Anthony Davis

To win, 49ers really need to stop one guy (surprise, it’s not Marshawn Lynch)

A lot of you probably think I’m crazy for crafting a headline like that, but what Marshawn Lynch does has been almost inconsequential over the last three years when the 49ers face the Seahawks. Not that Lynch hasn’t been effective, because he has. But his statistical output has had very little to do with the results of the last six games between these two teams.

Lynch’s production against the 49ers

  • 9/12/11 (@ SF — 49ers 33, Seahawks 13): 13 carries, 33 yards (2.5 ypc), 0 TD
  • 12/24/11 (@ SEA — 49ers 19, Seahawks 17): 21 carries, 107 yards (5.1 ypc), 1 TD
  • 10/18/12 (@ SF — 49ers 13, Seahawks 6): 19 carries, 103 yards (5.4 ypc), 0 TD
  • 12/23/12 (@ SEA — Seahawks 42, 49ers 13): 26 carries, 111 yards (4.3 ypc), 1 TD
  • 9/15/13 (@ SEA — Seahawks 29, 49ers 3): 28 carries, 98 yards (3.5 ypc), 2 TD
  • 12/8/13 (@ SF — 49ers 19, Seahawks 17): 20 carries, 72 yards (3.6 ypc), 1 TD

If we throw out the first pro matchup between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll (both teams are extremely different now then they were back then), Lynch’s games have been almost interchangeable. If he rushes for over 5 yards per carry, the 49ers win. If he rushes for at least one touchdown, the teams are split at two wins apiece. It’s impossible to project what the 49ers would have to hold Lynch to in order to guarantee victory, although it would obviously help to keep him out of the end zone.

Anthony Davis SF 49ersIt almost makes me wonder why I’m still writing about Lynch when he’s not the subject of this post. Probably because he was unbelievable against New Orleans. But so was Michael Bennett, the man who I believe will have more impact on this game than any other player, save for maybe the quarterbacks and kickers.

Bennett was a monster last Saturday, forcing two fumbles and collecting half a sack. Pro Football Focus gave him a score of 7.2 (anything positive is good, and anything over 4.0 is phenomenal … 7.2 is cartoonish) for that game alone.

The Seahawks’ secondary gets all the attention, with Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas both earning First-Team All-Pro nods and Kam Chancellor being named to the Second-Team. But without the acquisition of Bennett, which was one of the quieter additions during a whirlwind offseason for both teams, the defensive backs wouldn’t look nearly as good. 8.5 official sacks, 17 quarterback hits and 44 hurries (the latter two stats, courtesy of PFF), are decent but not overwhelming numbers. But the 49ers know that if they stop him, Colin Kaepernick’s day gets much easier.

Bennett’s production against the 49ers

  • 9/15/13 (@ SEA — Seahawks 29, 49ers 3): 1 sack, 1 hit, 4 hurries, 4 tackles, 0 missed tackles
  • 12/8/13 (@ SF — 49ers 19, Seahawks 17): 0 sacks, 0 hits, 1 hurry, 0 tackles, 1 missed tackle

This means that, conversely, one of the most important players on Sunday for the 49ers could be Anthony Davis. That’s where the responsibility will probably fall, as Bennett lined up at left end both times against San Francisco. Bennett will split time with Cliff Avril, another offseason pass rushing addition who shares a history with Davis, but Bennett will probably see more time because he’s the superior run defender.

If Davis keeps Bennett away from both Kaepernick and Frank Gore’s rushing lanes, the 49ers won’t exactly be in the clear. But if Bennett’s numbers and impact look more like they did in December than when the teams faced in September, that could bode well for the 49ers’ chances.

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