When five of your six second-half possessions result in three-and-outs, that’s ugly.
When your all-star running back only gets 30 yards on 22 carries and your offensive coordinator refuses to abandon the running game, that’s ugly.
When you only have one wideout hauling in more than 38 receiving yards, that’s ugly.
When your starting quarterback is sacked four times, fumbles once and loses that fumble to the opposing defense, that’s ugly.
Mike Singletary’s 2009 San Francisco 49ers, summed up in one word, are ugly. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
San Francisco relied heavily, almost exclusively, on its defense to edge the team past the defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals in Week One, 20-16.
Disguising four-man pressure packages as five- and six-man schemes, the 49ers baffled the Cardinals’ offensive line and beat Kurt Warner like a 38-year-old rag doll. Warner was sacked three times in the game and was hit eight times.
It’s this kind of defensive acumen that will keep the 49ers in the game against the visiting Seahawks in Week Two.
Seattle could still be without starting center Chris Spencer and all-pro left tackle Walter Jones, despite both returning to practice in a limited role Friday. Although the offensive line looked decent in Week One, the Rams defensive personnel are not on the same level as those of the 49ers.
Even if Spencer and Jones were able to return in limited roles this weekend, don’t expect the Seahawks’ running back tandem of starter Julius Jones and veteran Edgerrin James to get out of the blocks this week due to a 49ers run defense that allowed only 29 yards to Arizona’s Week One leading rusher, Chris Wells.
Without much of a ground game to boast of, the offense’s production responsibilities will fall squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck will look to get the ball to his two main playmakers TJ Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson. When those two aren’t available, Nate Burleson proved against the Rams that he’s more than capable to step in, move the chains and even put a few points on the board.
Houshmandzadeh, despite only 48 yards receiving in Week One, was a prominent fixture in Seattle’s game plan. His nine targets were second on the team, only two behind Burleson’s 11. One of those nine looks came in the red zone. Although it wasn’t successful, that won’t deter Hasselbeck from continuing to call Houshmandzadeh’s number when the Seahawks need to put six up on the board this weekend.
John Carlson learned a lot last year under former head coach Mike Holmgren and that was proven once again, as he was big over the middle last weekend. The success came in large part because the Rams’ secondary double covered Houshmandzadeh and Carlson was able to capitalize. Carlson will be able to use his soft hands and fearless route running over the middle against the 49ers in much the same way as he did against the Rams.
Defensively, Seattle will need to pick up where it left off against the Rams.
Picking up three sacks, six quarterback hits and four tackles for a loss, the Seahawks were able shut down the Rams’ offense for nearly the entire game.
Missing this weekend’s matchup against the 49ers will be starting outside linebacker Leroy Hill due to a groin injury that will keep the veteran out for at least five games.
Hill’s teammate, starting middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, could also miss the game due to an injured hamstring. Tatupu was questionable in Friday’s injury report.
If one or both are out Sunday, the onus will be Will Herring and newly resigned veteran D.D. Lewis to fill in and help rookie Aaron Curry anchor the defensive front seven.
Seattle’s linebacking performance will be important to the team’s overall success against the 49ers because running back Frank Gore is always capable of putting up monster numbers, especially at home where he averaged 5.2 yards-per-carry and had five of his season’s six touchdowns last year. The Seahawks’ linebacking unit will also have to exploit San Francisco’s weak offensive line and get to quarterback Shaun Hill on a routine basis so the 49er quarterback cannot get in a rhythm with go-to target Vernon Davis. Davis had five catches off of seven targets in Week One against the Cardinals.
This game, played at Candlestick Park, could get ugly, but that could play to the 49ers’ benefit.
Expect a low-scoring affair Sunday in San Francisco. The Seahawks will come out of the game on top, but not by much.
Seattle 17, San Francisco 10