Seahawks beating the 49ers? It's not as daunting as you think
The truth about Brock Purdy: Seaside Joe 1409
It was on December 21, 2022 that I wrote “I’m not giving up on this season, damn it,” calling back to another article I wrote in the middle of the 2012 season just before the Seattle Seahawks went on their phenomenal run to climb over several other NFC teams and reach the playoffs.
The Seahawks lost to the Chiefs three days after my “don’t give up post” this season, but there was good news: The Lions lost to the Panthers and the Commanders lost to the 49ers, giving Seattle the opportunity that they needed to win their last two games and to potentially still reach the playoffs. Then in the last two weeks, the Seahawks Diggs’d deep, finished above .500, and brought “Playoff Pete” back to Seattle—someone I didn’t even realize I was missing until I looked at Pete Carroll on the sidelines against the Rams and thought to myself, “Where’s the fire that usually burns so hot within him?”
Playoff Pete came back to us sometime during Seattle’s 7-minute, 12-second drive in the fourth quarter in which the Seahawks not only got a first down by penalty on a punt, but also went for it on fourth-and-1 at the LAR22, foregoing the chance at a tying field goal, and re-energizing the fan base by reminding us that yes, Seattle does play for championships. Not for second place.
It is in part thanks to San Francisco that the Seahawks’ Super Bowl dreams are still alive…so why not pay it forward to the 49ers by sending Kyle Shanahan and Nick Bosa into an early offseason with a win on Saturday?
Though the Seahawks played their worst football of the season against the San Francisco 49ers—twice—I have some reasons why I think this is as good of a first round matchup as Seattle could have hoped for and not the 10 or so-point spread that Vegas has for the game. Oh, and a friendly reminder that if you believe in jinxes, this may not be the post for you. I’m not kicking you out or telling you how to feel or what to say, but at this point in my writing career I often sense the comments before the comments. And what I’ve always said is that if what I write impacts the universe, we are in much bigger trouble than a football game.
Similarly, if this is “bulletin board material” for the 49ers…Thank GOD! I would love to have Seaside Joe wind up on the bulletin board of an NFL team.
We like to keep sportswriting ad-free, opinions unattached to brands and gambling websites, so thank you to everyone who has upgraded to premium for bonus content and to keep us running 1,409 days in a row! Only $5/month or $55/year.
Seaside Joe is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The truth about Brock Purdy
The more successful that Purdy is in Shanahan’s offense, the more obvious it becomes that the 49ers have no idea what they are doing at quarterback. None. This is the team that traded picks for Jimmy Garoppolo and then paid him $127 million after five starts. This is the team that traded three first round picks for one first round pick that they used on Trey Lance. They have no idea what they’re doing with regards to QB evaluation.
Brock Purdy may be a seventh round steal, but that’s different than being a franchise quarterback.
Described as a “Rookie of the Year” by many members of the media in the past week after only six games, Purdy is enjoying the same success that Garoppolo has experienced whenever he’s been healthy since 2017. And I mean that: It’s the same success. It took most people four years to catch up to me (and many others) in believing that Garoppolo wasn’t elevating the offense, but being elevated by San Francisco’s coaching and play makers.
Most had caught on by the end of 2020, then the 49ers traded up for Lance in 2021, then San Francisco caught on that there wasn’t a market for Garoppolo in the QB carousel of 2022. Now in the first month of 2023, it’s Brock Purdy who is the best quarterback on the 49ers…and he really is the best quarterback on the 49ers. Purdy is running the offense just as he should be and he’s thrown at least two touchdowns in all six games, including 17-of-26 for 217 yards and two scores against Seattle In Week 15.
But beneath touchdowns and completion percentage (woof stats), Purdy is playing worse than Jimmy Garoppolo and near the bottom of the NFL in his limited, yet notable sample size.
In terms of on-target%, Purdy’s 68.5% is only better than four quarterbacks who had at least 100 pass attempts: P.J. Walker, Cooper Rush, Mike White, and Zach Wilson. He’s ranked below Joe Flacco, Skylar Thompson, Davis Mills, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, and Justin Fields. Pro-Football-Reference defines this as “throws that would have hit the intended receiver”.
