The Seahawks head to the Bay Area this weekend to face the 49ers in a matchup of two teams trying to bounce back from a loss. San Francisco suffered its first loss of the year at the hands of Green Bay thanks to some late heroics from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who led a game-winning drive in the game's final seconds, while the Seahawks are trying to rebound and avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2011.
To help get Seahawks fans ready for this week's game, we reached out to 49ers senior team reporter Keiana Martin with five questions about this week's opponent.
Q: Other than Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers late in the game, what were the main factors in the 49ers suffering their first loss of the season?
Martin: Sunday night's matchup was the second-straight game in which the 49ers found themselves playing from behind. While less drastic in Week 2, the 49ers were down 17-0 before their first score of the game against Green Bay, which came just :02 before the half.
In consecutive matchups, the 49ers have gotten off to a slow start offensively. How slow? Well, San Francisco failed to score a single point in the first 29 minutes in both of their last two contests. Misthrows and drops are a part of the offense's recent woes which have forced San Francisco's defense to clean up mistakes.
Additionally, the turnover battle did not fare in the 49ers favor. A unit that has managed to protect the ball through the first nine quarters of the season saw two turnovers against the Packers on Sunday with nothing coming from the defensive side of the ball. With just one takeaway through three contests, finding ways to get the ball back to the offense has to be a point of emphasis for San Francisco's defense heading into Week 4.
Q: How has the loss of Robert Saleh affected the 49ers defense?
Martin: I wouldn't say too much has changed with Saleh's exit beyond the loss of his infectious energy from the sidelines. Ryans got his first crack at aiding a defense as San Francisco's inside linebackers coach back in 2017 and has spent the past four seasons being groomed by the now-New York Jets head coach.
Coming into the role, Ryans noted his plan wasn't to emulate exactly what Saleh did, but to add his own "brand of football" to what the 49ers are doing. Fast, physical and aggressive are words Ryans used when describing what he wants out of his defense, and for the most part, they've answered the bell.
Of course, there will (and have been) some growing pains in his new role, which is expected with anyone stepping into a position as such. But overall, head coach Kyle Shanahan has been pleased with what he's seen so far.
"Comparing it to Saleh's start is just completely to me, apples to oranges," Shanahan said this week. "We had a totally different team then. It's not that Saleh just learned how to be a good coach and all of a sudden, we did well. That took time, putting the team together. It took time working and developing all that stuff and I think we got there. I think we have a head start this year compared to where we did four years ago. We're a better team than when we started here.
"I've been really impressed with DeMeco in these three weeks when it's been good and when it's been bad. How he's handled it during the games, how he's handled it after the games."
The same goes for his players. I had the opportunity to chat with safety Jimmie Ward this week, who is the longest tenured member of the 49ers. With that being said, he's seen his fair share of defensive coordinators across several regimes. The free safety was complimentary towards Ryans' leadership, saying if anything, this team wants to play even harder for him. That says a lot about the respect they have for Ryans and how the unit has rallied behind the new defensive coordinator.
Q: Jimmy Garoppolo is still running the offense, but we've seen glimpses of No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance so far. Do you see his role expanding as the year goes along or is this Jimmy G's show all year?
Martin: By all means, it's still the Jimmy Garoppolo show. But the unending question surrounding San Francisco's signal callers is should we start getting used to these regular guest appearances from the No. 3 overall pick?
Lance owns just 17 starts over his career at North Dakota State. And prior to entering the NFL, played just one game over a year and half. The rookie is still developing. But he sees these small glimpses under center as valuable live snaps in his growth (seven total snaps over three contests to be exact).
Shanahan has said that this isn't the preseason and to not expect a constant rotation at quarterback as the 49ers offensive structure, which was the pervasive theory among fans and pundits following the team's exhibition matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. In fact, Lance saw zero reps in the 49ers Week 2 win over the Eagles. Since watching his NFL development in training camp, Shanahan indicated he would utilize Lance and his skill set in packages that highlighted his abilities and put the team in the best position to win.
So far, his presence in red zone plays has benefitted the 49ers, with the rookie QB putting 14 points on the board in limited action. While his involvement may have been inconsistent in the eyes of the everyday fan, there's a method to Shanahan's madness, which so far, has worked in San Francisco's favor.
Q: The 49ers played a lot of last season without a Deebo Samuel, and now healthy, he's one of the league's most productive receivers. What has his presence meant to that offense?
Martin: Last year, in between Samuel's struggles with his availability, Shanahan said that there's always an uptick in energy at practice when the wideout returns to the field. The same can be said for gamedays. Samuel is such a dynamic receiver, who possesses a unique skill set that allows Shanahan to get creative with how the wideout is deployed.
Through three weeks, Samuel is second in the league in receiving yards behind fellow NFC West rival Cooper Kupp, while averaging a career-high 16.7 yards per reception. Coupled with his yards-after-the-catch ability (184 yards), Samuel has established himself as one of the most potent receivers in the league.
With how he has attacked Year 3, Samuel has proven invaluable through the air and on the ground. With San Francisco's use of motion, the wideout has become an extension of the 49ers run game, which has only added another layer to the offense.
Garoppolo is in agreement with the head coach's assessment, calling the wideout a "tone setter" this week. And as the quarterback's early go-to target, his presence will continue to be relied on as the team looks to re-ignite its offense.
Q: What are a couple of the matchups you'll be keeping an eye on in Sunday's game.
Martin: One of the matchups I will be keying in on is how the 49ers relatively thin cornerback group can stand up against Seattle's two-headed monster in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Those two have proven to give any opposing defenses fits, which has shown true in their past matchups against the 49ers. San Francisco's secondary was hit hard to open the season with the loss of Jason Verrett (ACL), and more recently K'Waun Williams (calf), and has led to the team needing to rely on new faces to man a portion of the 49ers defensive backfield.
Rookie Deommodore Lenoir has had a respectable start to his NFL career, being thrust into a starting role with injuries at the position, and Emmanuel Moseley is freshly coming off of his season debut in Week 3 as the corner has been working his way back from a nagging knee injury. Meanwhile, there's still question marks surrounding veteran newcomer Josh Norman, who suffered a lung contusion following a hit to the chest in Week 3. The team has brought in several free agents with the hopes of shoring up some of the loose ends at corner.
The unit will likely have to rely on strong pass rush play to take some of the pressure off of San Francisco's uncertainties at cornerback, which brings me to my other matchup I'm eager to see: San Francisco's D-line vs. Seattle's pass protection.
There's no other rhyme or reason of what makes this matchup so significant other than the intrigue of the 49ers pass rush. Nick Bosa has been mind-blowing in his return from an ACL injury suffered just a year ago. While most of the attention goes to the former Defensive Rookie of the Year, watch out for Arik Armstead, who is having a fantastic start to Year 7. Armstead has strung along three-straight noteworthy outings and has been consistent in beating his blockers. He is now tied for third among all NFL edge defenders with 16 quarterback pressures on the season and appears to have found his stride.
Bosa and Armstead might headline San Francisco's pass rush, but the depth and talent along the D-line makes them a week in and week out must-see matchup.
The Seattle Seahawks take on the San Francisco for Week 13 of the 2021 season, the 47th meeting between the two teams. Take a look back at some of their previous matchups.