Can a Week 2 game get any bigger?
It’s the defending NFC Champion 49ers against a Seahawks team that slapped them around 42-13 in Week 16 here last season.
It’s two of the teams that generated the loftiest expectations during an offseason where this matchup couldn’t arrive soon enough.
It’s Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, on his 62nd birthday, coaching against the team he used to coach for and a coach he has a history with – Jim Harbaugh.
It’s a matchup of two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL – the Seahawks’
It’s All-Pro cornerback
It’s who covers 49ers tight end Vernon Davis vs. who can cover Seahawks slot receiver
It’s all of that, and more.
But once we wade through the hype, expectations and prognostications, it will be a football game. Not just another football game, of course, but a football game that will be won the way all football games are decided.
Which team will win the turnover battle? The Seahawks were plus-1 in turnover differential in their season-opening victory against the Panthers in Carolina – with the last one being a huge one, as defensive tackle Tony McDonald recovered a fumble that was forced by All-Pro free safety
Which team will establish, and maintain, its running game? And who will do that running? The Seahawks didn’t against the Panthers, as Lynch gained just 43 yards and the team had only 70. The 49ers weren’t that much better against the Packers, with Frank Gore going for 44 of his team’s 90 yards. And Wilson and Kaepernick, who helped make the zone-read all the rage last season, carried five times for 7 yards (Wilson) and seven times for 22 yards (Kaepernick).
Which team will be most efficient on third downs, and most productive in the red zone? The Seahawks did OK on third downs against the Panthers, converting six of 13. But they settled for two field goals on three trips inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line. The 49ers were better on third downs (9 of 18) and in the red zone (three TDs and two field goals in five possessions) against the Packers.
Which team will avoid penalties? The Seahawks had nine for 99 yards against the Panthers, after leading the NFL in both categories during the preseason. The 49ers had 11 for 85 yards against the Packers.
When all is said and done – and run and tackled; and passed and caught or defended; and kicked and returned; and played from first snap to last – those are the factors that will determine the winner in tonight’s game.
So sit back (if you can), relax (if you can) and enjoy (which you must) the matchup we’ve all been waiting for – for so long. Kickoff and televised coverage on NBC (KING/5 in Seattle) is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT. But not until a few more large scoops of hype are heaped upon this game.