That run defense has fallen apart since injuries sidelined both linemen during a blowout defeat at Oakland in Week 8. Bryant landed on injured reserve. Cole plans to resume practicing Wednesday. He could play Sunday at San Francisco.
The 49ers' decision to change quarterbacks is hogging headlines, but San Francisco will surely try to exploit Seattle's run defense, even without Frank Gore as an option.
I've put together a chart showing how opponents' rushing attacks have fared against Seattle before and after injuries to Bryant and Cole. Both started the game against Oakland in Week 8. Bryant left in the second quarter. Cole left in the fourth.
Other factors have played into the statistical disparities. Some of the teams Seattle played early in the season weren't as determined to run the ball. Some had fewer realistic opportunities after falling behind.
It's clear, however, that Seattle's run defense would be much stronger with Bryant in particular. The team built its run defense around him. Linebackers have certainly noticed the difference without Bryant's massive presence at defensive end.
The stats are pretty glaring.