The environment in Seattle is so hostile that one imagines the 49ers (or any other team that travels there) in a reactionary position. Just weather the storm, whether it comes in the form of rain, snow, hail or decibel levels that cause permanent hearing damage.
Yesterday the 49ers practiced while some of the loudest music and artificial crowd noise I’ve ever heard was playing, which leads to an easy joke: the 49ers requested the same MP3 the Seahawks play over their speakers during games at CenturyLink. Glad we got that out of our system.
Despite the challenges that confront teams when they enter The Damp Dungeon of Din™, the 49ers sound like a team ready to dictate the action instead of reacting based on whatever wrinkles Seattle throws at them.
Colin Kaepernick rushed for nine times in both meetings with the Seahawks this season. Those carries netted 87 rushing yards in Week 2, compared to only 31 in Week 14. I asked Kaepernick what Seattle did differently to contain him from a rushing perspective, and he said it wasn’t like that at all.
“I think it was more what we had planned. We wanted to throw the ball, we wanted to get Frank running the last time we played them,” said Kaepernick.
What’s the plan this weekend? Only the 49ers know, but one can probably assume that Frank Gore is fully in favor. Jim Harbaugh had an interesting press conference yesterday (to say the least), and one of the enlightening parts was when he thought back to a question from earlier in the week that Mark Purdy asked: what’s the most profound question Gore ever asked the 49ers head coach? Harbaugh didn’t necessarily come through with a question from Gore, but the story was still interesting (or troubling, if you’re one of the Roman-bashers out there).
“Maybe the fourth or fifth game coming back from Philadelphia in 2011, it might have been coming back from Detroit in 2011. Frank had come back to where I was sitting on the plane. It’s something that’s become kind of an every flight thing, where he comes back and talks to me, which I enjoy immensely,” Harbaugh said.
“But, that particular time, he came back and he said, ‘G-Ro’s the best coach I’ve ever had.’ And some other things, but, ‘G-Ro’s the best. I wish I would have had G-Ro earlier in my career.’ And I think that stands out as the most profound thing, that he realized that very early on. Our offense was just in its starting out stage, and was just starting to have an identity.”
After an injury-shortened 2010 where Gore gained the fewest rushing yards (853) since his rookie season, he has averaged 1,184 yards per season since Harbaugh and Greg Roman took over. The receptions have gone down, but the wins have gone up and Gore — a passionate player who sees and communicates the game so well that both Harbaugh and Roman have mentioned that he has a future in coaching on numerous occasions — understands and appreciates exactly what Roman is trying to accomplish.
Roman is the team’s resident chess master, someone who calls plays with his mind not just on the present, but several plays or even games down the road. After facing Seattle twice and probably having a strong feeling that these two teams would cross paths once more before the season concluded, we’ll see if the 49ers’ plan is similar to what we saw in Week 14 or if we’ll see the 49ers unleash Postseason Kaepernick (who runs at nearly every opportunity) only this time with a set of legitimate receivers. Gore should get plenty of work, but that doesn’t even really need to be said after what he did at the end of the 49ers’ last game against Seattle.
And expect at least one or two trick plays. We learned last week that Anquan Boldin’s experience as a high school quarterback could get called upon at any time, and they seem to enjoy getting creative with running plays set up for Quinton Patton. Who knows, maybe LaMichael James finally makes an impact offensively this seaon. Yeah, I’m just spitballing … this game seems to be taking forever to get here.