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Matchupalooza: Seahawks @ 49ers: The Patrick Willis Perpetual Tackle Machine

In week 2, Seattle benefited greatly from Mike Nolan's Big Sub package. For a running game that's improved at the "pulling" but less so the "pull blocking", Nolan's 4-2 was a Godsend. If Mike Singletary can do anything in this abbreviated week, or undo anything, it's Nolan's crippling over-management. A simple 4-3 would do wonders. That makes a matchup Seattle won against the Niners in week one much more of a...mismatch.

Patrick Willis recorded six run tackles against the Hawks of 7, 8, 7, 12, 2 and 8 yards. Two were successful stops, though one "success" set up a field goal. That's the definition of garbage tackles. I've learned not to blame the player for the outcome. A tackle is typically a good play by the player regardless if bad execution by the defense made the play istelf successful. I.e., if Patrick Willis tackled a rusher 40 yards down field, it's an unsuccessful play by the defense, but Willis' tackle could have prevented 'x' more yards or the score.

Chris Spencer had something to do with Seattle's success rushing the ball, and also Willis' high tackle total. In Seattle's new look rushing attack, Spencer first purpose is to pull straight and block out the middle linebacker. Seattle was successful rushing against San Francisco, and thensome, but Spencer himself was often overmatched by Willis. He could get there, and given San Francisco's depleted second level, that was often enough, but he couldn't contain Willis. Spencer blew three blocks, each against Willis, and each truncated an otherwise long run by allowing Willis to get back into the play.

This play typifies their exchange.

1-10-SEA 48 (3:56) 22-J.Jones left tackle to SF 44 for 8 yards (52-P.Willis, 32-M.Lewis).

Seattle breaks in their surrogate base offense, WR, TE (left), WR (right), I-backs. The 49ers in a nickel variant of their Big Sub with Allan Rossum walked in as a defacto right outside linebacker. He's not, though. He's not an outside linebacker. He's a cornerback. At the snap, Seattle runs an off-tackle play that turns into a rush behind left tackle. Walter Jones pulls out wide, the motion draws Rossum outside. John Carlson and Seattle's remaining four linemen block their opposing assignments: Carlson on Justin Smith, Mike Wahle on Aubrayo Franklin, Floyd Womack on Isaac Sopoaga, Ray Willis on Ray McDonald and Chris Spencer into the second level on Patrick Willis. All but Womack and Spencer succeed. Womack falls off Sopoaga, Sopoaga closes but is unable to tackle Jones. Despite the broken tackle, Jones is slowed. Spencer gets a pristine pull, bumps Willis, but doesn't tie up or lock down, allowing Willis to recover, shade offensive left and cutoff the outside. Michael Lewis breaks from the third level, contains offensive right and the two combine for the tackle.

Had Spencer locked down Willis, Jones had a clean line to the third level. Because Willis was able to get back into the play, Jones was stopped after a gain of eight. This week, in a similar situation, Willis will be the middle linebacker with an outside linebacker on either side. That could mean the difference between Spencer pulling six yards to meet Willis, and Spencer pulling 3 yards to meet Willis. An aggressive Willis, backed up, bracketed, assisted, abetted or whatever can shed that block and stop the rush for little gain. Spencer has been good, but not on a level that can consistently contain Willis, and should Spencer flop, allow Willis to get his perpetual tackle machine rolling, Seattle's rushing attack could sputter and onus for its offense again fall on--

It's too horrible to utter.