Finally, a Seattle day in Seattle.
The Seahawks’ game day for their home opener dawned with more hazy, smoky sun. But forecasters are promising it will begin raining during the second quarter of Sunday’s game against San Francisco and stay wet for the rest of the day at CenturyLink Field, something that hasn’t happened throughout a day here in months.
Numbers and the situation strongly suggest the Seahawks will use more no-huddle offense against the 49ers.
Here’s another way Seattle can control this game: With Sheldon Richardson. The 49ers with new head coach Kyle Shanahan, the former play caller for Atlanta, Cleveland and Washington, are likely to base their offense on lead back Carlos Hyde running “stretch,” outside zone-read plays. That’s at the off-tackle area that became Richardson’s first job with the Seahawks when they traded a second-round pick and Jermaine Kearse to the New York Jets for the 2014 Pro Bowl defensive tackle two weeks ago.
Here’s why the Seahawks have already felt how dominant Richardson can be for them this season.
My News Tribune colleague John McGrath says it may be ugly, that “the 2017 Seattle Seahawks are clodhoppers on the dance floor, incapable of moving to the music. And while I’m certain the Hawks will polish some of the rough edges we saw last week in Green Bay, I’m equally certain ugly football is their destiny.”
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (0-1) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (0-1)
Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Channel 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
Line: Seahawks by 13 1/2.
The series: The Seahawks lead it 21-15. Seattle has won six straight home games in the series, by a combined score of 135-58. That includes the NFC championship Seattle won 23-17 in January 2014 to advance to Super Bowl 48. San Francisco’s last win at CenturyLink Field was on Christmas Eve of 2011, 19-17. Russell Wilson was a senior transfer quarterback at Wisconsin preparing for the Rose Bowl that day.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Block somebody. Anybody: The Seahawks can likely win this game with their defense alone. But it’s time for some noticeable improvement on the offensive line. We all can see when Russell Wilson is under siege from every defensive lineman and linebacker on the other team’s roster, as he was last weekend in Green Bay. But Seattle’s even more fundamental need is to have its line with new starters in four of the five positions from last season open more running lanes. Thomas Rawls returns from a month out with a high-ankle sprain to reclaim his lead-runner role. But if the line doesn’t give the backs more room to run, against San Francisco’s strength, it’s big, fast, athletic defensive front, the Seahawks offense will remain largely inert. And ugly.
Run and Hyde: You and the Seahawks will notice just how valuable an addition new defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will be this season. New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wants to run outside zone-read running plays with Carlos Hyde off tackle. That’s where Richardson plays. The former New York Jet has faced Shanahan’s offenses in Atlanta, Cleveland and Washington when he was a coordinator to know the game is coming at him first. Seattle hasn’t had a defensive tackle like the athletic, versatile Richardson during the Pete Carroll era. This game will show how much better he is making an already standout defense.
Leave it to Hoyer: Stopping Hyde and the running game and grabbing an early lead will leave the game in the hands—and on the arm—of journeyman Brian Hoyer. San Francisco is the quarterback’s sixth team of his nine-year career. He threw an interception, lost a fumble and threw for fewer than 200 yards in his Niners debut last week, a 23-3 home loss to Carolina. Brian Hoyer having to beat the Seahawks in Seattle in his first San Francisco road start, with Pierre Garcon and then a cast of receivers few outside Santa Clara have heard of? The home team will love him even trying that.
The pick: Seahawks, 16-0.
While winning nine of 10 in this NFC West series the Seahawks have held San Francisco to one score four times. This time the defense that could have won last week’s game at Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers pummel the far-less-dangerous Hoyer and get their first shutout since week three of the 2015 against Chicago. That was 34 games ago.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
91 Sheldon Richardson DT 6-3 295 fifth
Shanahan’s zone read right at this guy? He knows it’s coming. Watch how he handles it.
34 Thomas Rawls RB 5-9 215 third
Back from high-ankle sprain that cost him a month. It’s not, is he the lead back? It’s, can he stay on the field?
88 Jimmy Graham TE 6-7 265 eighth
Bad last week. If SEA has to keep him into help pass block again, it will be bad this week, too.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
2 Brian Hoyer QB 6-2 215 ninth
Sixth team in his nine-year career. This seems like the wrong place, time to gain an 49ers foothold.
28 Carlos Hyde RB 6-0 230 fourth
Everything coach Kyle Shanahan runs on offense begins with the RB plays off tackle.
53 NaVorro Bowman MLB 6-0 252 eighth
With Reuben Foster out at LB, Bowman needs to be even better than his usual excellent self.