Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 29, 2018 at 2:10 am.


–RB J.D. McKissic was activated from reserve/injured, designated for return by the Seahawks Wednesday (Nov. 28) and according to head coach Pete Carroll, he’s expected to “participate” in Sunday’s game versus the 49ers. Though he’s unlikely to see the field much, if at all, as a running back, he could see snaps lined up as a receiver and should contribute on special teams.

–WR Malik Turner: Practice makes perfect, at least in the case of the undrafted receiver out of Illinois. After a stellar week of preparation, Turner made his first NFL reception against the Panthers, snagging a pass from Russell Wilson for a 19-yard gain and picking up a first down in the process.

–DT Nazair Jones: Surprisingly, Jones tumbled down the depth chart and has been a healthy scratch in five games this season after a promising rookie campaign. But with Seattle’s run defense continuing to be porous, he played a season-high 19 snaps against the Panthers and made a spectacular tackle near the goal line after shooting into the backfield to bring down Christian McCaffrey for a three-yard loss. Look for him to see an expanded role against the 49ers.

–LB K.J. Wright: The veteran linebacker will miss his third straight game as he seeks specialized treatment for his troublesome knee. Seattle hopes this latest medical remedy will help him turn the corner and return for the team’s final four regular-season contests.

–K Sebastian Janikowski: After a rough start to the season, Janikowski has been lights out for Seattle over the past eight weeks, making 10 out of 11 field-goal attempts and drilling all 23 extra points. Following a 31-yard game-winner in Carolina last Sunday, he earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: CB Tre Flowers. Entering the 2018 season, the fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma State wasn’t expected to contribute much defensively. But injuries to veterans Byron Maxwell and Dontae Johnson forced Flowers into the starting lineup in Week 1, and though he’s had his lumps as the year has progressed, he’s continued to exceed expectations. He’s yet to make his first NFL interception, but he finished with seven tackles last Sunday against the Panthers and forced two fumbles. Among his notable plays, he stuffed running back Christian McCaffrey on a third-and-1 running play at the line of scrimmage, forcing the Panthers to punt. He also brought down speedy receiver D.J. Moore three yards short of a first down late in regulation, leading to an eventual missed field goal by Graham Gano and opening the door for Seattle to win the game.

GAME PLAN: Seattle wants to run the football, but this may not necessarily be the best game to ground-and-pound the opposition. Despite having plenty of holes on the defensive side of the ball, San Francisco has held opponents to only 102.7 rushing yards per game, 10th best in the NFL. Much like last week against Carolina, Seattle may have to lean a bit more on Russell Wilson’s throwing arm, though he’ll have to be careful how aggressively he attacks former teammate Richard Sherman on the outside. Away from Sherman, cornerback Akhello Witherspoon has had some trouble in his second NFL season and safety depth took a hit when Jimmie Ward was lost for the season due to injury. The vertical passing game may not necessarily be there, but the Seahawks have to like their chances with Tyler Lockett and David Moore potentially working against Witherspoon and susceptible safety group.

Playing with their third quarterback in Nick Mullens, the 49ers offense has been ravaged by injuries. Aside from losing Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending knee injury, San Francisco also lost running back Jerick McKinnon during the preseason, leaving a team already devoid of playmakers even more limited. Still, the 49ers have been able to run the football with rising star Matt Breida leading the way, as they rank fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Seattle has given up nearly 600 rushing yards over the past four games, and if there’s a way the 49ers can steal a win at CenturyLink, it’ll be riding Breida and Alfred Morris out of the backfield. The Seahawks must slow down the run game and limit yards after catch when Mullens does pass, as the 49ers average 6.8 yards after catch per reception, second-best in the league.

–Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman. After years of battling against one another at practice as teammates at Stanford and with the Seahawks, Baldwin and Sherman will square off as opponents for the first time. Though both players have been slowed by injuries at times this season, Baldwin has played his best football of late, catching 12 passes and a touchdown over Seattle’s past two games. While his statistics indicate otherwise, Sherman remains one of the best corners in football and opponents simply haven’t challenged him much this season. Long-time friends, each player knows the other inside-and-out, making this a must-see chess match between spirited competitors who don’t want to lose.

–Seahawks SS Bradley McDougald vs. 49ers TE George Kittle. The 49ers have been decimated by injuries, losing running back Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL before the start of the season and then losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the same injury in a Week 3 loss to the Chiefs. On an offense lacking playmakers, Kittle has been one of the few bright spots, as the second-year tight end has caught 56 passes for 823 yards and three touchdowns. McDougald, who has recorded 57 tackles and three interceptions this season, will be tasked with covering the athletic 6-foot-4, 250-pound weapon. With Kittle being San Francisco’s most reliable receiver, he may receive some help as Seattle tries to force quarterback Nick Mullens to throw elsewhere.