Knowing Your Opponent: Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks came away with a win in Carolina to open their season Sunday. But they didn't play especially well traveling across the country for the early start. Will the team bounce back against a better 49ers team in their home opener? Inside we break down the Seahawks after their first game and look back to last December's 42-13 loss for correlations heading into Sunday night.

Seahawks Statistics Through Week 1

Offense

Points per game: 12 (#28 in the NFL)

Yards per game: 370 (#14)

Passing Yards (per game): 300 (#11)

Rushing Yards (per game): 70 (#22)

3rd-Down Conversion Rate: 46.15 percent (#12)

Red Zone Scoring Rate (TDs): -- (#31)

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Defense

Points per game: 7 (#2)

Yards per game: 243 (#4)

Passing yards (per game): 119 (#3)

Rushing Yards (per game): 124 (#27)

3rd-Down Conversion Rate: 45.45 percent (#18)

Red Zone Scoring Rate (TDs): 100 percent (#22)

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NFC West Standings

1. 49ers (1-0)

1. Seahawks (1-0)

1. Rams (1-0)

4. Cardinals (0-1)

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Week 1 in the NFL is the product of buildup and a full offseason of preparation. One game's tape does not define a team, nor nullify everything that happened in the previous year. The Seahawks ended their regular season in 2012 playing at an exceptionally high level, vaulting them into the discussion as one of the most dangerous teams in football. They were close to coming to San Francisco to play in the NFC title game, but they fell two points short of the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.

After starting the season 6-4, they finished by reeling off five wins in their last six games and scoring a combined 150 points over a three-game stretch that included their 42-13 drumming of the 49ers in Week 16.

Sunday's 12-point total, however, was Seattle's lowest since its 13-6 loss in San Francisco Oct.18. Carolina's improved defense held Seattle to an average of just 2.7 yards on 26 carries. Quarterback Russell Wilson rushed five times for a total of seven yards.

Most surprisingly, Marshawn Lynch was limited to 43 yards coming off his 1,590-yard season in 2012.

To the casual observer, the Panthers approached the Seahawks in a similar way the Packers did the 49ers in Week 1. They emphasized clogging things up front and forced Wilson to beat them with pass. Unfortunately for them he did when he found Jermaine Kearse for the decisive 43-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Wilson finished with 320 yards and a 115.7 quarterback rating, but his team was still limited to just 12 points, which is a credit to Carolina's defense.

Perhaps coming into Sunday's game with the very high expectations fueled by their performance in 2012 wasn't entirely fair. After all, the Seahawks went just 3-5 on the road. It was their perfect home record that weighed heavily in their 11-5 mark to finish the regular season.

And questioning Seattle's performance might also be selling Carolina short. The Panthers have improved defensively and Cam Newton is one week into his third season. If the Panthers' defense can play like it did Sunday throughout the rest of the year, they could become one of the surprise teams in the NFC.

The health of the Seahawks is also worth considering. They were without defensive lineman Cliff Avril and corner Brandon Browner, who could be back on Sunday. That makes 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman's job more difficult in game planning this week. Perris Cox has worn Browner's No. 39 for the scout team in practice and San Francisco is preparing for the Seahawks to have all hands on deck.

There won't be any lack of motivation from either side. But the 49ers can use last December's beat down as fuel. For the first time under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks spent their offseason burdened with great expectations for 2013. Rightfully so. Only one team beat up on the NFC champions last season like they did. But the mindset of a team changes when the eight-month offseason is littered with praise. The same can be said for San Francisco.

But over the 17 weeks in an NFL regular season, every team goes through peaks and valleys.

A week prior to going to Seattle, the 49ers won their game in New England over the Patriots, pushing their record to 10-3-1. It was a draining win that saw Tom Brady's offense score 24 points in the fourth quarter nearly capping one of the his great comeback wins of the regular season. Justin Smith suffered his torn triceps injury that night and was forced to miss the next week against the Seahawks.

Had San Francisco, the team would have gone to Seattle with a 9-4-1 record to play the 9-5 Seahawks making it a virtual battle for first place. But because they beat the Patriots in Week 15, they had the luxury of coming out of Seattle with the division lead regardless of how the game went. The game against the Patriots was more important.

The Seahawks went into Week 16 having reeled off two wins against the lowly Cardinals and Bills, combining to score 108 points. Momentum helped Seattle earn the title as perhaps the best team in football at that point.

Does that excuse the 49ers' worst performance of the season when they were drubbed by 29 points? Of course not. The team played terribly, but it didn't cost them division, which it might have had they lost to the Patriots.

After an emotionally taxing trip to New England, where they played a night game shortening their week of preparation for another road game, they predictably came out flat as many teams do after big wins.

That's why handicapping Sunday night's tilt based on last season's thrashing is not completely fair. The Seahawks might prove to be the better team, but with a normal week of preparation and a full offseason for Colin Kaepernick as the starter, the game won't be played under circumstances anywhere close to last December.

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