Look, you know me, I hate giving praise to the 49ers. I haven’t taken the time to look deep within myself and done the soul searching required to give this the accuracy it deserves, but I think I hate the 49ers more than any other team. I dunno, it goes back and forth between them and the Rams, depending on my mood, but either way:
SCREW THE 49ERS!
Ironically, much of my hatred of this team came from Richard Sherman’s hatred of Michael Crabtree, then of the 49ers, and now that’s where the ex-Seahawk calls his home. So, let’s start there.
I don’t hate Richard Sherman. But, he’s certainly a complicated fellow, and I think I could use a break. I don’t wish him ill, and I don’t even necessarily need to see him fail, but I would REALLY like to see the Seahawks – and particularly Russell Wilson – stick it to him tonight.
I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate it here: Richard Sherman is the epitome of someone you LOVE when he’s on your team (and you’ll defend him to your dying breath), but if he’s on any other team, you’re likely to hate his guts. He’s a perfect football troll that gets under the skin of every opposing fan base he goes up against. So, when I used to read those stories about how he’d yell at Russ in practice (something along the lines of “You fucking suck!”) I thought it was awesome. It represented the swagger and the intensity of the Legion Of Boom. Also, it was fine, because as a Seahawks fan I knew Russell Wilson didn’t ACTUALLY suck. I knew that the best defense Wilson would ever go up against would be the one he saw in practice every day of the week. That’s what helped make him so special against the rest of the NFL. Steel sharpening steel or some damn thing.
But now, I dunno. It irks me a little bit to reflect on that sentiment. It’s a little bit of a Little Brother syndrome (which, as the older brother of my family, I know nothing about, but I can at least empathize; some of my best friends are little brothers!); Wilson grew up with the Seahawks in the shadows of the defense and the running back (Marshawn Lynch). Now, Wilson’s not only in his prime, but he’s as good as he’s ever been (he might be the very best he’ll ever be, we won’t know unless he eventually finds a way to take his game to yet another level), while Sherman’s an elder statesman, but arguably at the tail-end of his prime. And, it still feels like Wilson is trying to break out of Sherm’s shadow. I mean, let’s face it, the Seahawks were at their very best when this defense was ruling the roost. Wilson’s trying to prove that he’s good enough to run the show and carry this team to the promised land.
And, to get there, he has to go through Richard Sherman and the San Francisco 49ers.
When the Seahawks cut Sherman, I didn’t agree with the decision, but I understood it. More from a payroll perspective than anything. Ideologically, it makes sense: as guys get older in the NFL, they’re going to be more injury prone. Sherm was awesome on his rookie deal, and he was just as good through most of his second contract. But, he was coming off of a ruptured Achilles tendon and had just one year remaining on that second contract. So, there was the unknown of his returning from season-ending injury, and what he’d eventually be looking for in a third contract beyond 2018. With the way the Seahawks’ roster was shifting, I could rationalize them trying to save money on the secondary and putting it to use elsewhere (like the O-Line, for instance).
What I didn’t agree with was getting rid of Sherman because he was some sort of “cancer” or otherwise a personality the coaching staff didn’t want to deal with anymore. Yes, he’s outspoken, and yes, he’s had his share of embarrassing moments in the media, but I don’t believe he was actively trying to poison the team from the inside. He’s a winner. He loves to play football and he loves to win; those are guys you keep as long as possible. And, while the Seahawks were able to bring in a few guys with the savings they netted from eliminating his 2018 salary, I would argue they would’ve been better off rostering a motivated guy coming off of an injury looking to extend his career as long and as lucratively as possible. Once he proves he’s worth a big money deal, we could’ve let him walk and gotten a better compensatory pick for it.
And, not for nothing, but had we kept him through 2018, maybe this year he’d be playing for someone OTHER than the 49ers.
But, he’s there now, and I just can’t. While I know he went to college in the area – so that was naturally a preferred landing spot – his ultimate goal was to play for a team that could prevent the Seahawks from winning the Super Bowl. He’s a savvy guy, he saw the 49ers as a team with a newly hired excellent coach that was on the rise. He figured he could help accelerate that rise, and here we are. The last thing I need to see in my life is Richard Sherman jumping around yelling about “I Told You So” and all that nonsense. It’s just going to infuriate me more, and I don’t want that. I want to continue to love and respect a guy who was so central to the Seahawks being the champions they were.
