The Seahawks head to the Bay Area this weekend for their first NFC West clash of the 2022 season. While the Seahawks are looking to build off a Monday night win over Denver, the 49ers are trying to bounce back following a Week 1 loss in monsoon-like conditions in Chicago.
To learn more about this week's opponent, Seahawks.com reached out to 49ers team reporter Lindsey Pallares with five questions about the Niners:
Q: The offense struggled in a season-opening loss in Chicago, is there concern about Trey Lance and that group, or can we write that one off to a game marred by crazy weather?
Pallares: While confidence in San Francisco's starting quarterback Trey Lance has not wavered in the slightest, weather was just one of the factors that affected the 49ers offense in their season-opening loss to the Bears. Throughout the week, Lance and his teammates spoke at length about playing a cleaner and more disciplined game of football. The 49ers collectively racked up 12 penalties to the tune of 99 yards, and some of which negatively affected the momentum of San Francisco's offensive series. Additionally, there are plays that Lance has identified as ones he'd like back. Moving forward, the 49ers QB1 said it's all about adjusting play calls and ball placement.
"For me, for us, we made too many mistakes early. I missed too many early, but we turned the page on that," Lance said. "Going back and watching the tape, whether it's practice or a game, that's where I learn so much every single rep because little things can make all the difference, in the long run, especially in a game like that."
The 49ers were also without a key playmaker in tight end George Kittle who is dealing with a groin strain sustained early last week. His status remains unclear for the time being, but his absence is a notable one for San Francisco's offense. For all these reasons, there's not much cause for concern about the offense, because the changes that need to be made for Week 2 can be handled in-house.
Q: The 49ers overcame a slow start (2-4) to nearly make the Super Bowl last season, does that make it easier for the team to remain calm coming off a tough opening loss.
Pallares: Experience definitely helps in situations like these, but regardless, head coach Kyle Shanahan and the team do a good job of staying even keeled. A loss in Week 1 isn't much cause for overreaction especially when playing on the road and in adverse weather conditions. As I mentioned earlier, it's also a huge benefit when you can easily identify the issues that need to be corrected headed into the next week.
"When we go over all the penalties that we had, I think a few of them were definitely avoidable," Shanahan said. "We're just trying to be more detailed in everything we do. Don't let anything slide. Point everything out, nothing different than usual. I expect us to be a lot cleaner this week."
Q: What does the loss of RB Elijah Mitchell mean for San Francisco, which as a team rushed for 176 yards in Week 1, and who steps up in his absence?
Pallares: The loss of Elijah Mitchell is a significant one, but there is plenty of talent on the offense to hold down the fort as he heals. Shanahan is looking to fifth-year running back Jeff Wilson Jr. to step up in Mitchell's absence—that's been clear since Mitchell was ruled out midway through Sunday's game. Wilson Jr. took over the No. 1 running back position with some additional help from Deebo Samuel in the backfield.
"Jeff is such a good football player," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Anything that we ask him to he does, whether it's playing our third-down back, playing the fullback role when our wideouts have the ball, in the pass game or in the run game. He's been a starter for us and Jeff, he's just a very reliable guy. When Jeff's healthy and able to stay fresh, he can play at a high level and he's one of the guys that we trust as much as anyone around here."
Wilson Jr. was injured at the start of last year but played in the final nine games of the regular season, racking up 294 yards and two touchdowns on 79 carries and made two appearances in the 49ers playoff run.
You can also count on Samuel getting some extra work in the backfield as was seen in Chicago. No. 19 barreled in for his first rushing touchdown of the season, and given his eight rushing touchdowns in 2021 (an NFL record for the most by a wide receiver in a single season), you can expect more from him on the ground this season.
Q: Aside from the obvious big names, what player or players do you think could be an X-factor in this game?
Pallares: The 49ers boast one of the most formidable front sevens in the league, and a strong performance from this group could greatly impact Seattle from getting any kind of offensive flow going on Sunday. This group had a strong start to 2021 with two sacks in the opener against Chicago.
It took defensive lineman Samson Ebukam exactly three snaps to get to Bears quarterback Justin Fields for the first sack of the game, forcing a quick three-and-out on Chicago's opening drive. Later that same quarter, defensive end Nick Bosa notched a sack of his own, also on a third down play, for a loss of six yards, ending the Bears third offensive series.
While the defensive line was first to jump out in the sack count, I would never count the linebackers out of the mix. This trio accounted for 16 tackles versus the Bears (including one tackle-for-loss), and I anticipate productivity to only go up from here.
Q: What are a couple of matchups you're most looking forward to seeing play out on Sunday?
Pallares: I am excited to see Trey Lance versus the Seahawks pass rush. One of the most dynamic parts of Lance's game is his physical style of running, and he truly fights for every yard. We saw Lance rack up 54 yards versus the Bears, and if the Seahawks don't contain him, it's possible he can pick up even more yardage in Week 2.
"There's always going to be better decisions I can make (when running), but on Sunday, I felt like I protected myself pretty well," Lance said. "I felt good for the most part, maybe on a couple (plays) I could have gotten down one step faster…For the most part, when I'm running between tackles or running on third down, I'm never going to slide and go fourth-and-two or give up on the play and send our defense on the field in a situation like that."
Another matchup to be on the lookout for is the 49ers secondary against the Seahawks go-to receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Both of these wide receivers are capable of making big-time plays, so the onus is on San Francisco's secondary to stick to their assignments and take away those deep throw touchdown opportunities. Safety Talanoa Hufanga had a breakout game in Week 1, so expect to see some pass breakups from him come Sunday.
The Seattle Seahawks take on the San Francisco 49ers for Week 15 of the 2022 season. Take a look back at some of their previous matchups.