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5 Qs, 5 As with Niners Nation: Previewing another big Seahawks-49ers rivalry game

San Francisco 49ers v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

From about 2015-2018 it was pretty evident that the San Francisco 49ers were so irrelevant and bad that there wasn’t that same “rivalry” buzz with the Seattle Seahawks like during the Jim Harbaugh days. Ever since last season it has changed for the better. Both meetings in 2019 were absolutely exhilarating and nerve-shredding games that had a different feel to them than the defense-dominated 2011-2014 matchups. Seattle and San Francisco split the series, which hurt the Seahawks because they lost the NFC West as a result.

Enter 2020 and the Seahawks are atop the NFC West and the 49ers have rallied from 2-3 to get to 4-3. A win for the Seahawks keeps them in first place, while a win for the 49ers means another victory in Seattle and suddenly the Seahawks could be staring at going from first to last with one more set of bad results through Week 9. There’s a lot riding on this game, and to preview the enemy I’ve asked five questions to Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey, and here are his answers.

Q1.) The 49ers have been decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball but especially on defense. San Francisco still ranks top-10 in defensive DVOA even with no Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, Kwon Alexander, K’Waun Williams, etc. How has Robert Saleh been able to still run a well-functioning group even with the depleted roster?

Saleh always has the defense prepared. The pass rush has struggled, but even Saleh has done a nice job finding ways to generate pressure. It’s helped that Jason Verrett looks like an All-Pro again at cornerback. Fred Warner has evolved into one of the best linebackers in the league, and his playmaking skills have allowed the 49ers to get off the field.

Aside from that, San Francisco hasn’t played a team that has threats on the outside. Nowhere near the talent, Seattle has, anyway.

Q2.) Which players have been the surprise standout performers on either side of the ball?

Verrett has to be the top answer. Before last week, he had allowed 24 yards on 14 targets. New England completed a few passes against him that didn’t impact the game, but it’ll look worse for Verrett’s season-long stats. I say Verrett, as cornerback was a concern heading into this season, but between him and Emmanuel Moseley, the Niners cornerback duo has been superb.

On offense, JaMycal Hasty has been a pleasant surprise. If Tevin Coleman returns to the lineup, I’m not sure we’ll see Hasty have a significant workload, and that’s good news for the Seahawks. Hasty is an undrafted free agent out of Baylor with springs in his legs. He can really run, but it isn’t Hasty’s speed that makes him dangerous. During training camp, he’d finish practice with highlight runs. We’ve seen glimpses of that during Hasty’s 20 carries this season.

Q3.) Jerick McKinnon has fallen almost completely out of favor in the 49ers running back rotation. Even when Jeff Wilson suffered an injury, he was second to Jamychal Hasty. Does it feel like McKinnon’s days in SF could be numbered?

Kyle Shanahan said that before the Patriots game, the team needed to be careful with McKinnon as he was dealing with soreness. This is Jerick’s first extensive action in two years, and he’s reportedly dealing with “sore legs.” The 49ers always seem to find gems late in the draft or after the draft. Signing McKinnon to a relatively big contract was always questionable. His contract voids after this season, and San Francisco won’t owe McKinnon anything. You could see the difference between McKinnon and Hasty when they run the ball. A lot has to change for McKinnon to return next season.

Q4.) Jimmy Garoppolo has had a mixed bag of performances this season, and his depth of target continues to rank near the bottom of the NFL. Essentially it looks like Kyle Shanahan tries to make the game as incredibly foolproof for him as possible. Is there any concern from 49ers fans that he might be holding the offense back?

There is plenty of concern with Garoppolo. Some fans feel like he’s doing enough within the offense, and his performance doesn’t matter so long as the 49ers are winning. The other half of the fans cringe or feel uneasy whenever Jimmy drops back to throw. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground with Garoppolo. If you watch a Kyle Shanahan offense, even last year, and see what the team is doing this year, it’s clear as day that Shanahan has dialed it back to protect his quarterback.

This season was always going to be a tryout year for Jimmy. Against Seattle, Kyle has to #LetJimmyCook. Garoppolo is at his best when he’s letting it fly. Sometimes, it takes him getting hit to let loose.

Q5.) The NFC West is an absolute shark tank, so it must have been relieving to go from 2-3 and on the brink to 4-3 and back in the mix. Do you feel this team is starting to get into a groove (even with the injuries) and prepped for repeating as division champs?

They’re starting to remember that they’re a good team. Against Miami, the 49ers came out flat. That happens to every team every year. Against the Eagles, turnovers did the team in. Since both of those games, the Niners have had a wake-up call and have started both games since marching down the field and scoring a touchdown.

This team can beat anybody, even with all of their injuries. The margin for error isn’t as great, though. With the way the Niners have played the past two weeks, they seem primed for a playoff run. Will that be enough to win the division? They’ll need Seattle to lose some games. Three losses to start the season will likely prevent an NFC West crown unless San Francisco can pull off a few upsets.

Check out Niners Nation on Sunday morning for my answers to their questions. Thanks to Kyle for responding to my questions, although in hindsight I should’ve brought up whether they’re sick of me putting them in Enemy Reaction more than any other team.