And look, I’m not an idiot. Well, I am, but I’m not so petty that I won’t one day cheer the man when he’s inducted into the Ring of Honor, and/or has his number retired by the team. But, in the here and now, I just don’t want to resent the man.
But, I’m afraid that’s where I’m going to be, after the 49ers beat the Seahawks, because I’m utterly incapable of foreseeing a way the Seahawks win this game.
The Seattle Seahawks are famously the best team in the NFL on Monday Night Football, with our 24-10 record. It’s too much to go through at this time, but suffice it to say I’ve seen worse Seahawks teams beat teams that are better than these 49ers, so there’s just something spooky about how we’re so good in this arbitrary time slot.
But, that’s just it. I have two reasons why the Seahawks might win this game, and one is this random impossibly-good record that spans 40+ years of existence.
The other reason is Russell Wilson, of which I’m sure you’re intimately familiar.
The flipside is plentiful:
- The 49ers’ defensive line
- The 49ers’ secondary
- The 49ers’ run game
- The 49ers’ healthy and improving quarterback
- The 49ers’ creative coaching staff
- The Seahawks’ shaky pass blocking at times
- The Seahawks’ shaky defense at all times
- The Seahawks’ specific lack of a pass rush
- The fact that this game is on the road
- The fact that the 49ers have had a few extra days to prepare
I mean, I could go on and on if you want me to, but we’d be here all day.
If I’m being honest, I think the Seahawks’ defense will look like they’ve looked all year. They’ll get a stop here and there, they’ll bend, they’ll sometimes break, but they’ll also hold the 49ers to field goals sometimes. I would expect the 49ers to score somewhere in the mid-to-high 20’s. Anywhere from 24-29 points (the definition of mid-to-high 20’s, in other words).
The real wild card here is what the Seahawks are able to do offensively. My initial gut instinct is to bury the Seahawks – like the 49ers’ defensive front will do to our offensive line, running backs, and quarterback. We’ve seen this since 2012: when the Seahawks are faced with a rabid D-Line, they struggle to move the ball and score points. In the past, we’ve been able to win some of these games by holding the other team to under 20 points, and just gutting our way to a 16-13 victory. But, clearly, the Seahawks’ defense isn’t capable of doing that anymore. Which has been okay so far this year, because we haven’t gone up against very many quality defenses.
Except, when we have, we’ve sucked. We were able to put up 27 against the Saints, but 20 of those points came in the 4th quarter when the game was pretty much decided. Against the Ravens, we got 16 points and were run out of our own stadium. I would argue the 49ers’ defense is better than either of those two teams. On top of this being a road game, I’d say the likelihood of us even keeping this game close is pretty remote.
The Seahawks SHOULD lose by multiple scores.
And yet, I can’t totally rule us out. Russell Wilson has always been special, but this year he’s on another planet. I think everyone acknowledges that, and that’s why any expert picking this game might even consider for a moment that the Seahawks could win. But, I think if you played this game in 100 alternate universes, the Seahawks probably only win a third or a quarter of the time. Maybe less. Ten?
I’ve done a pretty good job of building this game up in my mind. The Seahawks need this game MUCH more than the 49ers. Falling behind by 3 games in the division with six games left to play would most likely be too much to overcome. I’ve even gone to the trouble of taking tomorrow off of work so I don’t have to be exhausted as I stay up for the end of this one. So, believe me when I say I’m prepared to be disappointed tonight. I’m prepared to be angry. I’m prepared to tweet 90,000 times and throw out 40 million expletives. And, yeah, I’m prepared for the inevitable Richard Sherman post-game rant where he calls out the Seahawks and the haters in general (I’m also prepared for the much more devastating Richard Sherman post-game measured response where he praises both teams and takes the high road as the lion who doesn’t care about the opinion of the sheep).
The 49ers are favored by 6.5 points, and I’d say the odds are better than 50% that they cover that spread. I’d put maybe another 35-40% on them still winning, but by 6 or less. That puts the odds as pretty remote for the Seahawks to actually win. If they do, it’ll be as close to a miracle as it comes. And, if they do, I hope Russell Wilson is as emotional and insufferable as they get. What I’d love to see is Wilson really stick the knife into all the people who said he was only good when he had an elite defense and running game at his disposal. What we’d get would be far more bland and pointless, but at least Seahawks fans could sleep well knowing the truth: that Wilson was always the future of this team.
It just took getting rid of all his detractors to make it happen. In that sense, maybe it WAS a good thing the Seahawks moved on from Richard Sherman when they did.