take on the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West title.
The winner will get at least one home playoff game and depending on how early games play out for the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, Seattle may be playing for a first-round playoff bye.
The Seahawks had a five-game winning streak snapped Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams and two weeks later, Seattle dropped a game to the Arizona Cardinals. Both games were ones where not much went right, and the Seahawks can’t afford another lackluster performance when the 12-3 49ers come into town.
So what do the Seahawks need to do on offense and defense to give themselves the best chance to win on Sunday? Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy said the team needs to be more aggressive on defense, especially with the team getting a number of players back from injury.
“I know they don’t have Quandre Diggs back there at free safety and that was one of the real anchors to that defense that made them feel like they were comfortable enough to be aggressive, to play man to man and bring pressure and all that,” Heaps said. “This (game), however, you can’t hold back. You cannot sit back and play two high safety (defense) and try and be conservative. You have to be the aggressor.”
Diggs is questionable to play with an ankle injury, and him playing would be a big boost for a defense that has been ravaged by injuries of late.
In games Diggs has played for Seattle, including Week 10 against the 49ers, the Seahawks have 13 takeaways. They have 19 in the other 10 games. Diggs has three interceptions and a forced fumble in five games with the Seahawks. One of those interceptions came against the 49ers.
When these two teams squared off last time, the Seahawks’ pass rush came alive and were pressuring San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo all night long. Seattle won 27-24 in overtime. Additionally, the 49ers’ successful rushing attack failed to get over 100 yards that night.
“You have to go out there like you did against San Fran the first time around and put pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo and shut down that run game,” Heaps said. “If you can do that, it gives you the best chance to win and overall, I think they have to go down swinging in this one. If there’s ever a time bust out your blitz packages to once again crowd the line of scrimmage, it is in this game.”
Heaps also thinks starting cornerbacks Tre Flowers and Shaquill Griffin need to be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage, playing press coverage and blanketing the San Francisco receivers.
On offense, Heaps thinks the team needs to be creative in their play calling and in protecting quarterback Russell Wilson.
Starting left tackle Duane Brown will not play after undergoing knee surgery Monday, so it will either be Jamarco Jones or George Fant.
Jones started last week against Arizona and was lined up against Chandler Jones, who leads the NFL in sacks. The Cardinals’ Jones sacked Wilson four times. The 49ers’ pass rush unit is one of the best in the NFL.
“First and foremost, I don’t care who you have at left tackle, whether it’s Jamarco Jones or George Fant, you have to get them some help,” Heaps said. “You cannot tell them to play one on one against Nick Bosa or any other defensive edge rusher that the 49ers are going to present.”
Ways to help either Fant or Jones would be to have a running back or tight end “chip block” the defensive end before running their route on passing plays. That would greatly assist whoever is at tackle.
“You have to chip those guys and help them out on the edge to give them the best chance of being successful in pass protection situations,” Heaps said.
The second thing Heaps wants to see is the offense using the entire field so the 49ers’ defense is running around more and staying on their toes.
“That means sometimes you’re going to have to throw a smoke screen or a bubble screen to the receivers and get them out on the edge,” Heaps said. “You’re going to have to use the screen game. You’re going to have to use your movement passes and get Russell outside the pocket. You’re going to have to be creative in that aspect to get Russell off of the traditional spot in the middle of the pocket to give them the best chance (to succeed offensively).”
Heaps thinks that the Seahawks can eventually settle into more traditional passing plays where Wilson stands in the pocket, but to start, the Seahawks need to be creative so the San Francisco defense can’t get after Wilson right off the bat.
“(Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) has to give Russell the best chance to get protected and get the 49ers off balance and those are some simple ways to do that,” Heaps said.
To listen to Heaps’ full thoughts, visit this link or use the player below at the 14:11 mark.