Enemy Confidential: Limping Seahawks Look to Save Season Against Sprinting 49ers

Seattle and San Francisco have each battled injuries and with an NFC West title on the line in Sunday's rematch, both teams look dramatically different than they did just six weeks ago during their first matchup of the season.
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So much has changed since the Seahawks edged the 49ers 27-24 in an overtime thriller a mere six weeks ago. These two teams will both look much different Sunday when they meet to determine the winner of the NFC West.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s different:

  • Seattle defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a one-man wrecking crew in the first meeting, is now playing hurt. A core injury that will require offseason surgery has sapped much of his explosiveness and limited him to four tackles and a single sack in just two appearances since his dominating performance in Santa Clara that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
  • Safety Quandre Diggs, who made his Seahawks debut in that earlier matchup against the 49ers and has made a dramatic impact on Seattle’s defense since his arrival in a mid-season trade, hasn’t played or practiced since injuring his ankle in Carolina two weeks ago and will be a game-time decision.
  • Cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who made two crucial deflections of Jimmy Garoppolo passes in the last clash, is expected to play after missing two games with a hamstring injury, but how healthy will he be?
  • The Seahawks running back room is hardly even recognizable, unless you’re watching highlights of the 2014 season. Gone from the November 11 game in California are Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise, all out for the season with major injuries. In their place are Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, both brought back into the fold after long periods of inactivity and just a couple practices under their belts.
  • Defensive tackle and run-stuffing extraordinaire Al Woods is serving a four-game suspension for PED use. Receiver Josh Gordon was also suspended for drug use.
  • San Francisco will have its best player, tight end George Kittle, back in action after he missed the first game between these two teams with a knee injury. Closing in on another 1,000-yard season, Kittle creates matchup nightmares for any opponent and Seattle will have its hands full trying to slow him down.

As much as that is for Seattle to overcome, they’re having to do so coming off their worst loss of the season. Last week’s bumbling, disjointed home loss to a four-win Arizona team felt like a death knell.

Yet here they are, set to host the 12-3 49ers in the NFL season finale. Still at stake is first place in the NFC West, a guaranteed home playoff game, and a possible first round playoff bye. To the winner go these spoils, while the loser falls all the way to the No. 5 seed as a wild card.

Because it’s been such a short time since these two teams met, I’ll spare you the usual roundup of offseason moves and get right to the heart of the matter. Here now is a closer look at the Seahawks final regular season opponent of 2019 including series history, some key statistics, and coach Pete Carroll’s thoughts on the 49ers.

SERIES HISTORY

42nd regular season meeting, with the Seahawks holding the edge 25-16.

The teams have met once in the postseason, with Seattle’s historically epic 23-17 win in the 2014 NFC Championship Game propelling them to their only Super Bowl title.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

80.3: Percentage of on-target throws for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, third-best in the NFL.

1,298: Passing yards gained by the 49ers on play action passes, third-best in the NFL.

2.9: Yards rushing before contact by the 49ers, fourth-most in the NFL.

6.5: Yards gained after the catch by 49ers receivers, the best mark in the league.

4.6: Yards per play allowed by San Francisco's defense, the best in the NFL.

47: Sacks produced by the 49ers defense, the fourth-most in the league.

20.3: Percentage of times the 49ers blitz on passing plays, fourth-lowest in the NFL.

2,484: Passing yards allowed by the San Francisco defense, best among 32 teams.

INJURY REPORT

The 49ers will once again be without pass rusher Dee Ford, who’s out with a leg injury. Defensive tackle Julian Taylor suffered a torn ACL during practice this week and landed on injured reserve. Safety Jaquiski Tartt was limited in practice with a rib injury and is listed as doubtful. Rookie receiver Deebo Samuel was limited in practice all week with a banged-up shoulder but should play, while starting guard Mike Person is questionable with a neck issue.

CARROLL’S THOUGHTS

--Carroll spoke glowingly of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s play calling acumen, and says you can see the influences he’s had while being raised in a football family and watching his dad Mike Shanahan operate for all his years in the league.

“He’s been way ahead of people his age in understanding of scheme and principles,” Carroll said. “The coaches he was around, the coaches that embraced him when he was growing up. He just learned it all. He’s allowed, because of his background, he’s allowed to be extremely creative and innovative. He’s just almost a perfect product of a guy being raised to be a football coach. In particular, he’s been an offensive guy his whole life. His dad was an offensive specialist as well. All their buddies and friends, he’s just been in that conversation forever. It just paid off. He’s very, very fortunate.”

--When it comes to defending the 49ers with a healthy Kittle back in the lineup, Carroll indicated the Seahawks won't be able to have the same game plan as they did in the first matchup due to his presence. He raved about the All-Pro tight end, who could be a major problem for a Seattle defense that has struggled to defend tight ends all year.

“He’s an amazing player. He really is. He’s a heart and soul guy for them, and a clutch guy, too. They go to him when times are crucial and all that. He’s a fantastic player. Not just a catcher, he’s a blocker as well. He’s a good ball player.”

--While much is being made of the impact Tartt’s absence may have on San Francisco’s defense, Carroll warns that there hasn’t been much of a drop off for the 49ers without him in the lineup.

“He is important,” Carroll said. “He’s a really good ball player. But the guys they have been mixing through there, they haven’t skipped a beat it doesn’t seem. They’re really playing great pass defense. They’re playing fantastic pass defense. To go along with the rush that we know has been so formidable, that makes them a very difficult opponent. He’s a really good ball player though.”

--The buzz has been palpable around this game, with all that’s at stake as well as the much-ballyhooed return of Lynch to try and save a battered backfield, but Carroll is doing his best to downplay the rivalry aspect of this matchup as he attempts to get his team to focus on the task at hand.

“When you get championship opportunities, there are some similarities for sure,” said Carroll. “The uniforms look pretty similar. It’s going to feel similar in the look of it and all that. You know, we’ve never looked at games as rivalry games. I just don’t use that way of expressing it, but I love it if that’s what you guys feel. The fans feel. There’s nothing wrong with that, we just don’t look at it that way. We look at it a little differently.”

Just how differently each of these teams playoff scenarios look is about to be determined.