Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 20.
Larry Stone of the Seattle Times takes a look at how the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have changed since their first meeting of the season back on October 18, “In their past two games, the Seahawks have scored 108 points in wins over Arizona and Buffalo. The Seahawks haven’t changed quarterbacks like San Francisco, but they’re hoping it’s a different Russell Wilson on Sunday. In the first 49ers game, Wilson had his worst statistical performance, completing just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards, with a key interception late in the game on a long pass intended for Braylon Edwards. But that’s another distant memory. ‘It all begins with the quarterback, obviously,’ said wide receiver Doug Baldwin. ‘Russell is playing at an extremely high level right now. It’s just the maturity and growth, and we’ve all come to grow with him. This offense as a whole has been able to rally behind the things he does well. At the beginning of the season, we were kind of searching for that.’ After the 49ers game, Wilson’s quarterback rating sat at a pedestrian 79.4. Since then, he’s completed 118 of 178 passes (66 percent) for 1,467 yards and 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions for a 111.3 quarterback rating. The Seahawks are 5-2 in those games.”
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times has Wednesday’s injury report from both clubs, noting several Seahawks players who sat out practice.
O’Neil also previews Sunday’s matchup with the Niners in this short video, hinting that in a game matching the NFL’s top two scoring defenses, the club’s improved offenses under the Seahawks’ Wilson and 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick might be the ones that ultimately decide the outcome.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks run defense will be critical in Sunday’s game against the Niners, and catches up with linebacker Bobby Wagner on Sunday’s matchup, “Wagner, a rookie who played at Utah State, said he thinks he has an advantage because he played against Kaepernick, a second-year player from Nevada. The linebacker had one of his best games of the season at Carolina against perhaps the best running quarterback in the league, Cam Newton. Wagner had six tackles, including 1.5 sacks and a tackle for a loss. ‘I definitely feel like that helps because I’ve seen him a lot in college,’ Wagner said. ‘He’s not the same, obviously, (as) he was in college because he’s a lot more mature. He understands the game a little better. But at the end of the day, he’s going to do what he does. He runs, and he can sling the ball.’ “
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is taking in the benefits of sticking with Kaepernick as their starting quarterback, “In his first start in place of Smith, Kaepernick threw two touchdowns and had a rating of 133.1 against the Chicago Bears. And when Smith was deemed healthy enough for a return, Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick. In five starts, Kaepernick has completed 66 percent of his passes for a 101.4 rating, and also rushed for five touchdowns at 7.2 yards per carry. Not only have the 49ers won four of those five, but they also beat New England on Sunday to snap the Patriots’ 20-game home winning streak. ‘He came in playing pretty well right at the start,’ Harbaugh said when asked of Kaepernick’s improvement since he’s been a starter. ‘There’s been some improvement in all the situations that he’s experienced … in five starts he’s experienced a lot.’ “
John Boyle of the Everett Herald has a look at the youth movement at quarterback around the NFL, starting with Harbaugh and Carroll’s decisions to roll with Kaepernick and Wilson, “Both coaches chose to go young at quarterback, taking the riskier path, and both by all indications made the right choice. As Harbaugh put it, it was the best thing at that time. Not the best thing for the 49ers’ future; the best move now. When Wilson and Kaepernick face off for the first of what should be many, many meetings, they won’t be young quarterbacks developing along with a rebuilding teams, they will be key players on two of the best teams in the NFC. Welcome to the new normal in the NFL”
Tim Booth of the Associated Press eyes the Seahawks recent success as they push toward the playoffs, “If Seattle (9-5) can get a victory over the 49ers on Sunday or in the season finale against St. Louis, it would be its second playoff appearance in Carroll’s three seasons. Yet this one would be far more deserved. When the Seahawks won the NFC West in 2010, they became the first division champion with a losing record at 7-9. It took a victory over St. Louis in the finale that season for the Seahawks to win the division on a tiebreaker, but Seattle at least justified its spot in the playoffs by upsetting then-Super Bowl champion New Orleans in the wild-card round. But that playoff trips was at the infancy of Seattle’s roster remodel that Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been constructing. It was a mix of new faces and what the duo inherited that won the division in 2010. This group that’s pushing for a playoff spot has all been molded under the watch of Seattle’s decision-making duo. ‘I think we’re playing so much better in so many areas. We’re taking care of the ball the way we want to, and we’re getting after the football well now that we’re in the latter part of the season,’ Carroll said. ‘We’re running the football with consistency and we’re keeping the scores down defensively, and the kicking game is solid. These are all of the elements that make us team with not many holes right now.’ “
Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com recaps a conversation with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, who joined 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” yesterday, “Cowherd thinks the Seahawks are the NFL’s second-best team, and he had them ranked that high before they scored at least 50 points for the second consecutive week. A panel of five ESPN colleagues unanimously had the Seahawks at No. 7 in their latest power rankings. The Seahawks’ relative lack of success as a franchise hurts their credibility, Cowherd thinks. ‘If they were called the Steelers and they did as many things well as they did we’d love them. But they’re called the Seahawks, so nobody wants them to give them any credit. This team has been fantastic,’ he said.” … You can listen to Brock and Salk’s entire conversation with Cowherd here.
