Just a couple of years ago, the NFC West was the laughingstock of the NFL. There was no significant competition, as all four teams struggled to even reach .500. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs at just 7-9.
But the times have changed. Standing toe to toe with the Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers can now declare themselves as one of the best teams not only in their division, but in the entire league. The up-and-coming rivalry between the Seahawks and 49ers has just begun, and it is here to stay.
In fact, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh have a history dating back to their college coaching days.
Words were exchanged regarding Carroll’s status as head coach of the USC Trojans, and in a 2009 matchup, Harbaugh directed his Stanford Cardinal to go for two in a 48-21 blowout. That controversial attempt sparked further tension between the two.
Now their personal battles continue into the professional ranks. Since 2011, Harbaugh has had the upper hand, winning three out of four games against Seattle. But in their last meeting together, Carroll’s Seahawks humiliated the 49ers on national television, 42-13.
From a broader standpoint, the two organizations form a striking mirror image of one another, which is why this rivalry stands out. From their geographic location, to the head coaches, right on down to the personnel, the Seahawks and 49ers share many distinct similarities. Even the offensive and defensive statistics show that they share an identical approach to the game.
The offenses of both teams rely on being physical at the line of scrimmage. Their veteran running backs are capable of carrying their respective teams, but with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick rising up in the ranks, the two franchises can afford to lean on their young quarterbacks. Each signal caller is mobile, possesses a strong arm and is changing how the position is played. Using their athletic talents, defenses are placed in a very tough spot in trying to stop their unique arsenal.
Playing beside the young quarterbacks are No. 1-caliber receivers in Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree. They were drafted in 2009, but each bring different strengths to the table. Harvin is multidimensional, who can catch passes out of the backfield, line up in the slot and return kicks. On the other hand, Crabtree is a more conventional wideout who plays to his size and strength to win individual matchups. Despite their differences, the receivers are capable of changing the outcome of a game.
Both teams also rely heavily on their defense to maintain success. While their respective units implement different schemes, they are fast and physical. It’s hard to find any weak areas among their starters. Last season the 49ers and Seahawks ranked third and fourth respectively in total defense. Expect more of the same dominance in 2013.
The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is right up there when discussing the top rivals in the league. They may not have the documented history of the AFC North or NFC East, but their battles are just as intense.
Led by fiery head coaches and star quarterbacks, this bitter, bi-annual West Coast showdown is not going away anytime soon. So sit back and get comfortable as the two franchises duke it out for the next decade.