The San Francisco 49ers handled their business last Sunday as they beat the Seattle Seahawks. After suffering two straight crushing defeats in Seattle, the 49ers needed to show that they are capable of beating the current NFC West Division leaders. Losing to the Seahawks again would have been a crushing blow to their confidence and would not have made things any easier for a possible rematch in Seattle during the playoffs. There are a lot of things that went right for the 49ers in that game but the one thing that stood out was the 49ers ability to pass the ball.
Statistically, the 49ers didn’t have the best game. Colin Kaepernick was good on 15 of his 29 attempts for 175 yards. He threw one interception along with one touchdown. The major factor to be taken out of this was the fact that Anquan Boldin was able to beat Richard Sherman a few times when they were matched up. Having Michael Crabtree back on the field helped make things easier for Boldin. This is something that Boldin acknowledged after the game. “They rolled a lot of coverage the first game. Having Crab back allowed me to get a different look, go one on one against guys. We are playing for our lives. We are trying to get into the playoffs. All games are big at this point. We feel like we have to win each week going in. We are getting hot at the right time. We are still chasing that complete game and we will continue to strive to get better.”
The last time Boldin and the 49ers faced Richard Sherman, he only had one catch. Boldin was shadowed most of the first game by Sherman. It was a request Sherman made following Boldin’s big day a week ago and with the Seahawks minus their other starting cornerback, Brandon Browner. “I asked Coach for the challenge,” Sherman said. “I wanted to follow him. There were a lot of things said this week.”
This was the first time that the 49ers were able to face the Seahawks with two legitimate receivers in their starting lineup. Kyle Williams was the starter in the last few games against Seattle. We all know the low level of excellence that he provided. The second game last year was a big time blowout in which Crabtree was playing but Boldin was leading the Baltimore Ravens on a late season push towards the Super Bowl. Crabtree did end up with six catches for 65 yards.
Having both Crabtree and Boldin in the lineup makes things easier for Kaepernick. The looming suspensions of Walter Thurmond III and Brandon Browner will only make things even easier. Much has been made about the struggles of Kaepernick this season but little has been made about the fact that he was without his favorite receiver in which he targeted on 66 percent of his pass attempts.
Having two receivers that can command coverage along with the matchup nightmare known as Vernon Davis will make the passing game legitimate again. It gives the opposing defense another thing to worry about and will open things up for the running game. Frank Gore had six carries for 28 yards in the 42-13 loss in Seattle last year. Gore then had only 16 yards on nine carries in the week two loss in Seattle. However, in the recent victory over the Seahawks, Gore had 117 yards, including a 51-yard run that put the 49ers in position for Phil Dawson to kick the game winning field goal.
A balanced offense is what will be needed to go into the hostile environments in New Orleans or Seattle. The Saints and the Seahawks are the top two seeds in the NFC. Their stadiums are the places where any Super Bowl run will have to go through. The only way that the 49ers can win in either of these places is to effectively run the ball. They will have to be able to throw the ball as well. They can not be one dimensional. Teams will stack eight in the box if to stop the run. The 49ers need to make them pay for this by winning one on one matchups. The same can be said when teams focus on stopping the passing game. The 49ers will need to make them pay by running the ball effectively. The two go hand in hand and will be a key to them reaching the same level of success that they achieved last year.