Week 13 Preview: San Francisco at Seattle

For Matt Hasselbeck’s sake, let’s hope this weekend’s matchup against the 49ers doesn’t wind up being like the last.

In Week Two, Hasselbeck broke two ribs in the first half after being tackled by Patrick Willis on a scramble to the end zone. Without Hasselbeck in the second half of the game, the Seahawks floundered and San Francisco turned their 13-10 halftime lead into a 23-10 rout.

This week, the 49ers (5-6) come to Seattle to take on a Seahawks (4-7) team led by a healthy Hasselbeck under center.

Trying to stop San Francisco this week will be difficult for Seattle.

Coming off a week in which the 49ers used the spread/shot gun offense 34 times out of a possible 61 opportunities against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Seahawks head coach Jim Mora Jr. was not sure at his Wednesday press conference this week whether the run-happy 49ers would revert to their ground-game roots or if they’d stick to the run-and-gun style used in the spread.

“I’m not sure what their game plan will be.”

Either way, the Seahawks will have to try and limit 49ers running back Frank Gore.

Gore blew up the Seahawks in Week Three for two touchdowns and 207 rushing yards on just 16 carries, two of them going for 79 and 80 yards. He also had 39 yards on five receptions.

Last week in the spread, Gore failed to get a rushing score and had an abysmal 33 rushing yards for the game, averaging just 2.1 yards per carry, but, what Gore lacked in the ground game, he more than made up for it through the passing game. Targeted 10 times, Gore hauled in seven balls and picked up receiving score.

When San Francisco puts the ball in the hands of their quarterback, Alex Smith, Seattle can’t focus solely on Gore as being the 49ers’ only big-play threat. The Seahawks will need to know where tight end Vernon Davis and rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree are. They were both targeted heavily last week (nine and eight targets, respectively), but Davis is the real threat of the two.

This season, the tight end tied the 49ers’ single-season record for most touchdowns at his position with nine and he also broke the team’s previous single-season record of catches at his position with 57.

Offensively for the Seahawks, the pressure to move the ball down field and put points on the scoreboard will fall on the shoulders of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. That’s because Seattle’s ground game will most likely be silenced by a very stout 49ers’ rush defense.

Last week, when the 49ers played the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco allowed quarterback David Garrard to throw for 302 yards, while allowing all-pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew just 75 rushing yards. The Seahawks’ tandem of Justin Forsett and Julius Jones are by no means anything close to resembling the talent that is Jones-Drew, plus both Forsett and Jones are dinged up as of Friday’s injury report, meaning it could be a long day for Seattle’s rushers.

Look for Hasselbeck’s usual targets in TJ Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson and John Carlson to see the ball come their way early and often Sunday at Qwest Field. Whether they’ll capitalize on those balls thrown their way will be something to keep an eye on because Coach Mora Jr. said Wednesday at his press conference that in order for the team to get the ball deep down field through the air, the team’s offensive line would have to improve its play and provide Hasselbeck the kind of time he needs to successfully hit his targets.

This game could be close, possibly even coming down to the last possession. I’ll give Seattle the nod, but only because they’re playing at home.

Seattle 21, San Francisco 17.

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