SANTA CLARA -- It does not take a week of film study and in-depth analysis to figure out who makes the Seattle Seahawks’ offense go.
The answer, according to 49ers defensive end Dee Ford is simple.
“Russell,” he said.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the clear NFL Most Valuable Player through half of the season. He has thrown 22 touchdown passes with just one interception, while being the driving force behind the Seahawks’ 7-2 record -- with six of their victories coming by seven points or fewer.
The 49ers and Seahawks meet Monday night in a key NFC West matchup. The 49ers (8-0) will look to extend their lead in the division, while the Seahawks (7-2) will look for Wilson to lead them back into the thick of the division race.
Wilson is dangerous from the pocket or after a play breaks down and he is using his point-guard quickness to side-step pass-rushers to buy time and deliver the ball down the field.
How can Wilson be stopped?
“Tackle him,” Ford said, “and that’s a hard task. But, honestly, you still got to play defense, got to play sound defense, what we’ve been doing.
“We got to all be on one page, still be aggressive, but understand that he can be Houdini at times and really get out outside the pocket, make some things happen, so we got to plaster in coverage and rush him, and we’ll be fine.”
The 49ers managed to keep Wilson in check the past two seasons with Robert Saleh as defensive coordinator. Wilson completed 63.6 percent of his pass attempts in the past four games against the 49ers for 212 yards per game with nine touchdowns and one interception.
But he is playing at an incredibly high level, averaging 278.3 yards passing per game with an NFL-best passer rating of 118.2.
“He’s been playing his tail off, but he’s making the right decisions at all the right times,” 49ers edge rusher Ronald Blair said. “He’s really just doing almost everything for the team right now. He’s playing very well.”
Blair, Ford and Nick Bosa will face a huge challenge coming from the outside, while DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas rush from the inside on nickel downs.
“You have to be thinking of everything,” Blair said. “Could he break contain and step up through a rushing lane? Could he just be stepping up to try to buy some time to get the ball downfield? You really have to be cognizant of everything going on.
“That’s what separates him from a lot of stationary quarterbacks. He can move and still have eyes down the field.”
The game plan, as Ford suggested, will focus on keeping Wilson from single-handedly winning the game. But carrying out the specifics is always the difficult part.
Said Blair, “You got to have a good plan, and you have to execute it, which is easier said than done.”