Anavarathan: 5 matchups to watch in 49ers-Seahawks game
The 49ers travel to Seattle for a very tough assignment. San Francisco hasn't beaten the Seahawks in seven straight attempts and hasn't won at Century Link Field since I was in high school -- I graduated college, by the way.
After losing Week 1 against Carolina, it seems like a near-impossible task to win in Seattle. The Seahawks are coming off of a tough loss in Green Bay and will look to destroy the 49ers in their home opener.
As with every game, there always key matchups that have a bigger influence on the outcome of the game. Let's take a look at five that will have the biggest impact this Sunday at Century Link Field.
5. QB Brian Hoyer vs. Seattle's crowd noise
I remember during Colin Kaepernick's peak days in 2012-13, that Seattle's crowd noise was his biggest issue. Beats even came out with the commercial with Kaepernick walking into Century Link blocking out all the noise.
Five years later, that Seattle crowd is still rocking and is terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Hoyer has never played the Seattle Seahawks in his career, so this should be an interesting experiment for him.
The crowd in Seattle is second to none. When the 49ers are on offense, they get so loud, it's difficult to get play-calls across and audible to the players. It also leads to players being on different snap counts, false starts and other pre-snap penalties.
It'll be fascinating to watch how Hoyer handles the noise and "blocks it out." It wasn't pretty at home against the Panthers and I doubt it gets any better on the road against the Seahawks.
4. CB Rashard Robinson vs. WR Doug Baldwin
Doug Baldwin might have been an undrafted free agent, but he's developed into the Seahawks' best wide receiver these past few years. His route running and quickness give him easy separation. That means that Wilson has an immediate target to throw to, regardless of how long the pass protection holds up for.
Rashard Robinson is developing into the 49ers' best corner and one of the better ones in the NFL. He had the assignment of Kelvin Benjamin in Week 1 and the Panthers' WR had himself a quiet day.
Robinson now will face a different type challenge in Baldwin. The Seahawks' WR isn't the physical specimen that Benjamin is, but runs routes better and always finds himself open. It'll be a tough cover on the road, but Robinson will have to hold up so that the pass rush can get home against Russell Wilson.
3. RB Carlos Hyde vs. LB Bobby Wagner
Here's another important matchup for the 49ers. Getting their running game back on track has been Goal No. 1 since the offseason began. Hyde has slimmed down this offseason and looks ready to go. Against Carolina, Hyde was looking to hit defenders and get yards after contact.
Hyde went up against an All-Pro linebacker in Luke Kuechly last week and the task doesn't get any easier this week. He'll be matched up against Bobby Wagner, one of the best linebackers in the game.
Wagner can stop the run, cover running backs out of the backfield and do it all. Hyde will have a tough task again this week, trying to get the running game going.
2. Seahawks' pass rush vs. 49ers' offensive line
Sheldon Richardson. Michael Bennett. Frank Clark. Cliff Avril. How in the world do you block that kind of a defensive line? I get if you have Dallas' OL or Oakland's OL -- one of the better ones in the game -- but with San Francisco's? LT Joe Staley and RT Trent Brown are solid, but the interior OL is terrible.
Zane Beadles and Brandon Fusco couldn't slow down Panthers' defensive lineman, so I doubt they have a true shot against Seattle's. Keeping Brian Hoyer upright is one of the keys for this game and I seriously think he could get killed behind this offensive line.
If the Seahawks dominate the trenches like they're supposed to, they should dominate this game from the start.
1. QB Russell Wilson vs. 49ers' pass rush
We already know what the Seahawks' offensive line is made up of. They're like the gates at the entrance of Levi's Stadium. You just get right through them without any resistance.
On the other side of the coin, the 49ers have three defensive lineman that are first-round picks. If they can't produce against this offensive line -- or what remains of it -- then it might be a long season.
For the 49ers have any shot of keeping this game close, the defensive line will need to control from the get-go and demolish Russell Wilson. That's their only hope for this game is to take down Wilson time and time again and hope Hoyer can score enough. (I don't think it happens, btw)