That means that according to these charts, Purdy would not have hit his intended receiver on 31.5% of his throws. That’s a LOT of uncatchable passes. Jimmy G’s rate was 74.5%.
Geno Smith’s on-target% is 78.9%, ranked fifth among QBs with at least 100 attempts and fourth among full-time quarterbacks, behind only Daniel Jones, Aaron Rodgers, and Joe Burrow. Smith’s “bad throw%”, defined simply as “poor throws” by PFR, was an NFL-best 11.6%. Here, Purdy does excel, ranking fourth at 12.1%, but not far off from Jimmy G at 12.7%.
Now let’s re-focus on how Brock Purdy’s stats are elevated by his teammates, leaving out the fact that yes, Trent Williams is an elite left tackle and Kyle Shanahan is an expert at scheming up open receivers for his quarterbacks because those are a given by now.
Purdy averages 6.6 intended air yards/attempt, which ranks below Jimmy G (6.9) and only ahead of four other QBs: Justin Herbert, Dan Jones, Colt McCoy, and Matt Ryan. It’s not necessarily a negative to hit all your checkdowns, as we do see the likes of Herbert, Tom Brady, and Joe Burrow in this range, but it does carry implications and it’s a stat the requires proper context. Such as…do you also have one of the worst on-target rates in the NFL?
We know how impactful players like George Kittle and Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey are…but do we really?
Among QBs with at least 150 pass attempts, Jimmy G led the NFL with 7.0 yards after catch per reception. Purdy was third in the NFL at 6.2 YAC/catch. Important context is that Purdy and Deebo have only played three games together and Samuel only has 12 catches for 121 yards in those contests, but he did have 96 yards after the catch in those games. Over 75%.
McCaffrey caught 25 passes for 262 yards in the last six games of the season and 205 of those yards came after the catch. And George Kittle had two big YAC games late in the season, none bigger than the four catches for 93 yards with 60 YAC in Week 15 against the Seahawks.
Seattle’s goal on Saturday is simple: Rather than stopping the quarterback, stop the players when they catch the ball. Give up a 100% completion percentage to Purdy if you need to, but keep everybody in front of you. In case it’s not obvious, I’m not an X’s and O’s expert but you don’t have to be to understand what’s working for the 49ers offensively, nothing could be more simple.
Tackle the playmakers before they can make a play.
Just as it was with Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s not the 49ers quarterback who anyone has to fear. Force Shanahan and Purdy to make plays by throwing beyond the sticks and that’s when good things tend to happen for the defense. Four of Purdy’s 21 deep passes were intercepted, and only eight were completed. The best of which was that wide open score to Kittle in Week 15.
Take away those plays and there’s little chance that this game gets out of hand in San Francisco’s favor.
Seahawks top-5 offensive line?
I was thinking about making this its own post, but might as well just throw it in here now because at least one person believes that Seattle has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. As well as “the best rookie offensive lineman in the league.”
Not Charles Cross. Abraham Lucas.
From a YouTuber who as far as I can tell is not a Seahawks fan, The Football Scout is enamored with right tackle Abe Lucas and he shows how Lucas had dominant reps against the L.A. Rams in Week 18.
I want to be encouraged, just as you do, but I also want to throw a little cold water on this analysis merely for the fact that Football Scout doesn’t even mention once that Aaron Donald and A’Shawn Robinson didn’t play in this game. Furthermore, the Rams Week 18 defensive line should be in the running for worst defensive line unit in any game this season:
Former UDFA Michael Hoecht had 63 snaps, practice squad player Earnest Brown IV had 54 snaps, UDFA Jonah Williams had 40 snaps, practice squad player Marquise Copeland also had 40, third round disappointment Bobby Brown had 18, Greg Gaines had 18, and waiver pickup Larrell Murchison had 14.
I know the Rams very well, I’ve covered the careers of all of these players, which isn’t that hard to do because other than Gaines, they’ve made little impact in their careers. What Sean McVay wanted to do, besides what he had to do because of injuries, is to see if he has any talent worth bringing back for 2023—assuming McVay is coming back in 2023. The answer?
