Niners vs. Seahawks: A Battle of the Schemes


September 11, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52) and linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) near the end zone in the first quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt in my mind that Sunday Night’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) and the Seattle Seahawks (9-5) will be nothing short of an all out war. With the NFC West crown at stake, you can expect plenty of violent hits and crushing blows. With both teams battling for playoff position it will be interesting to see which team will come out on top.

While many NFL analysts around the league are focusing on the matchup between the two quarterbacks, I believe the key matchup will be between the 49ers front seven and the Seahawks offensive line. With numerous Pro-Bowlers and top tier talent across the board, on paper, it seems like the 49ers clearly have the upper hand. That did not seem to be the case in their last meeting, though, as the Seahawks offensive line often dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch to gain crucial yards on early downs.

So what do the Niners need to do in order to prevent another 100-yard performance by the man they call “Beast Mode?”

The answer is clear; control the line of scrimmage. In a 3-4 defense, it’s imperative that the three-down lineman occupy as many blockers as possible which allows the linebackers to make plays. To be fair, that’s easier said than done. Considering that the Seahawks run a zone-blocking offense, it will be difficult for Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga, and Justin Smith (if he plays) to hold the point of attack, as they will often be double-teamed.

Under this philosophy, it allows the Seahawks fullback or tight-end to block the linebackers. If they want to win, 49ers’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will need to devise a scheme to counter this issue. Based on past experiences, Fangio should be able to make this happen. At the end of the day, however, it’s the players who have to execute, not the coaching staff.

If the 49ers want to beat the Seattle Seahawks, they must consistently win the line of scrimmage, hold the point of attack, and hit their gaps. Also, in a game where points are scarce, they must keep Seattle out of field-goal range, and allow their offense to get an early lead.

Look for the 49ers front seven which includes, Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis to dominate on Sunday, and prove to the rest of the world, “They are who we thought they were.” (Dennis Green)