Let’s not kid ourselves. The 49ers probably won’t beat the Seahawks on Sunday. The game will be in Seattle, where the Seahawks have lost only five times the past three seasons.
But that doesn’t mean the Niners are hopeless. It means their burden of execution will be extremely high. Here are the five things they have to execute perfectly to win this Sunday.
1. Improve their TPS Report.
Before even thinking about beating the Seahawks, the 49ers must make sure they don’t beat themselves. They didn’t get that memo last week against the Panthers.
The 49ers flunked their TPS report. Not the Testing Procedure Specification report Bill Lumbergh pestered Peter Gibbons about in “Office Space.” I’m talking about turnovers, penalties and sacks. Self-inflicted errors.
Against the Panthers, the 49ers fumbled once, threw one interception, turned the ball over on downs three times, committed 10 penalties and allowed four sacks. Add all that up, and the 49ers scored 19 on their TPS report — the second-highest score in the NFL for Week 1.
The Niners aren’t talented enough to overcome 19 mistakes and win. They have to play a much cleaner game Sunday. They need single digits on their TPS report.
I’ll go ahead and make sure they get another copy of that memo, mkay?
2. Keep Russell Wilson in the pocket.
The Seahawks knew their offensive line was bad when the preseason started, but they were optimistic about their left tackle, George Fant. Then Fant tore his ACL three weeks before the regular-season opener, and the Seahawks’ offensive line got even worse.
Their new left tackle, Rees Odhiambo, was their backup left guard before Fant went down. Odhiambo made his first start in the NFL last week, and gave up a sack on the first play from scrimmage.
The Seahawks’ right tackle, Germain Ifedi, isn’t much better than Odhiambo. Ifedi played right guard as a rookie last season. That means both of the Seahawks offensive tackles are guards.
And that means the Seahawks will try to move Wilson out of the pocket altogether on Sunday. Ifedi and Odhiambo can’t protect Wilson. He will try to roll out or scramble.
The 49ers can’t let him do either one. They have to cage him in the pocket, force him to stand in one place and throw. They can sack him if they contain him.
3. Run away from Sheldon Richardson
Most run plays involve a two-on-one double-team block at the point of attack. Call this the buddy system. Offensive linemen helping each other.
Kyle Shanahan’s favorite run play, the outside zone, does not involve the buddy system. It involves a series of one-on-one blocks. Offensive linemen all alone, stranded on desert islands. Call them Gilligans.
Last week, the Niners didn’t have an offensive lineman who could block Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short one on one. Every time the 49ers ran the outside zone toward Short, he bulldozed a blocker and cut off Carlos Hyde in the backfield. That’s a big reason the 49ers gained just 6 yards on outside zone runs.
This week, the Niners have a similar problem. They don’t have an offensive lineman who can block Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson one on one.