Brock Huard of 710Sports.com has his latest “Chalk Talk” breaking down the Seahawks’ use of the trick play toss from Wilson to running back Marshawn Lynch, who threw back to Wilson, who spiraled it 44 yards downfield to wide receiver Golden Tate in Week 15′s win over the Buffalo Bills.
Liz Matthews of 710Sports.com has her report from Wednesday’s practice session, “Wide receiver Sidney Rice, listed last week on the practice report with a bruised foot, sat out Wednesday with a knee injury. Running back Leon Washington was excused early due to an undisclosed illness.”
Art Thiel of SportsPressNW.com looks ahead to Sunday’s matchup with the Niners, “Getting by San Francisco is Carroll’s biggest challenge. After the last meeting, he admitted that he couldn’t get his defense adjusted in time to stop the 49ers offense from trap-blocking the Seahawks’ defense into futility. In essence, he was outcoached, and he said Wednesday that the 49ers continue to do things that are hard to comprehend. ‘They were really good last year, and continue to grow and do more things,’ Carroll said. ‘The offensive line does really complicated stuff. They do a ton of things — pulling and trapping, kick-outs, getting guys on the edge — and are very consistent with it. We wonder sometimes how they can get it all done. Obviously, it’s great coaching.’ Having played for Harbaugh at Stanford, [cornerback Richard] Sherman knows well the style. ‘He’s always been kinda crazy with their formations and shifts,’ he said. ‘They’ve been that way since I’ve known their offense — switch-on, switch-off, this tight end pulls here, this fullback goes there . . . all kind of crazy. I recognize a lot of stuff, but stopping it is another thing. You know what’s coming, but can you stop it?’ “
Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his notes from Wednesday’s session, “Head coach Pete Carroll said that with all the formations, shifts and varying personnel groups used by the 49ers, they are perhaps the most challenging team the Seahawks have had to prepare for all season. ‘Yeah, that’s kind of the topic for the day,’ Carroll said. ‘It’s a very challenging team and it’s the running element, but then there’s Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, and then there’s the big fella Randy Moss out there running. This is a very talented football team and all of those guys’ present problems.’ “
Doug Farrar of YahooSports.com writes that the Seahawks and Niners see mirror images in each other, “…when it comes to styles and schemes — and styles make fights in football, just as they do in boxing — the teams built by these two coaches are as similar as any you’ll see in the NFL today. Both the 9-5 Seahawks and 10-3-1 49ers, who will tussle this Sunday night for control of the division, feature hallmarks that could be easily switched from franchise to franchise without too much trouble. Each team is currently sparked by a young quarterback making unexpected gains, each team is buttressed by a violent and consistent running game, and each team is truly defined by a defense that that stops opposing offenses from front to back. The two teams are tied for the NFL lead in scoring defense, allowing just 15.6 points per game each. ‘I think we are similar,’ Carroll said on Wednesday. ‘I can’t help but see that because they believe in playing big time defense as well as us, they believe in the running game, which we do, and they have a very strong emphasis on special teams, which we do. I think that’s really the three pillars of what we’re trying to put together here, that’s what I know we’re dealing with. I don’t know how they speak it or how they talk about it, but it’s certainly what’s obvious about their team and what you have to line up against. This a real matchup for us with a like approach as well.’ “
Mike Sando of ESPN.com breaks down the play of Kaepernick and Wilson against the same four opponents, “It’s looking like these quarterbacks will be matching up in the division for years to come. Wilson has more NFL playing experience. Kaepernick has an additional full season in the league. A look at how they’ve fared as starters against the same teams seems like a pretty good way to compare them so far.”
Sando shares a conversation with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. as the pair breaks down Sunday’s matchup, “Sando: Matt, let’s start off with the quarterbacks. Both already rank among the league leaders in the meaningful categories. Russell Wilson leads the NFL and Colin Kaepernick ranks third in Total QBR since Week 11, when Kaepernick became a starter. Both are top eight for the season. Who has the better QB? Williamson: Seattle. I’m really high on both. I think both are going to be legitimate starters and stars. San Francisco is a year ahead of Seattle in just about every aspect, but I feel like the opposite is true at quarterback. Wilson looks like he has started more games and is mentally further along. Fewer bad throws. So consistent. Never turns the ball over. He is way ahead of the curve. I think he is the better player, but I like both very much.”
Sando also rehashes injury situations around the NFC West, with several notes on both the Niners and Seahawks.
The analysis team over at ProFootballFocus.com has released their selections for the 2012 Pro Bowl Roster, and running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman, and return specialist Leon Washington make their list.
Tony Ventrella has his “Seahawks Daily” with a look at the similarities between the Seahawks and Niners.
And lastly, we have photos from Wednesday’s practice by team photographer Rod Mar.