Seahawks' defense has had 49ers' number. The Seahawks have won six straight games over the 49ers since 2014 and five straight at CenturyLink Field by an average of 20 points. Seattle's defense in particular has been tough against San Francisco. That's best illustrated by Total QBR. The 49ers' QBR against Seattle since 2014 is 26.8 compared to 51.3 against all other teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It's a new year and a new 49ers offense under coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer, but the Seahawks' defense looks like it can be even better than its versions from recent years with a healthy Earl Thomas at free safety and the addition of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Richard Sherman is listed as questionable for this game because of a hamstring injury, though coach Pete Carroll sounds optimistic about his chances of playing. Sherman has never missed a game in his career. If there were ever a game that the Seahawks could get by without their All-Pro cornerback, this seems like the one.
What to expect from Shanahan. The Seahawks faced Shanahan twice last season when he was the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator, winning in 26-24 in October and then losing 36-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs. One of the hallmarks of those Atlanta offenses under Shanahan was how much running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were used as pass-catchers out of the backfield. Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said that based on what he's seen so far, Shanahan wants to use his running backs similarly in San Francisco. Another hallmark of Shanahan's offenses, according to Richard, is stretch and outside zone runs designed to beat defenses around the edges as opposed to up the middle. "We’re preparing for the things that he has had success with before in the past, so the playbook is open," Richard said. "It’s only been one game, they’ve had a preseason, but as far as we imagine, there’re many more plays that he has under his sleeve.”
Can the Seahawks get Graham going? Tight end Jimmy Graham finished with only 8 yards receiving in a Week 1 loss at Green Bay, his lowest output since joining the Seahawks in 2015. That was on seven targets, though that number requires some explanation. One was on a throwaway; Graham got the official target because he was the nearest receiver. Another one of those targets was broken up. There was also the throw to Graham into the back of the end zone, when officials may have missed defensive pass interference. But Graham also had a costly drop on third down in the fourth quarter, a missed opportunity that Seattle couldn't afford on a day when its offense had no margin for error. "He wasn't himself," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He didn't play the way that he expects himself to play or we expect him to play. I don't expect it to happen again." Looking ahead to Sunday, Graham's usage could depend on how Seattle's offensive line holds. Against Green Bay, issues in pass protection led Seattle to use Graham as an extra blocker at times. Something else to consider: San Francisco's defense held the Carolina Panthers' Greg Olsen, one of the NFL's most consistently productive tight ends, to only two catches for 18 yards last week.