Is Brock Purdy ready for the moment? Five burning questions for 49ers vs Seattle

Brock Purdy slides for a first down in the 49ers week 15 win over Seattle.

The San Francisco 49ers open their quest to reach the Super Bowl for the eighth time in franchise history Saturday afternoon when they face their NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

San Francisco swept the regular season series with Seattle, winning 27-7 at Levi’s Stadium in week two and clinching the NFC West with a 21-13 victory in week 15 at Seattle. San Francisco held Seattle to 4.5 yards per play over the two regular season matchups. To put that into perspective, the Houston Texans finished the year with the lowest average yards per play at 4.7.

Defeating a team three times in one season is not easy. The 49ers found that out the hard way last January when they fell to the Rams in the NFC Championship game in Los Angeles. However, this time around the 49ers will be the home team. This is important to note as teams who have swept an opponent in the regular season are 12-6 when playing at home in the third matchup.

After starting the season 6-3, Seattle went 3-5 over the final eight weeks of the regular season. Seattle’s victories over the second half stretch were at the expense of the New York Jets and a sweep of the Los Angeles Rams.

Here are five things to watch for during the game:

1.) Is Brock Purdy ready for the moment?

From the time Brock Purdy entered the huddle to replace Jimmy Garoppolo the rookie quarterback has checked off every box. Now Purdy needs to prove his play will transition to the playoffs.

Purdy has experience playing in postseason games. While at Iowa State he led the Cyclones to victory over Oregon in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl.

This time around Purdy holds the 49ers Super Bowl hopes in his right arm.

On Saturday, Purdy will face a Seattle defense he has seen once before. Playing with injuries to his oblique and ribs, the signal caller completed 17 of 26 passes for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns while leading San Francisco past Seattle to clinch the NFC West.

2.) Is the 49ers offensive line up to the task?

Seattle’s defense is one of the best in the NFL at taking down opposing quarterbacks. Led by linebackers Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor the Seahawks have recorded sacks on 7.6 percent of the pass plays they’ve face, good for seventh best.

Despite going with three new starters in the interior, San Francisco’s offensive line has been one of the best in the league at protecting its quarterback. During the regulars season the 49ers allowed a sack on just 5.71 percent of their pass plays, the best since Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017.

In two games against Seattle, 49ers quarterbacks have been sacked just twice and hit only seven times.

With wet and rainy conditions expected the run game will likely take on increased importance. San Francisco has performed well against Seattle in this area as well, rushing for 189 yards in week two and 170 yards while clinching the division in week 15.

3.) Will Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle stay hot?

The mid-season addition of Christian McCaffrey has opened up the 49ers offense.

Since moving into the starting lineup in week eight, McCaffrey has averaged 113.8 yards and one touchdown per game and the 49ers have scored at least 31 points seven times.

One player who has benefited greatly from the trade is George Kittle.

Kittle was held without a touchdown through the first six weeks of the season. With McCaffrey helping create space in the defense, the 2019 First Team All-Pro has recorded a career high 11 touchdown receptions, including seven over the last four games.

The duo was responsible for 231 of San Francisco’s 381 offensive yards and all three scores in their week 15 win over Seattle.

This time around the Seahawks will also have to deal with Deebo Samuel.

4.) Will the 49ers front seven force Geno Smith to beat them?

Like Brock Purdy, 32-year-old Geno Smith will be making his playoff debut on Saturday.

Smith has cooled off over the second half of the season after a strong start. In fact, Seattle has been at its best this season when Smith has not been the focal point of the offense.

For San Francisco the focus needs to be on stopping Kenneth Walker. The few times the 49ers struggled to stop the run this year led to allowing over 20 points.

By taking away Walker the 49ers take away the play action and boot game away from Seattle. This puts the onus of leading the offense on Smith and allows Nick Bosa and the defensive line to get after the quarterback. When this happens it generally leads to turnovers and good field position for the offense.

5.) Can the San Francisco secondary keep DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in front of them?

San Francisco’s defense has done a terrific job of limiting explosive plays this season. As a result, opponents need to be methodical in their approach, giving the 49ers more opportunities to make a play.

Against Seattle that means not allowing DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett to get behind you.

Metcalf has been targeted 15 times in two games against San Francisco, his longest reception going for just 13 yards. Lockett has 20 targets against San Francisco, his longest reception went for 27 yards in week two.

Bonus question: Who wins the turnover battle?

The 49ers are 22-3 since the beginning of 2021 when they don’t turn the ball over more than their opponent compared to 1-9 when they do. Seattle has turned the ball over at least once in all but one game this season.

Prediction:

49ers 20 Seahawks 16

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