BY Art Thiel 06:32PM 10/09/2019

Thiel: 49ers give Seahawks a plan for Browns

After the Browns gave up 275 rushing yards to the 49ers Sunday, Seahawks may as well give Chris Carson 40 carries and let Russell Wilson put up his feet.

The Seahawks need to do this play about 40 times Sunday in Cleveland. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Based on the Monday night game in which the San Francisco 49ers gashed the Browns for 275 yards rushing in a 31-3 triumph, here’s a brilliantly conceived game plan for the Seahawks game in Cleveland Sunday: Give the ball 40 times to Chris Carson and his fellow running backs, leaving about 10 pass attempts for Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks would win, by about 41-17. Pete Carroll, you can thank me later.

Wednesday in the Seahawks locker room, I suggested the idea to Carson. He smiled.

“I feel like it would make sense,” he said. “But at the same time, we have a Hall or Fame quarterback. You gotta use that weapon.”

True. But I didn’t suggest retiring Wilson at halftime. As we have seen, the more the Seahawks run well, the more efficient Wilson gets with his pass attempts. Few defenses can handle both.

Besides, why subject Wilson to unnecessary risk from a pass rusher as menacing as Browns DE Myles Garrett?  You may have heard that, despite rules protections worthy of Churchill in World War II, the casualty rate among NFL quarterbacks in 2019 is high.

I’d like to claim credit for the 40/10 idea, but the Seahawks have already made some test runs with the concept. Noteworthy was a year ago in Seattle’s first game against the 49ers, when the Seahawks were up 20-3 at halftime after giving Carson 20 carries for 90 yards.

Wilson . . . ahem . . . was four for six for 102 yards and three touchdowns.

That’s the sort of efficient purity found in nature only with photosynthesis.

Wilson eventually ballooned to 11 of 17 for 185 yards and four TDs. The rushers finished with 168 yards on 29 carries. The Seahawks won, 43-16.

The 49ers Monday took the run-first-second-third concept to another level, their 275 yards coming on 40 carries, allowing for 37 minutes of possession. Four turnovers helped, but the stiletto was slipped in on the game’s first scrimmage play when RB Matt Breida, on a brilliant design behind a block by FB Kyle Juszczyk, went 83 yards for a score.

It began an overwhelming night for the Niners, at 4-0 off to their best start in nearly 30 years. Whoever presumed the run game is dead in the NFL apparently goes to bed before West Coast games.

“(The Browns) got stung right off the bat,” Carroll said Wednesday. “It was a play that they stopped later. It just got out one time; they made a mistake on it. You saw a real committed running team from San Francisco. They stayed after it and they had plenty of success. They had some big plays and kept the yardage popping. Such a hard start (for the Browns).

“That night was San Francisco’s night. It didn’t matter what happened, really. The ball kept coming their way and they kept making the plays. They looked great.”

As a partial result, the Browns (2-3) defense is giving up a per-game average of 150.8 rushing yards, 29th in the NFL. Even Carson couldn’t quite understand it.

“They’re banged up in the secondary with two corners out, but it was just weird because they got a good defense,” he said. “The front group is great, and linebackers come downhill and play the run pretty well.”

Carson was impressed with Breida’s burst as he ran away from defensive backs.

“Was it 22 miles an hour?” Carson asked, the figure quoted on broadcast as Breida’s top speed. When asked to offer his best clocking, he was quick.

“Last year against Arizona, on a 66-yard run — 20.87, which rounds to 21,” he said. “I don’t look like I’m fast when I’m playing, but I’m fast. Gimme a lane, man . . . top five on this team, put that in your story.”

The confidence flows from a guy who played on a Sunday (104 yards rushing) then a Thursday (118), plus five receptions for 46 yards combined, and doesn’t seem at all worn.

“Friday I was all good, then Saturday I realized I took some hits,” he said of the mini-bye weekend after the Rams win. “It’s the recovery that’s important. I love Thursday games because you have so much time to get your body right.

“Right now I feel great.”

The man seems close to indestructible, and the Browns defense seems kinda crumbly. So the game plan makes sense, right?

“I’ll do whatever’s asked,” Carson said.  “We’ll see what happens.”

The 49ers’ game plan was so ruthlessly effective that it blew up Carroll’s Monday instruction to players to watch the game between opponents they play three times in the final 10 regular-season games.

“I don’t think it was my best assignment as a teacher,” he said. “The game didn’t work out. I was hoping it was going to be a real battle. The game kind of got lopsided, so it wasn’t as beneficial.

“It’s still really good to see the (opponents). You hear the stories about the players and the backgrounds. The guys will come in here today much more familiar with them.  Too bad it wasn’t a better game.”

Then again, it laid out the plan, which would then create opportunity for Wilson to become the first quarterback MVP in NFL history to have a regular-season game of, say, eight completions and five touchdowns.

BTW, Seahawks at 49ers, Nov. 11, Monday night football. Get your Jim Harbaugh inflatable dolls out the closet, and test for leaks now.


  • Matt Kite

    Sounds like a good plan, although I imagine the game will be a lot closer — and nowhere near a gimme. I hope the Seahawks aren’t overconfident after watching the MNF shellacking.

    • art thiel

      It’s a home game after a national humiliation. They will be fired up. Nothing like 40 rushes to bore the hell out of players and fans.

  • jafabian

    I bet this weekend Mayfield will make sure the cameras show that he’s shaking hands with as many Seahawks as possible. The Hawks should have Travis Homer be a captain for the game just to see if Richard Sherman reacts at seeing another player with his number after the way he reacted on Twitter at seeing Jamar Taylor wearing Marshawn’s number.

    • art thiel

      Sherman is great at manufacturing mad-ons. Seeing how well it helped him with the Seahawks probably gets him a pass from most fans.

  • ll9956

    The game that Carroll should have assigned the players to watch, in preparation for Cleveland, was UW vs. Stanford. The Huskies were favored by double digits. It was a classic example of what happens when a team doesn’t give proper respect to an underdog opponent.

    • art thiel

      After beating USC, the Huskies brought no edge to Stanford. I bet Petersen felt it, but he wouldn’t admit it publicly. Kids.

  • Will Ganschow

    I would think it is quite possible that someday Richard Sherman’s name goes in the Ring of Honor. At present I wonder if the game plan could include shutting him up. That said I do subscribe to Pete Carrol’s philosophy that positive energy wins more often than negative stuff. Next play the most important one.

    • art thiel

      Sherman will make the Ring, and it wouldn’t be him if he shut up. Who knows, once he makes his first apology and survives it, he may try it again.

  • Kevin Lynch

    You’d think this game would be a gimme but…there is an interesting Hawk-49er comparison that can be made with both teams having played the Bengals and Browns by this weekend. Hawks struggled with the Bengals in Seattle and the 49er’s killed them in Cincy. So the Seahawks have a chance to make a statement in Cleveland. One way of the other. I have Seattle in back of San Francisco in terms of the division and finishing first. SF has a pattycake schedule and the Hawks schedule gets tough after this week. But if the balls keep bouncing they way they did last weekend anything is possible.

    • art thiel

      After watching SF Monday, I’m impressed enough to agree. Serious ball there. Losing their versatile FB to injury is a big deal, but of course he’ll heal ahead of Nov. 11.

  • Husky73

    The Browns were the “new cool kid” choice in the off season to rise up in 2019. Now, not so much.

    • art thiel

      The transformation to a winning culture happens quicker in the NFL than any sport. But not fast enough for Sunday.