As the sheer excitement of just earning a playoff spot begins to wear, it can be a daunting site to see the San Francisco 49ers on the schedule for the Seattle Seahawks, who will play their division rival in the first week of the playoffs.
Seattle needed some help on Sunday to make the postseason, and they got it. It took a dragger against the Rams to go their way in overtime, which it did. Then Seattle had to pray to the Detroit Lions of all teams to get past the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. That happened as well, and the Hawks find themselves in the playoffs for the first time in a long time without quarterback Russell Wilson whose offseason has already begun.
The Hawks are already 10-point underdogs before this game even nears, and rightfully so. The Niners are the second-best team in the NFC; their offense averages over 33 points a game since Brock Purdy took over under center, and their defense is the best in the National Football League. All signs point to this being an uphill battle for the Hawks, but it doesn’t mean it will be impossible.
The Seahawks can win this game and stun the NFC. If they were to do that, they would face off against the Philadelphia Eagles the following week, another not-so-fun battle, but it’s all possible. Let’s break down how the Hawks can win this football game.
Make Brock Purdy uncomfortable
There is no denying what the rookie quarterback has done, and in my mind, the Niners have found their quarterback of the future. Purdy has taken down some of the best defenses in the league in the Bucs and Commanders and done it in dominating fashion, putting 30-plus points on each of those teams.
However, this is a rookie that we are talking about. Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant. He will become the latest draft pick to ever start an NFL game as quarterback in his rookie season. Nerves in the postseason are much different than nerves in the regular season when your team has all but shored up the regular season, and there isn’t much to worry about. This is win or go home, and the Niners could feel some pressure in this game, especially the young play-caller.
Before their contest in Week 15, Pete Carroll had this to say about Purdy:
“What a remarkable amount of improvement he must have made to put himself in that position, with so little and limited playing time. He must be a terrific practice player. I think it really speaks to Kyle and running the offense because he’s not going to take chances and be risk-taking with the guy. He’s doing what the guy can do, and he’s done it really well, it’s a really impressive start.”
The Niners will have to deal with a Seattle pass-rush that took a big step forward this season and ranks seventh in the league in sacks per game. If Purdy has pressure all day like he hasn’t seen before, they can disrupt the young quarterback and make things closer.
There is something about being the underdog and being cast off that can fuel a team. Geno Smith embodies this mentality, especially with his now famous saying, “When They Write You Off, Don’t Write Back.”
The Hawks weren’t supposed to be any good this season. Remember when they traded away Russell Wilson, Drew Lock was supposed to be the starting quarterback, fans were clamoring for Baker Mayfield, and tanking was at the forefront of everyone’s minds? It’s crazy how quickly things can change. The Hawks have been down and out all year long but have truly shocked the league and the people who watch every single day.
Seattle isn’t supposed to be here, and with this 10-point line, they are again told that it’s a mistake that they are in this position, to begin with. It shouldn’t be surprising that this team plays better with their backs against the wall. Being an underdog with a big number is a good thing in this game, and Pete Carroll will undoubtedly be using it to motivate his guys this week leading up to the game.
X’s and O’s: Get the Run Game Involved
Maybe the most significant factor for the Hawks losing to this team in Week 15 was the lack of production from their backfield. Kenneth Walker rushed for just 47 yards, and the second leading rusher was Geno Smith, with less than 20 yards on the ground.
The Hawks need a balanced rushing and passing attack to throw this Niners’ defense off their rhythm. If they can establish the run early on in this game, it will open up the opportunity for Geno Smith to use his arm and make some big plays.
If they can use a big play and turn it into momentum in a road playoff game, they can stick around in this contest. Walker is a rookie, and his nerves will be jumpy as well, but this could be his big national audience breakout game that puts him on the map. He’s rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games entering this one.
Don’t doubt the underdog, and don’t doubt the team that’s been climbing up the mountain all season long. This has been a fun Hawks team to watch all year, and Carroll has tons of postseason experience and success.
Seahawks 25, 49ers 23