Three things to watch for in tonight's Seahawks vs. 49ers game

SAN FRANCISCO -- We're not going to lie.

The panic has set in.

It's just STARTING mind you. We're not in a full-fledged sweating panic; hyperventilating into a bag and such. But our palms are moist. Our brows are a little damp. The leg is shaking.

Following the Seahawks 27-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers Sunday, cracks in the armor became clearer. The offensive line is atrocious, and many pundits are calling it the worst in football.  Fourth quarter collapses are becoming commonplace, with the Hawks storied defense being dismantled by quarterbacks that used to shake in their boots at CenturyLink's sound. The defensive backfield seems increasingly depleted. Bravado lost. Boom silenced.

But there is hope. Though only around eight percent of teams who started the season 2-4 ended up in the playoffs, the Seahawks definitely have the talent and personnel to buck the trend. Despite what USA Today will have you believe, the Seahawks have one of the strongest and most capable quarterbacks in the game. Young rusher Thomas Rawls seems poised for another break-out game, and Marshawn Lynch is just gathering steam. Finally, even the team's most worrisome component -- it's offensive line -- showed glimmers of improvement against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Let's not lie. Tonight's game against the San Francisco 49ers is a must-win. And that's weird to say on game 7 of the season. But the truth.

Also the truth, luckily, is the Seahawks are favorites. Hopefully, in December, 12s can look back on this game as the turnaround for yet another great year.

3 Things to Watch for in Tonight's Seahawks vs. 49ers >>>>

3. Jim Tomsula -- Some not so ardent 12s may wonder, "who the heck is Jim Tomsula?" Tomsula is the 49ers 1st-year head coach. While not nearly as recognizable -- nor grating -- as Jim Harbaugh, Tomsula poses an interesting challenge for the Hawks. Carroll and company have never faced him. Familiar schemes, plays and styles made Harbaugh a formidable, but predictable, foe. While the 49ers are only 2-4, you can't help but wonder if Carroll would prefer a recognizble coach at this stage in the season. Recognizable is better than the unknown. Especially so for a team that's struggling.

Side note -- Tomsula never farted at a press conference. Well, he may have. But it was never confirmed.

2. The 4th Quarter -- Oh, the 4th quarter. The bane of 12s existence over the past eight games. As SB Nation reported earlier this week, the Seahawks have held a lead in every game this season into the 4th quarter. Yet the team is 2-4. Finishing is indeed the biggest problem of the season, and both the offense and defense are at fault.

Offensive drives are too short late, getting players off the field and giving the opposing offense more time. The Hawks have a plus-43 point differential through the first three quarters, but a negative-34 in the 4th quarter this year. Long sustained drives need to happen ilate, to keep the defense off the field. And the defense needs to hold when on.

1.  Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom -- The play is burned into our minds. In the final moment's of Sunday's game, Sherman and the rest of the defensive backfield suffered some sort of communication breakdown, allowing a long pass from Cam Newton to secure the Panthers' win.

Earlier this week, the Seattle Times had an article entitled "What's wrong with the Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman..." What IS wrong with Richard Sherman? He seems to have lost his edge. Not just physically, but verbally? When was the last time he went on a Sherman-esque rant. With the defense struggling, we need Sherman and the rest of the legion to return to their old ways. Verbal and otherwise.