SEATTLE – Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is certain of one thing that will happen when Seattle plays host to the San Francisco 49ers on tonight.
“Everybody talk,” he said with a little laugh, needing two words to encapsulate the heavy and raw emotions sure to manifest themselves when the two teams that many expect to battle for the NFC West crown, if not the NFC itself, face off for the first time this season.
The highly anticipated game serves as Seattle’s home opener after a 12-7 victory to kick off the season last week at Carolina.
“It’ll be a lot of hype, of course,” Mebane said. “But you’ve still got to play football at the end of the day.”
So in the few moments when the on-field talking subsides, here are three questions that could decide the outcome:
How will the Seahawks defend San Francisco’s two-headed receiving monster of Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis? The 49ers might have one of the biggest playbooks in the NFL, but there aren’t a lot of secrets to what they want to do on offense – run the ball to set up passes to Davis and Boldin, who was acquired in the offseason from the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
The two combined to catch 19 of Colin Kaepernick’s 27 completions in the 34-28 victory last week over Green Bay, when Kaepernick threw for 412 yards.
Each is a tough matchup because of their size – Boldin is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, and Davis is 6-3, 250.
Seattle likely will be without starting cornerback Brandon Browner because of a hamstring injury, replaced by Walter Thurmond, who at 5-11 is 5 inches shorter than Browner.
Seattle doesn’t move its corners to match up with specific receivers, so multiple defenders will get their shot at Boldin.
“He’s a physical receiver who can use his body to push away smaller cornerbacks,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said.
Can the Seahawks take advantage of San Francisco’s secondary? The 49ers, whose secondary is the weakest part of a stout defense, allowed 333 passing yards and three touchdowns last week against Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw for a career-high 320 yards against Carolina, in a game in which he was forced to throw a lot with the running game often stagnant.
Wilson did a lot of his damage on play-action passes, and Seattle will have to get the running game going more smoothly to set up those attempts. The Seahawks had 70 yards rushing against the Panthers.
“We want to be tough and physical and make sure that that’s present every game week and we go after it,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “So it’s hugely important this week. Somehow we made it through last week without running the football very well and we can’t do that (again).”
Seattle will try to open up some running room for Marshawn Lynch, who has three consecutive 100-yard running games against the 49ers.
Can the 49ers handle the noise? When Seattle beat the 49ers last year 42-13, it was the sixth career start for Kaepernick, and he seemed flustered by the atmosphere. San Francisco had to call two timeouts on offense early in the game and also got two delay-of-game penalties.