The Seahawks head to the Bay Area this weekend to face the 49ers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The 49ers have gotten the better of Seattle in two regular-season matchups, but the Seahawks are feeling like they have some momentum after winning their last two games behind an improved defense and strong running game to earn a playoff berth.
To help you get ready for this weekend's game, we reached out to 49ers team reporter Lindsey Pallares with three questions about the NFC West champs.
The 49ers are obviously on a roll, having won 10 in a row heading into the playoffs. What changed from early in the season when they were 3-4 to get to where they are now?
Pallares: The talent was always there, it just some time for the offense to settle in, the defense to play to its full potential and to deal with the ongoing injuries for San Francisco. The addition of Christian McCaffrey also played a major role in the heating up of the 49ers offense. The do-it-all running back arrived days ahead of the Week 7 matchup against the Chiefs and was only able to take on limited role that week. That's the same time the team fell below .500. However, you see the quick turnaround of the offense in Week 8 with a historic three-touchdown game for McCaffrey versus the Rams, and he only continued to get more and more comfortable in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
Week 8 also marked the start of a four-game streak of second half shutouts for the defensive unit, and there's been very few breakdowns by the defense through the rest of the regular season. Good things take time, and that was the case for the 49ers in 2022. The team never lost sight of the goal and has leaned heavily on their depth to make it through the loss of two starting quarterbacks, two starting corners and a starting running back along the way.
Probably related to the last question, but what has Brock Purdy shown that has the 49ers confident that despite being a rookie with limited experience, he's ready for this moment?
Pallares: Purdy's calm and confident composure since stepping in during the Week 13 game really showed San Francisco the moment is not too big for him, and he's continued to deliver for the 49ers week in and week out. Playing through injury in a division clinching win against the Seahawks and going shot for shot with the Raiders in Week 17 were both really great learning experiences for the rookie, and in those difficult situations, he was still able to lead the team to victory and do it in historic fashion. Purdy is now the only quarterback in NFL history to win his first five starts and throw two-or-more touchdowns in each of those starts. If that doesn't all show readiness for the playoffs, I'm not sure what does. There will certainly be more challenges to conquer in the postseason, but he has a whole arsenal of offensive weapons to lean on as well.
What matchup or matchups are you most looking forward to seeing play out on Sunday?
Pallares: I'm looking forward to seeing Brock Purdy take on an improved Seahawks defense. In Purdy's second meeting with Seattle, he won't be dealing with the same rib and oblique injuries he was battling with before. In spite of those injuries, Purdy still completed 17-of-26 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in his first road start, so I'm looking forward to seeing him fully unleashed. That being said, Seattle has tightened up its defense as of late, so keeping the 49ers offensive production is going to be a battle. The unit is holding opponents to just under 11 points a game the last four contests and limiting those same opponents to just 33 percent on third down conversions.
The Seahawks practiced on Wednesday, January 11 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Saturday's Wild Card game vs. the 49ers in San Francisco. Seahawks practice photos are presented by Gatorade.