Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm.


–OUT: S Maurice Alexander (concussion)

–DOUBTFUL: G/T D.J. Fluker (hamstring)

–QUESTIONABLE: WR Doug Baldwin (hip), S Bradley McDougald (hamstring), DT Jarran Reed (oblique)

–OUT: S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder)

–QUESTIONABLE: RB Matt Breida (ankle), WR Marquise Goodwin (calf), DL Cassius Marsh (concussion), LB Mark Nzeocha (groin), WR Dante Pettis (foot), CB K’Waun Williams (knee)


–LT George Fant, a former college basketball standout at Western Kentucky, added a new wrinkle to the Seahawks aerial attack by catching his first career pass as an eligible receiver against Minnesota. He stumbled before he could get to the first-down marker, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him targeted again before the season wraps up.

–RG Jordan Simmons will likely earn his third start for the Seahawks because D.J. Fluker is still working his way back from a hamstring injury. Simmons impressed in his first two outings, holding his own against the likes of Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

–DE Jacob Martin, seldom-used early in the season, has found his niche as a situational edge rusher for Seattle. In 12 snaps against the Vikings, he recorded two quarterback hits and a forced a key fumble on a sack against Kirk Cousins that cornerback Justin Coleman returned for a touchdown.

–CB Tre Flowers: As he’s done so well during his entire rookie season, Flowers shook off a 48-yard completion from Cousins to Stefon Diggs and came back later in the game to deflect a potential touchdown to Diggs. Carroll indicated “he’s really strong minded,” which has allowed him to thrive despite his prior lack of experience at cornerback.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: LB Austin Calitro. The Seahawks hoped Mychal Kendricks would be able to give the defense a lift replacing K.J. Wright at weak-side linebacker upon returning from suspension last week. But after miraculously finishing the game with a fractured tibia as well as a knee injury, he was placed on injured reserve, moving Calitro back into the starting lineup. When called upon this season, the former Villanova standout has played well and finished with a career-high 10 tackles when Seattle beat San Francisco in Week 13. Since Wright doesn’t appear ready to return, the Seahawks have great confidence in Calitro as the starter heading into the final three regular-season games.

GAME PLAN: Head coach Pete Carroll hinted that his team will be starting from scratch in preparation for the 49ers despite playing them less than two weeks ago. Though this strategy makes sense, the Seahawks shouldn’t be afraid of using that prior matchup to help devise a game plan either. Only so much can change in such a short span, and while the 49ers will definitely make adjustments, San Francisco’s secondary away from Richard Sherman has been hurt by injuries and Russell Wilson threw three touchdowns on his first six pass attempts on December 2. While unlikely to repeat that feat, expect Seattle to feed Chris Carson early to help set up the play-action passing attack with hopes Wilson can capitalize on the porous secondary for the second time in a month.

Defensively, pressure and tackling will be the biggest keys for Seattle. Led by defensive tackle Jarran Reed’s six quarterback hits, the Seahawks were able to get Nick Mullens to the turf all afternoon. But as a credit to the second-year quarterback, he kept fighting back and benefited greatly from horrific tackling in the secondary during the second half of the first matchup. He wound up throwing for over 400 yards, with big chunks of that yardage coming after the catch. Playing on the road, Seattle can’t afford to have a similar showing and needs to do a much better job of finishing tackles. If they can do that and the pressure gets home, they should be able to create turnovers against an offense lacking many weapons away from tight end George Kittle on the outside.

–Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman. When these two teams met in Week 13, all eyes were on Doug Baldwin facing off against his long-time college and NFL teammate Sherman. But with Baldwin spending the vast majority of his time running routes out of the slot, the two players weren’t matched up against one another very often. Instead, Sherman covered Lockett and David Moore most of the game, while also occasionally being stuck across from tackle George Fant flexed out wide. Baldwin missed last week’s game with a groin injury and may not be available for this rematch, making the contrasting battle between the speedy Lockett and physical Sherman a spectacle worth watching closely.

–Seahawks SS Bradley McDougald vs. 49ers TE George Kittle. Playing the best game of his young career, Kittle torched the Broncos for 210 receiving yards, including an 85-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Nick Mullens. Serving as the 49ers primary receiving threat, he leads all NFL tight ends with over 1,100 receiving yards and the Seahawks will have to prioritize double-teaming him. With that said, McDougald will likely be the defender who spends the most time in coverage against him, as the veteran safety will have to combat Kittle’s rare blend of size, athleticism, and play-making ability. Seattle held him in check in the first matchup between these teams, limiting him to 70 yards on six receptions, but it won’t be easy to replicate that success a second time, especially on the road.