No, not really.
Certainly Hoecht and Murchison have stood out late in the year, but this is a terrible defensive line to use as analysis for an offensive line. ESPECIALLY if you don’t even mention once that the quality of the opponent here is as easy mode as it gets. You need to know the competition level when you’re analyzing the play of anyone or any unit. That’s common sense.
That being noted, why not be encouraged by the play of the Seahawks offensive line given the circumstances and it is worth watching the breakdown for yourself. Though this does not dissuade me from having concerns about Nick Bosa having his usual Hungry Man meal on Saturday and it could be Cross who has a harder time anchoring against the pass rush than Lucas.
Bosa had six pressures and two sacks in Week 2, then one sack and three pressures in Week 15, totaling three sacks, nine pressures, and five QB knockdowns. Bosa led the NFL with 18.5 sacks and only had three games all season in which he failed to record a sack; two of those games were blowouts and in the overtime game against the Raiders, Bosa had five QB knockdowns and six pressures.
In Seattle’s most recent game against San Francisco, they also allowed two pressures each to Samson Ebukam and Arik Armstead, sa well as one each to Dre Greenlaw, Talanoa Hufanga (sack), Drake Jackson, and Charles Omenihu. Consider that the Seahawks had four TOTAL pressures that day, nobody with more than one.
The Seahawks have to fight this off by getting Ken Walker going, something that didn’t happen in December, as Walker had only 47 yards on 12 carries, one broken/missed tackle, but also four catches for 32 yards. Walker was making his NFL debut as a complement to Rashaad Penny in Week 2, so he was just getting his feet wet that day. Now the Seahawks need his feet to pull off the Dance-Dance Revolution steps I was mentioning so often in the offseason, as a healthy running game—with top-five offensive line blocking—is a potential cure to Seattle’s tall order of blocking Bosa.
It’s quite notable to me that as Walker has become more entertaining and impactful, mentions of Walker from those who gave the draft pick an “F” have been on the downswing…if not those people exiting the internet entirely.
As I wrote in the bonus on Tuesday, the Seahawks have needed much better run blocking this season, especially off Cross on the left side. But at least one analyst believes in this unit, and that’s what I’m looking for right now. Belief.
Play who you know
Prior to 2022, the Seahawks had indeed beaten the 49ers in 17 of their last 20 meetings, including 8-2 in Pete vs Kyle. The Seahawks were not always “the better” of the two teams in those wins. San Francisco’s three wins were by two points, three points, and five points.
Even this season, Seattle has kept games closer than they might have any right to be given the circumstances and talent disparity at key positions.
What becomes of the Week 2 game if not for the goofy play call to have DeeJay Dallas throw a pass inside the 10-yard line? The game could have been 13-7, but moments later is was 20-0. And what has Geno learned after throwing this interception on the previous drive by forcing one into Tyler Lockett?
What becomes of the Week 15 game, if Travis Homer doesn’t fumble the ball late in the first half? The score could have been 7-6, if not a 10-7 Seahawks lead at halftime, but instead it’s 14-3 at the break.
I wholeheartedly accept that the 49ers are a better team because they had the number one defense, the number six scoring offense/defense, and they put a beatdown on some teams whereas Seattle isn’t as strong as they were in the heyday. However, the 49ers being superior hasn’t mattered that much in the series.
And despite San Francisco’s strengths, they lost to the Bears (in strange weather conditions, but this is the worst team in the NFL), the Broncos, and the Falcons. Two weeks ago, the Las Vegas Raiders took them to overtime behind an efficient 365-yard, 3-TD game from Jarrett Stidham, one that should open up Pete, Geno, and Shane Waldron to better understanding the 49ers’ flaws, which do exist.
There are teams that have more offensive talent that Seattle does. The Raiders are not one of those teams.
If the 49ers win the Super Bowl, I won’t be all that surprised. If the Seahawks beat the 49ers on Saturday, I also won’t be surprised.