Posted December 05, 2013

Second-year starting quarterbacks Kaepernick, Wilson are key men in revived Seahawks/49ers rivalry

San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have been asked to define their offenses this year, with varying results. (John Froschauer/AP)

Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have been asked to define their offenses this year, with varying results. (John Froschauer/AP)

RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers will be looking for different things when Pete Carroll’s team heads down to the Bay Area this weekend for a Sunday rematch of one of the NFL’s most compelling rivalries with Jim Harbaugh’s bunch. The 11-1 Seahawks would put a bow on the NFC West with a win and come one step closer to home-field advantage for the playoffs — a prospect that no potential postseason opponent wants. The 49ers would gain a measure of revenge and recompense after Seattle thrashed them 29-3 in Week 2 at CenturyLink Field, and a win would further establish them as one of the teams opponents don’t want to face anywhere. They’ve come much closer to that with their current 8-4 record after a five-game winning streak glossed over a rocky start.

There’s the additional factor of similarity — both teams are built on outstanding defense, a power running game, and the efforts of second-year starting quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. These are two franchises too similar to have regard for each other, though there is an obvious respect on both sides. Carroll and Harbaugh are two coaches who have bucked the recent trend of NFL failure among college coaches, and their beef goes back to the days of the PAC-10, when Carroll was at USC and Harbaugh was at Stanford. It seems that these two teams and their coaches are destined to compete against each other in smashmouth fashion.

As 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said Wednesday, “It might be the most intense game this season, because those guys don’t like us, and we don’t like them.”

As Wilson and Kaepernick grew into their current roles as leaders and definers, the two teams bullied back and forth with old-school football, but each team has expanded their playbooks to take better advantage of their qarterbacks’ special and unique skills. As Kaepernick showed during San Francisco’s road to a near-Super Bowl win last season, he’s got every possible tool any quarterback could ever want. At his best, he seems like an evolutionary version of Randall Cunningham — an impossibly lean and dangerous runner who can also throw the ball half the field on a rope with accuracy.

BUKOWKSI: Seahawks’ QB Wilson gaining ground in MVP race

Wilson’s physical tools are somewhat less apparent — he was taken 75th overall in the 2012 draft due to height issues — but he’s put things together freakishly well from a mental and schematic perspective. As Carroll told me, he’s not surprised by anything Wilson does anymore; he just waits for the next great play to come along. There were enough of those great plays in Monday’s 34-7 win over the New Orleans Saints to make Wilson the NFC’s reigning Offensive Player of the Week.

Fast forward to the now for the other side. Kaepernick has struggled on the field at times, but statistics seem to underscore that perhaps too much has been made of that — he hasn’t had a month this season with a passer rating lower than 81.0, and that was in September. In November and December, he’s completed 62 passes in 105 attempts for 728 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. That’s despite a depleted receiver corps and an underperforming offensive line that has helped Kaepernick to 15 sacks in that time period.  He’s got Michael Crabtree back on the field, and it was with Crabtree that Kaepernick developed a highly productive chemistry last season.

One thing’s for sure — Carroll knows what Kaepernick’s capable of, and he’s expecting the version that has thrown four touchdown passes and no picks in his last two games.

“He’s shown a tremendous range of ability. He can run it like crazy — he’s a big, strong, fast guy that can run and get out and strike you dead. He’s got a big arm. They like to use it and work the down-the-field stuff and they mix their quick game in and their little control stuff too. So that gives you a variety of things that they do off of their run game, which is very similar … we’re not similar at all in the way we do things, but in the overall ‘run the football until the play passes’ is similar and he’s really good at it.

“When they focus on getting the ball to Vernon [Davis], he’s averaging almost 17 yards a catch, he’s got 10 touchdowns out of his 40-something catches. That’s a big-play guy, and he knows how to get the ball to him, and their system allows for that. When they’re mixing their throwing game with their running game, it’s a very difficult offense to deal with and that’s kind of where they’re at right now. We’ve got our hands full.”

