On Monday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers will reignite the NFL’s greatest rivalry from 2011-13.
Before egos clashed and the San Francisco 49ers abandoned their best quarterback since Steve Young, they were one of the NFC’s two powerhouses from 2011-13.
The 49ers lost two conference championship games and one Super Bowl in that time span, asserting themselves as a dominant team with their stout defense and star quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.
San Francisco’s stiffest competition came from their division rival. The Seattle Seahawks. They who also became a juggernaut when they plucked Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. But while both teams had young franchise quarterbacks, their calling cards lay on the defensive side of the ball, where their punishing and smashmouth styles made for some of the most vicious games in the NFL whenever they went head-to-head.
After the 49ers imploded after 2013 due to a rift between head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, the Seahawks remained strong in the NFC West. They nearly won another Super Bowl in 2014 and made the playoffs an additional three times since Richard Sherman’s famous soundbite.
Since that faithful game in which Sherman verbally eviscerated Michael Crabtree, the 49ers and Seahawks have not met in the playoffs. When these two teams will meet at Levi’s Stadium on Monday Night Football, it will be their highest-profile meeting in nearly six years.
More importantly, it will be the biggest game of the 2019 season thus far. The 49ers are the only undefeated team standing after the New England Patriots were humbled by Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are arguably as good despite their 7-2 record. Wilson is one of the leading MVP candidates through nine weeks, posting an absurd line of 22 touchdowns and only one interception.
While the Seahawks will have the best quarterback in this Week 10 battle, the 49ers finally have a franchise signal-caller of their own. Jimmy Garoppolo is one of nine players with a triple-digit QB Rating, and his stock has only risen after the 49ers acquired jack-of-all-trades wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to be his top target.
Offensively, the 49ers have depth and playmakers surrounding a competent starting quarterback. But what makes the 49ers dangerous is their defense. They have an embarrassment of riches up front, headlined by offseason acquisition Dee Ford and Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite Nick Bosa. Yet their best player is a cornerback – and a cornerback familiar to the Seahawks.
The Seahawks made a mistake when they decided Sherman was too washed to earn a big payday, and he has since reestablished himself as a top-tier cornerback. The chess match between Wilson and Sherman, especially whenever Wilson decides to challenge Sherman downfield with one of his dangerous receivers, will be one of the key storylines in Week 10.
As entertaining as it will be to watch Wilson evade the 49ers pass rush and find Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, or Josh Gordon for big gains on Robert Saleh’s well-oiled defense, the 49ers vs. Seahawks game could come down to how Seattle’s defense fares.
When previewing these two teams, the Seahawks defense stands out as the main question, which stands in stark contrast to how these two teams used to stack up in 2013 when this rivalry was at its peak.
While San Francisco’s defense is first in the NFL in yards per game allowed, Seattle’s is 25th. By every major category, the 49ers have a top-three defense in the NFL. The Seahawks? They rank in the 20s in points per game allowed, yards per game, yards per attempt surrendered, and yards per carry allowed.
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has played a prominent role in suddenly bringing the 49ers back from the dead, should be smelling blood in the water. There are plays to be made, and he has the personnel to take advantage. Whether it’s Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida in the backfield or George Kittle and Sanders catching passes from Garoppolo, the Seahawks will be tested.
if the Seahawks have done one thing well as a defense that has served as a saving grace, it’s forcing 16 turnovers, ranking fifth in the league. Only Jadeveon Clowney – basically the Seahawks version of Ford as a game-changing preseason trade – has forced more than two turnovers on the Seattle defense, meaning this team is either lucky or able to avoid relying on just one player to produce turnovers.
The Seahawks have the quarterback and the experience, but the 49ers have the defense and the “hot hand.” Even five years later, this rivalry suddenly feels as big as it it did in its Pete Carroll vs. Jim Harbaugh heyday, and the entire NFL world will be glued to Monday Night Football .
The wildest of NFC West rivalries is back, and football feels that much more exciting because of it.