The Seattle Seahawks hung around with the San Francisco 49ers for three quarters before getting blasted into smithereens for a 41-23 loss in the NFC Wild Card round. Seattle’s defense only forced one punt, and everything else was either a score of a kneeldown.
Through three games it couldn’t have been made any clearer that the 49ers are just a vastly superior team to the Seahawks. Seattle was outscored 89-43 and only led for a handful of minutes out of a possible 180. With the exception of the 2nd quarter last Saturday, the offense pretty much was limited to punting or turning it over.
It’s a bit of a running joke that Pete Carroll is ever the optimist, but even he realizes the gap between the Seahawks and 49ers in terms of roster talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Here’s what he had to say (transcription via Michael-Shawn Dugar) on his Seattle Sports 710 radio show.
Here's Pete's full exchange on @SeattleSports when asked about the talent gap between the Seahawks and the 49ers, and which guys on Seattle's defense create issues for opposing offense. pic.twitter.com/IbDuPchHfJ— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) January 16, 2023
“There’s a distance here,” Carroll said. “It’s really because of what they’ve got up front. Their front seven is really, really well-equipped. Their linebackers have been there like four years together, the same three guys playing. [Talanoa] Hufanga just jumped right into it and became an excellent factor out of nowhere. He fits in like he’s been there for his whole career. But the guys up front really make a difference. [Arik] Armstead is unbelievably talented. He’s a problem every snap. [Nick] Bosa is a problem every snap; we breathe a sigh of relief when he has to take a break so we can go ahead and get after it. These guys make enough stuff happen and they demand so much focus in the game plan and the approach because they’re going to do something to you if you don’t. That’s a big difference than what we have.”
Not even the most biased Seahawks fan could argue that Seattle has a superior front seven to San Francisco or that they’re even close in the first place. Maybe the secondary isn’t too far off from the 49ers when both sides are fully healthy—Seattle is missing Jamal Adams, while the 49ers’ Emmanuel Moseley tore his ACL—but in the trenches and in the second-level it’s a total no contest.
It might be easy and somewhat right to argue the 49ers loaded up defensively through loads of early first-round picks due to multiple losing seasons. I’ll give you Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and (before he was traded) DeForest Buckner. However, their trio of linebackers—Fred Warner, Azeez Al-Shaair, and Dre Greenlaw—were picked no earlier than the third round. In Al-Shaair’s case he’s an UDFA. Starting safety Talanoa Hufanga is a fifth-round pick, outside corner Emmanuel Moseley went undrafted, his replacement Deommodore Lenoir was a fifth-rounder, and other starting corner Charvarius Ward was undrafted by Kansas City. Only Jimmie Ward is a first-round pick out of their entire starting secondary and he’s never made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team.
Seattle’s peak Legion of Boom defense featured only three players taken in the first- or second-round by the team: Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin, and Earl Thomas. That’s it. Everyone else went Round 3 or later, or wasn’t even drafted in the first place. Cliff Avril was a third-round pick by Detroit, whereas Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons were undrafted. No one could question how talented or how well coached that Seahawks defense was.
I think it is also worth pointing out that the 2020 49ers, who lost Nick Bosa to a torn ACL early in the season, didn’t have Dee Ford but for one game, and by then had already traded Buckner, still finished 6th in defensive DVOA and were top-10 against the run and pass. It’s not just having an abundance of talent that explains why San Francisco’s defense has been at or near the top of the NFL for four seasons running. They are coached extraordinarily well and can still be fearsome even if their depth takes a hit. It has been years since you could say the same about the Seahawks, and it is not like Seattle has been reluctant to invest on the defensive side of the ball under Pete, aka the guy who both coaches and has primary control of the roster that’s currently inferior to the 49ers.
As far as Pete’s original statement, I think that’s more than enough of a hint that Seattle is going to be investing heavily in the defensive line and linebacker this offseason. And not just through the NFL Draft.