Wilson has managed to make himself a dark-horse NFL MVP candidate. The Seahawks have lost just two games in the last calendar year, and since Week 9 of the 2012 season (when the Seahawks really opened up the playbook for him), Wilson has the league’s best passer rating (112.9, with Peyton Manning second at 110.9),  and his totals over the last 20 games are among the best you’ll ever see for any second-year quarterback not named Dan Marino — 321 completions in 488 attempts for 4,324 yards, 38 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

Similarly, Harbaugh knows what his defense will face with Wilson on the field.

“He’s a fantastic player. A wonderful, wonderful player, competitor. Skills of arm talent, mobility. Great field awareness. Understands the scrambling lanes, the escape routes out of the pocket. And then, that feel that only so many quarterbacks have had that have ever really played the game to extend plays. So, a lot of great qualities. A lot of wonderful qualities about him.”

Defenders are watching those “wonderful qualities” with suspicious eyes on both sides. As Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said, much of what makes Kaepernick dangerous is what he’s able to do out of San Francisco’s multiple and diverse run packages — power concepts that can develop into all kinds of things after the snap.

“They have so many different personnel [packages] they do. Sometimes, they give us a big personnel look and throw seam routes out of it. As the free safety, my first responsibility is to stop the seams and eliminate the posts. But it can be tricky when you’re keyed in for the run, and they try to hit you with a seam route out of those bit formations. You’ve definitely got to be keyed into the little details.”

BURKE: Vernon Davis tackle headlines Week 13 Sour Rankings

The little details have defined Wilson, to be sure. Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin caught passes from Andrew Luck at Stanford and catches them from Wilson now, and he found it easy to compare the two quarterbacks from the 2012 draft who have set themselves apart most consistently — especially above the neck.

“He’s got the offense under his belt now,” Baldwin said of Wilson. “He’s got complete confidence and control — he knows the ins and outs of the intricacies of the offense. It’s just a growth there — it’s not so much that he’s doing anything different, because he was phenomenal last year. He needed to get the full depth and breadth of the offense under his belt, and that’s what he’s capable of doing now.

“The way that Russell prepares for the game all week, it’s very reminiscent of what I saw Luck do when we were at Stanford. Just his ability to dissect defenses speaks to his confidence in his preparation, and it’s second to none. And Russell might do it better. It’s unbelievable the way that guy prepares. It gives us a lot of confidence, because when we go into games, he’s confident, and that’s because of the preparation he puts in. They’re both elite when it comes to that.”

Sunday’s Seahawks-49ers game will be an elite matchup in all kinds of ways, but more than ever, the quarterbacks will determine how things go.

35 comments
Tim C
Tim C

There is a lot of hype for this game for sure,but I believe the formula to win will be like the previous meeting>>>>>stop Gore,let Kap pass and W I N.

The 2ndary will choke off the passing lanes,the Hawk punter will continue to deliver and SF will be starting in THEIR territory a good part of the game.

I truly believe Seattle will go into "The Stick" as they call it and BLOW IT OFF THE MAP.

PS...I hear they have upgraded the Cessna "banner plane" to a B52 with a mile long message......GO HAWKS--12 ! ! !

the3rdpower
the3rdpower

The differences between these two QBs are ridiculous.  


I see Kap bringing this type of mentality, 

"I want to be considered different...  I want to do it differently..."


I see Russ bringing this type of mentality,

"1-0 mentality... Separation in the preparation."


Kap exemplifies the Bay area.   He is gifted athletically.  A modern day Adonis.  And he is smart enough to succeed at what he does.   But, the key area that separates Kap versus Russ is real mental astuteness to the game.  Russ believes in himself and puts his faith ahead of everything.  Kap believes that he IS everything but needs others to secure that belief.  When I say others I mean; the media, fans, and even coaches.  He is dependent on his ego and pride in the mental game... versus a real belief in himself. 


Modern day issue for Kap.  


DanielPlainview
DanielPlainview

I think it's a little premature to match these two QBs up, let alone write about a rivalry that hasn't come to anywhere near boiling yet. 


Right now it's simmering pretty gently. 


On paper - it's obvious that Seattle has absolutely nothing to lose on Sunday. So the pressure's all on San Francisco. 


If Pete Carroll really wanted to wind a proper rivalry up - and I really mean a bitter & twisted, unforgivable relationship for years to come, he'd go all out to win on Sunday and start Tarvaris Jackson v the Cards in two weeks knowing he has the bye and home field - Now that would be mischief. 


