Seahawks Insider

5 questions with a 49ers beat writer

Post by Todd Dybas / The News Tribune on Dec. 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm with 12 Comments »
December 6, 2013 12:31 pm

Reached out to Eric Branch, 49ers beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, to answer five questions heading into this weekend’s game.

Has Colin Kaepernick regressed this season or is that too harsh a term for someone who has been missing key receivers?
I don’t think he’s gotten worse, but I think defenses have done a far better job of game-planning against him. The read-option has largely been a rumor for the 49ers’ offense this season and they’ve had mixed results when they’ve used it. He’s been forced to become more of a pocket passer and, as you noted, he hasn’t had many attractive targets beyond Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, who have accounted for all of his 15 TD passes this season. The 49ers’ second-leading wide receiver, Mario Manningham, who made his season debut in November, has 83 yards. Michael Crabtree, who returned last week after sustaining torn Achilles in May, ranks third among yardage among the team’s wideouts (68). Obviously, that hasn’t helped Kaepernick. That said, Russell Wilson has done just fine without an all-star cast of pass-catchers.

What’s the No. 1 thing that has to be better for the 49ers this time after the 29-3 loss earlier this year?
Well, it would help if they didn’t have five turnovers. The 49ers have just 12 turnovers in their other 11 games and one of their best qualities during the Jim Harbaugh era has been their ability to win the turnover battle (they tied an NFL record with 10 turnovers in 2011). In Week 2, Kaepernick accounted for four turnovers (3 INTs, fumble) so, obviously, he has to play significantly better. The 49ers defense gave way in the second half, but that loss wasn’t on them: At halftime, the Seahawks led 5-0 and Wilson had a 7.5 passer rating.

How has Aldon Smith been playing since his return?
He’s played four games since his return, and has flashed his dominant form once, in a two-sack performance against Washington two weeks ago where he repeatedly abused poor LT Trent Williams. In his first game back, though, he played just 12 snaps and he played with an illness the following week at New Orleans. Last week, he didn’t have a sack, but his presence had something to do with the fact that DT Justin Smith often had one-on-one matchups with Rams T Jake Long and drove him into Berkeley.

Do the 49ers have capable backups on the offensive line if Staley and Iupati can’t play?
It appears Staley will play after he sustained a sprained MCL last week against the Rams. He was limited in practice Thursday and showed no obvious signs of his injury during the portion that was open to the media. This morning, he said he was “preparing to play.” Iupati has missed two games with a far more severe MCL sprain, hasn’t practiced this week and it appears Adam Snyder will make another start in his place. There is a significant dropoff from Iupati, a run mauler who was an All-Pro last year, and Snyder, who was released by Arizona last year one season into a five-year, $17 million contract. The Cardinals allowed an NFL-high 58 sacks in 2012 and Snyder ranked 79th of the 82 guards who played at least 300 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading system.

Do you think the supposed dislike between the teams is real or manufactured from the outside?
I think there is genuine dislike, and genuine respect. The dislike, I guess, is obvious, but 49ers safety Donte Whitner, the unofficial team spokesman, spoke glowingly of Seattle’s defense this week. He said their physical style reminded him of the way the 49ers play, and I think Whitner’s view is shared by plenty of others in the locker room. Coaches and players always talk up the opponent, but it was clear this week the 49ers and the staff hold Wilson in very high regard. Of course, Seattle has won the last two games by a combined score of 71-16. The 49ers have downplayed revenge etc. this week, but they are the defending NFC champions and desperately want to win a street fight Sunday to send the Seahawks a pre-playoff message.

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Thanks Todd.

    I re-watched the first game this year and was very impressed with the way the 49ers Defense played in the first half.
    If they play that way again this game will go down to the wire imo.

  2. chuck_easton says:

    Just got my weekly text from Seahawks…

    Harvin is out for Sunday.

    Well that really was a great dozen plays we got out of him this season.

    Maybe he can double it next year!

  3. tealskin says:

    Don’t think I’d want to bring Harvin back against a hard-hitting SF that wouldn’t mind sending him into early retirement. Want them to win but they can manage ok without him. Chuck, you’re such a sourpuss about Harvin. Things could be a lot worse.

  4. chuck_easton says:

    tealskin,

    I’m a sourpuss on the fact that the team has locked up 22 million, and 12.5 million against the cap for a guy that has given them 19 plays.

    That money could have gone to somewhat that deserves it and, oh I don’t know, actually contributes? Someone like Sherman, Thomas, Tate, Baldwin…

    When we lose another vital piece of this team after this season because the team can’t afford to pay them I’ll be right here reminding everyone that if we weren’t paying Harvin MILLIONs to not play we might be able to afford to pay one of those other guys who do play.

  5. Skavage says:

    As exciting as Harvin is to watch I’m not worried that we won’t have him. I’m more concerned that this injury might end up being a career limiting type and frankly our record with WR trades is not stellar in the last 10 years.

  6. tealskin says:

    Chuck- It’s not that I don’t understand your rationale. It’s just that I think maybe it’s time to give it a rest and see how the season plays out. There is always the possibility that having a healthy Percy for the playoffs is what takes the Hawks over the top. All that money talk can wait till afterwards.

  7. chuck_easton says:

    tealskin,

    I do follow some of the national guys in their for pay sections. There are rumblings out there that Harvin will not be back at all this year, and that the hip may be such that he can never really be back.

    I honestly don’t expect to see him again this season. Regular season or playoffs.

    I’ve said my piece. I’m done with it. But I will be ready to bring it up when the team can’t afford to sign Tate, Sherman, or Thomas because they have too much cap money tied up in Harvin.

    I’ve had my blow up.

  8. PHXHawk says:

    Chuck… How do you propose we can guarantee the health of everyone that we sign to a contract, to ensure that they contribute?

    (From the end of a previous post.)

  9. chuck_easton says:

    PHKHawk,

    You can’t. But what the team can do is give the big contracts to the guys that have been here and produced. If this money had gone to keep Sherman I’d be fine. He’s proven he’s worth it.

    Harvin came to Seattle with a reputation. I didn’t give him that rep. I was willing to give it a chance. Never said squat about the signing.

    I only got upset when Harvin immediately had an injury.

    So, it isn’t Harvin. The frustration really is about the situation and the fact that the team is likely going to lose Tate after the season, will likely cut Rice and will still go into 2014 not really knowing how much they can expect from Harvin.

  10. tealskin says:

    Chuck- Why would speculation about Harvin’s status on the webs get your panties in a twist? You say you’ve had your blowup but this feels more longterm than that. You’re entitled to vent repeatedly but why bother? We’re here now.

  11. chuck_easton says:

    tealskin,

    No panties in a twist. Just frustration with all the dead money.

    It’s not Harvin’s fault the team was desperate enough to give him 25.5 million guaranteed in the form of a 12 million signing bonus, guaranteed salaries for 2013 and 2014.

    So the soonest Seattle can get itself out of the position they have created is before the 2015 season. Good new is that is right about the time they can cut ties with Harvin and give all that money to Wilson.

  12. Macabrevity says:

    lol @ Chuck re: Percy giving us 24 plays next season ;)

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