TOP OF THE TOWN ‑  The BIG question that should be asked is how the Seahawks defeat the 49ers in their first-round game of the NFL playoffs that will be played Saturday (January 14) in Santa Clara.  NFL stats place the 49ers 5th on offense at 365.6 yards per game. (The Seahawks are 13th at 351.5).  The 49ers are first in defense at 300.6 (the Seahawks are 26th at 361.7). The Seahawks are third worse in giving up rushing yards at 2554 (the 49ers are second best against the rush at 1321; Tennessee is first at 1307). So at first blush, I will say the Hawks cannot rush well against the 49ers. So why try? Other than a token run, the Hawks have to put their fortune in the hands of Geno Smith and his receivers. I don’t have a lot of faith in DK Metcalf. For as tall and muscular he is, he really should terrorize opponents. But there is something wrong with him. He drops too many balls and often loses the ball when hit hard. Yeah, he has made good plays, great catchers, but he should make them, and more. He doesn’t, though, and that is a problem. Tyler Lockett is gold. He makes a lot of key catches at critical times. So Geno has that. I like tight end Noah Fant. The Hawks need to have him as a key component in their offensive attack. One receiver who has not played much and is overlooked is Dareke Young. He’s 6-2 and 225 pounds and a 7th-round selection (233 pick overall) from Lenoir Rhyne. I like Young. I hope Pete Carroll likes him too in this game. He could be a game-breaker. The Hawks could use Young to take pressure off Metcalf and Lockett. I would like to see the Hawks use Ken Walker more in the passing game. Get this speedster in space where he can go to work. He’s great in space. So we know the Hawks are going to have to pass more than Carroll likes. That means the offensive line has to be up to snuff and protect Geno like they have never before. That is one of the biggest keys to this game. Give Geno time to throw and good things will happen. That’s a tough challenge, I know, but it’s crucial to success. Another critical key is slowing down the 49ers running game. I have shown the Hawks have one of the worse defenses against the run. They have to have success here or it could be a long day. The 49ers have so many explosive weapons, including all-everything Christian McCaffrey, who is almost impossible to stop on runs and on pass-catching. Then there is running back Elijah Mitchell, brilliant receiver Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings. And, yes, I did not forget tight end George Kittle, who has been a pain-in-the-butt not only to the Hawks but to the league in general. Recapping, the 49ers are talented on both sides of the ball, including at quarterback where their third-unit QB has emerged as a rising star. That would be Brock Purdy.  Marcus Thompson II wrote this in The Athletic, a few days ago about Purdy. It’s a very good story that you can find online and worth the read. Here is part of what Thompson wrote on Purdy:  “I think that’s what separates you,” Purdy said. “There are guys who have, you know, million-dollar arms and can throw at 80, 90 (yards) or whatever. But in terms of making the right decision, every single play, every single drive, that’s what separates you at this level. You’ve got to have the right mindset.” Purdy definitely has the right mindset, despite being the last pick in the 2022 draft (Mr. Irrelevant) from Iowa State where he completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 12,170 yards, 81 touchdowns and 33 interceptions in four years. Despite being Mr. Irrelevant, Purdy is the real deal, and will be a major threat to the Hawks, as if they needed another one from the 49ers. So what is your prediction on the final score of this game? Mine is 35-10  49ers. That’s it for today. Stay safe.

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