NFC Championship Tale Of The Tape: San Francisco 49ers Vs. Seattle Seahawks
- QuarterbackThe 49ers won their eighth-straight game in impressive fashion, handling the powerful Carolina Panthers 23-10. Now they must face the predatory Seahawks on their homefield. Colin Kaepernick is going to be under pressure to perform against Seattle’s aggressive defense, knowing that the 49ers have been routed in their last two games at Seattle.Russell Wilson has emerged as a dominant leader who has done nothing but exceed expectations. He is a very charismatic athlete who should have an elite future. However, as he plays for the chance to get to the Super Bowl, he has not been at his best in recent weeks. He has thrown just four TDs passes in his last five games. He’ll need to pick up the pace against the streaking 49ers.
- OffenseThe 49ers have been getting consistent play from their offensive line, and that’s all that running back Frank Gore needs to assert his will and take over the game in the second half. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin is aggressive and skilled. He can make the difficult catch and also run over tacklers. Vernon Davis can stretch the field from the tight end position.The Seahawks need to have a huge game from Marshawn Lynch if they are going to win the NFC Championship. Lynch is hungry to overpower linebackers, but he will be tested by the Niners. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are capable wideouts who can make key plays under pressure. The Seahawks have not been able to unleash Percy Harvin, and a concussion may keep him on the sidelines.
- DefenseThe 49ers gave up a second-quarter touchdown pass to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, but they shut down the talented signal caller after that play. The Niners are nasty and athletic, and nobody contributes more than inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who led the team with 145 tackles and 5.0 sacks. Defensive end Justin Smith must have a strong game against Seattle’s running game.The Seahawks have had an overpowering defense all season. In addition to the star power of cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, the Seahawks have the kind of depth that brings championships. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the team with 120 tackles and is one of the game’s most under-appreciated performers. DE Michael Bennett had a team-high 8.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe 49ers have had a solid year on special teams as they rarely allow a big play from punt and kickoff returners. Jim Harbaugh has been thrilled with Phil Dawson, who has given them the placekicking edge they had been desperately seeking. Andy Lee is averaging 48.2 yards per punt.The Seahawks have had outstanding special teams play this year as they usually dominate opponents in that area. Golden Tate is a capable punt returner, while the Seahawks have dominated in punt coverage. Stephen Hauschka made 33-of-35 FG attempts in the regular season.
The Niners have struggled in their last two trips to Seattle, but there’s little doubt that there’s little to differentiate these two teams. Kaepernick appears to be playing better than Wilson right now, and that could be the difference in this game. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor