Friday, September 12, 2008

Key Matchups For Sunday

by: Michael Steffes

Here are my key matchups to watch this weekend:

Patrick Kerney vs Jonas Jennings> Clearly one the Seahawks paramount goals this weekend will be to get bodies around JT O'Sullivan. Even if they don't sack him a ton of times, in order for the Hawks to win this game they need to rattle the young SF QB and force him into mistakes. One of the players the Hawks will count on this week is Patrick Kerney. Mike Martz has never been one to keep a ton of extra players in to block, he likes to have targets out in the pattern. Because of this Kerney will likely not see as many double and triple teams as normal. Instead, he gets Jonas Jennings; not a dancing bear at tackle by any means. Time for Kerney to get off!

Seattle Front vs Frank Gore>
This one is simple. 2006 can not happen ever again. Frank Gore must be contained. Whether it is the d-line or the linebackers that do the job, it doesn't matter. Hopefully this team has learned that a combination of two or three players is usually what it takes. If the team can shut down Gore, then O'Sullivan will have to throw. That is when they Hawks can force him into big mistakes. The Niners are using Gore in the passing game more this year though, so the Hawks would be wise to shadow him. This team has not always defended well against pass receiving backs.

Ray Willis vs Parys Haralson>
The Niners moved Justin Smith all over the defensive front last week, and it helped to create mismatches. Not only for Smith, but for outside linebacker Parys Haralson. He may be the answer to the Niners missing pass rush, as he got to Warner twice from the left side. As of now, it doesn't seem Lock will be back, so Ray Willis, who is a better run blocker than pass blocker must be ready. The last thing we want is Matt to get knocked around. He needs time for this young receiving core to win their one on one matchups. That will force the Niners into a less aggressive defense. A big part of this will be Willis containing Haralson.

Logan Payne on Walt Harris>
Nate Clements is likely to single-handily take out one side of the field. I believe he will occupy the left side, which means Courtney Taylor (or whoever else plays there) is likely to disappear for stretches on Sunday. That leaves Logan Payne to make a statement. The Hawks are going to continue to struggle to run, until they have a threat on the outside to keep safeties honest. Payne is capable of beating Harris for some big chunks, but he has to do a better job of feeling where the safety is. As a friend said to me, he took a real NFL hit last week, and that is what he can expect going forward. So either get ready, or get smart. Anyway, with the way they treated his rib injury (by giving him time to heal despite the WR competition), and the fact that he is essentially the one WR Holmgren guaranteed to start this week, the team continues to show that they believe Payne can contribute at this level. He has a huge chance to prove them right this weekend.