49ers' goal Sunday? Containing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson

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SANTA CLARA — Kyle Shanahan has trouble praising Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. This was apparent during Shanahan’s press conference in the 49ers auditorium Wednesday afternoon.

This Sunday, the 49ers will face Wilson and the Seahawks, who’ve had a rebirth this season. They no longer have the core of their Super Bowl defense, “The Legion of Boom” — Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.

But the Seahawks’ record is 6-5, they’ve won two games in a row, they’re in second place in the NFC West, they’re competing for a wild-card spot and Wilson is having the best season of his career.

On Wednesday, a reporter asked Shanahan if the Seahawks’ season has surprised him.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Shanahan said. Then he explained why: “(The Seahawks) have a sound defense, (they) commit to the running game and have a quarterback who makes some plays.”

Not a great quarterback. Not a good quarterback. Maybe not even an authentic quarterback. Just a quarterback who makes some plays, scrambles around and turns the game into backyard football. That’s apparently what Shanahan meant.

Shanahan continued: “(The Seahawks) are in just about every game they play, and it comes down to the wire. When it does, Russell has done as good a job as anyone over his career of making some off-schedule plays, winning in some two-minute drills and things like that.”

Meaning Wilson’s ability to scramble allows him to finish off a good performance by the rest of the Seahawks, but the Seahawks aren’t necessarily asking him to carry them to victory.

The Seahawks wanted Wilson to carry their offense in 2017. He attempted 34.6 passes per game, while the offense averaged 28.1 runs per game, and his quarterback rating was 95.4. Not bad, but not great.

This season, Wilson’s rating is 112 — a career high. He’s more efficient, because he doesn’t have to carry Seattle’s offense. He has attempted only 28.1 passes per game while the Seahawks have averaged a whopping 31.9 runs per game — tops in the NFL. Now, the Seahawks run more than they pass. They’re somewhat unique in today’s passing-obsessed NFL.

“It’s our style of trying to put together a really good, consistent, winning football team,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll explained Wednesday on a conference call. “It doesn’t have to do with being macho. It has to do with playing for field position, for your defense, consistency, how you control the football and you don’t turn it over.

“If you play good defense and you’re good on special teams and you run the football, you close the circle of toughness for your football team. That’s a style of play that has helped us be consistent. We’re trying to be really good for a long time.”

To improve their running game and close the circle of toughness, the Seahawks fired longtime offensive line coach Tom Cable, who went to the Raiders, and hired former 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari, known as an offensive line guru in the NFL. Solari coached under Jim Harbaugh from 2011 to 2014.

And the Seahawks fired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and replaced him with Brian Schottenheimer, son of Marty Schottenheimer. Father and son are two conservative, throwback, run-first coaches.

“Russell has really benefited from the change to Brian Schottenheimer,” Carroll said. “Just a new outlook for (Wilson) in Year 7. He has grown, and you can see it in the quality of his numbers. This is probably the highest rating he has had this late in a season. And he is going to continue to get better. He is doing more than ever, and he’s doing it well. He has had some really big weeks the past month.”

Last week against the Carolina Panthers, Wilson threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, and his quarterback rating was 128.3. And in five of his past seven games, his quarterback rating has been at least 123. He’s in the zone.

“Russell is a really, really good athlete,” said 49ers rookie linebacker Fred Warner. “Being able to escape from the pocket and make plays with his legs, that’s what he’s known for. We’ll have to be aware of that.”

Right. So, how can the 49ers contain Wilson and beat the Seahawks in Seattle this Sunday?

“Everyone knows it’s a lot easier for him when he doesn’t have to (stay in the pocket),” Shanahan said bluntly. He meant Wilson can look to one receiver, not scan the field and find big passing lanes in the midst of chaos.

“He can get out of there and extend some plays,” Shanahan said. “If you extend plays as a quarterback, zones will break down and people will be wide open. Guys can’t cover forever. (Wilson) has been doing that year after year to every team. He gives (the Seahawks) a very good chance to win (because of) that talent. You have to make him sit in the pocket and play quarterback.”

Make Wilson play quarterback. Be a conventional quarterback. That’s how you beat him. That’s what Shanahan thinks of Wilson.

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