Can you imagine the Cards beating up on poor Tarvaris away from home & Pete Carroll insisting he was 'protecting his #1 QB for the play-offs'!!!!


A potential wildcard, winner takes all in Glendale as the season closer - all of Pete Carroll's making???


I like the sound of that.


Genius.


Hey, and If SF was to scrape through under those circumstances - Shakespearian, malignant stars aligned - there's a chance that a very angry, pissed-off 49ers team might be headed for CenturyLink Field somewhere in the play-offs. 


That is turning up the heat good and proper. For years to come.


Then you can start writing about rivalry. 


Only then,


I wish.



BlueZoo
BlueZoo

Is Farrar blind?  Kap is nowhere near the skinny drink of water Cunningham was!  Has anyone seen those guns of Kap's?  Geez!  As for Russell Wilson...the kid can throw that ball for a mile and be deadly accurate in the offing.  I seem to recall other great QBs who were "vertically challenged" - Sonny Jurgensen, Doug Flutie and Fran Tarkenton who, btw, still holds countless NFL records!  All three men were the same height as Wilson!

ken.burnside
ken.burnside

I liken Wilson to "Peyton Manning's brain, in Warrick Dunn's body."  He is, first and foremost, a downfield bomber. He's getting better at his intermediate throws - there was a significant improvement in that with the Saints game - he's consistently putting the slant throws at eye level on his WRs.

Wilson's mantra is the separation is in the preparation.  He seems to live by that.

Kaepernick has a hell of a work ethic (most NFL QBs not named JaMarcus Russell or Vince Young seem to), but Wilson's is remarkable even by the context of NFL "preparedness is everything" professionals.

I'm looking forward to another 10 years of Wilson with the 'Hawks if they're like the last 16 regular season games. Not sure anyone ELSE in the NFC West looks forward to facing Wilson twice a year...

terrace420
terrace420

Glad to see no hating and good game talk.

GO HAWKS !!!!!

Mech
Mech

I said last week the Seahawks would destroy the Saints and they did. This week it will be closer because the 49ers are at home, but they still will not be able to keep pace with Seattle's physical play. Good teams are very physical teams and Seattle is at the top of that category. They will beat SF, but not until there are a few lead changes. SF is a good team, but not complete yet. Seattle has stopped the running game lately and they are already a lights out defense against the pass. Brees is a surgeon among duffers and he could do nothing against Seattle, Manning also, in the preseason he was completely hung out to dry,,,, Kaepernick will fare no better.

mike202
mike202

27-17 Seattle on a late TD.  Is it true Kaepernick has a tattoo of Russel Wilson over his Heart?

Free Brandon Browner

pirate
pirate

A Seahawks fan, but this ought to be a helluva good game either way. Of course, I thought that last week when the Saints came to town. But really, this one ought to be awesome, regardless of the outcome.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Look at the photo. Kraepernick is wearing ear buds because he's tuning out the world and listening to tunes. That kid needs to seriously grow up if he wants respect from other fan bases.

Frotoon
Frotoon

"Russell might do it better. It’s unbelievable the way that guy prepares. It gives us a lot of confidence, because when we go into games, he’s confident, and that’s because of the preparation he puts in."

Furthermore, he isn't covered with tattoos, kiss his bicep, or wear his pants halfway down his rear end with his underwear sticking out.

Frotoon
Frotoon

"Wilson has managed to make himself a dark-horse NFL MVP candidate."

I guess that depends on how you define "dark horse." Wilson is basically second to Manning as the MVP right now. If Wilson is a dark horse, then so is everyone else.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Kraepernick is a third-year QB, not a second-year QB.

mike202
mike202

San Francisco has not beaten a team with a winning record this year.  The Kansas City Chiefs of the NFC


Free Brandon Browner

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

Yeah when there's 8 or 9 pro bowlers on each team I wouldn't necessarily single these guys out as the keys. Both teams have won games when their QBs have played poorly. Wilson's playing much better now and Kaepernick could really get things going with Crabtree back in the lineup. But make no mistake, these are defensive juggernauts. 

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

The 49ers, if they are serious, need to bring the hurt.  They have no chance of beating Seattle in Seattle  in January (and that's true of every team in the league) as long as Lynch and Wilson are healthy and playing together.  

The NFL is a brutal league for a brutal game.  Sunday needs to be another example of this fact or the 49ers' season is over.

Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, those two Pro Bowl linebackers, and of course Ahmad Brooks are the key, not Kaepernick.

Beachgrad05
Beachgrad05

Kap is in his 3rd year tho....right? Yes, 2nd year with starting but 3rd in NFL...

Dah_knee
Dah_knee

Ahhh Oooo, Ahhh Oooo, Ahhh Oooo!

the3rdpower
the3rdpower

@DanielPlainview It's a rivalry already.  You are living in some kind of strange fantasy drama not football.   Seattle plays a mature brand of football focused on winning every game... not some high school drama.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Seahawks will need him in order to stay ahead of the Rams who are getting yet another first-round pick from the Redskins this year thanks to the RG3 trade. Looks like it might be a top 5 pick too.

anon76
anon76

@Mech

"Brees is a surgeon among duffers and he could do nothing against Seattle, Manning also, in the preseason he was completely hung out to dry,,,, "

Keeping in mind that preseason performance tells us nothing about a team's actual abilities, here's Manning's stat line from that game:

11 of 16 attempts (69%) for 163 yards (10.2 yds/att), 1 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks, and a 123 passer rating.  Not sure what you mean by "hung out to dry", but I'm pretty sure it doesn't apply to Manning's performance.

If the Seahawks play like they did against the Saints, I can't see anybody beating them.  However, they don't always get 15 days to prepare for an opponent, and they've looked very beatable this year in games against the Panthers, Texans(!), Colts, Titans, Rams, and Bucs(!).  Good teams win close games, and the Seahawks managed to pull out the win in all of those games excepting the Colts.  However, Luck was also the only QB amongst that group that isn't prone to making mistakes.  The Seahawks are still a beatable team, more so on the road, and the 49ers are already a very good team (no longer building- they've been complete for 2 2/3 seasons now).  If the Hawks play out of their minds again, or if SF doesn't show up, then it'll be a blowout.  Otherwise, I think it's a very close game with the 49ers pulling it out based on needing it more.

anon76
anon76

@pirate 

Saints defense is good when they manage to get pressure, which they couldn't consistently do on Monday, otherwise it becomes exposed.  San Fran's defense is a much better all-around unit, which will allow them to compete even if Seattle shuts down the 49er's offense.  It's always possible there will be a blow out either way, but I think it's much less likely compared with the Saints game.

anon76
anon76

@Frotoon 

Why would someone who 'tunes the world out' want the respect of other fan bases?  Especially members of fan bases who can't tell the difference between an iPod & a QB headset, or who put more weight into skin decorations & bicep kisses than they do on-field performance?

Outside the box
Outside the box

@Frotoon The ear buds are part of the quartback's helmet setup. The QB helmet and defensive leader helmet's both have the ear buds built in to get the wirless transmissions from the bench. You are a fool for  making a post like that.

anon76
anon76

@Frotoon 

Yes, that is accurate.  At this point the MVP race is Peyton and a field of dark horses- more a testament to the achievements of the 37-year old QB than any sort of knock on the other guys.

pirate
pirate

@Frotoon But he is, as the writer says, a second-year "starting" quarterback." Just sayin'.

Outside the box
Outside the box

@mike202 WRONG. They beat Arizona 32-20. Don't post BS on an internet forum, you will be called out.

43rdranger
43rdranger

@Beachgrad05 Third year in the NFL but he didn't become the starter until week 11 of last season.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Those aren't part of a QB headset, you tool. He's not suited up, on the field and needing to communicate with the coach. He's listening to tunes.

mike202
mike202

@Outside the box @Frotoon   I think the helmet has built in buds.  They are not like the ones Kaepernick is wearing.  

Nothing wrong with listening to music to relax before the game though.  If you are not ready Sunday Morning you will never be ready.

Beachgrad05
Beachgrad05

I guess my point is he had a year in NFL on sidelines, learning prior to getting starting nod due ti injury to Smith....where Wilson came in and started from day 1. The title makes it sound like they are both in their 2nd year in NFL.