Seahawks, 49ers on eve of something special

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by Sportspress Northwest Staff

SportsPressNorthwest

Posted on December 26, 2011 at 10:01 AM

GAME: 49ers (11-3) at Seahawks (7-7). WHEN: Saturday, 1:15 p.m., CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 26th (Seahawks lead 13-12). LINE: 49ers by 2 1/2. TV: FOX. RADIO: ESPN-710.

Winners of five of their past six, the Seahawks look to keep their faint playoff hopes alive when they contest the NFC West division champion San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers are a formidable roadblock to Seattle's postseason aspirations, which require that Seattle win its remaining games while the Detroit Lions lose their final two.

While the Seahawks have rushed for at least 100 yards in six of their past seven games, San Francisco is No. 1 in the NFL against the rush and has not permitted a rushing touchdown this season.

"This is a really good football team in so many ways – the terrific upsurge from one year to the next by the program and the coaching staff and their players," said head coach Pete Carroll. "We’ve got a really formidable opponent in this one. I’m excited that we have these guys coming in. This is our last chance to play here for the season and we want to go out with a bang and do it right. It’s a big event on Christmas Eve and we expect nothing short – our fans have always been unbelievable and I’m sure that they’ll turn out and have a lot of fun with this one.

About San Francisco's run defense, Carroll said, "They just don’t give you anything. We’re going to have to fight and claw for every yard.

"We’re going to have to give everything we have to protect the quarterback. If we’re able to move the football on the ground and get some yards and stay with it then that’ll help us, but they’re not giving any points up to anybody."

Jim Harbaugh is just the third coach in San Francisco history to win a division title in his first year on the job. Saturday, he will have to find a way to defend Seattle WR Doug Baldwin, whom Harbaugh coached in 2010 at Stanford. Baldwin went undrafted and signed with Seattle as a free agent. He caught 46 passes for 731 yards and three touchdowns.

"I should’ve drafted him," Harbaugh said. "Kicking myself for not doing that and at the same time, I'm really happy for Doug. I’ve watched – you know, you’ve watched him this whole year and whenever we’re watching crossover tape or sometimes put on the tape just to watch him and Richard Sherman (another ex-Cardinal), I’ve seen him really grow the whole season, from preseason.

"He’s been relentless. He’s doing a great job on special teams too. He’s one of the leading production guys on special teams, I imagine, just from watching the tape. He lines up in a lot of different places and does a lot of different things for Seattle. Yeah, it’s been great to see for him, knowing him the way I know him. I can’t say enough.  Now, all that being said, it’ll be a great challenge preparing for the Seahawks this weekend and both those youngsters.”

The Seahawks were 2-6 in the first half and have a chance to go 7-1 in the second half. The only edition of the Seahawks to produce a 7-1 second-half record came in 2005, Seattle's Super Bowl season.

"We’ve come a long ways," said Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. "We tried to rededicate ourselves to the second half and learn from the first half. It’s brought us a long way, and we feel like we’ve established our identity a little bit and feel we know exactly what the coaches want from us as a team on offense, defense and special teams. It’s been big for us."

In addition to featuring the NFL's No. 1 defense against the run, a major key to San Francisco's success has been its turnover/takeaway differential. The 49ers are at +21, best mark in the league (Seattle is +8).

RIVALRY: Dates to Sept. 26, 1976, when the Seahawks, in the third regular-season game in franchise history, fell to the 49ers 37-21 at the Kingdome. San Francisco has won its past two against Seattle, including 33-17 in the 2011 opener Sept. 11. The teams have split the past six. The Seahawks are 7-6 against San Francisco in Seattle and 6-3 against the 49ers at CenturyLink Field.

LAST REGULAR-SEASON MEETING (Sept. 11, 2011): Ted Ginn Jr. scored on a 102-yard kickoff return and a 55-yard punt return, and David Akers kicked four field goals, leading San Francisco to a 33-17 season-opening win over the Seahawks. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, making his Seattle debut, threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to rookieDoug Baldwin, but was sacked five times for 42 yards in losses. The Seahawks trailed 16-0 at the half despite gaining 219 total yards to San Francisco's 209.

LAST GAME (Seahawks, Dec. 12): Red Bryant'sINT return for a touchdown, Seattle's second score in a 55-second span, sent the Seahawks on their way to a 38-14 rout of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Bryant, Seattle's 323-pound defensive end, swiped a Caleb Haniepass at the 12:12 mark of the third quarter and returned it 20 yards, high-stepping his way to the end zone. The Bears had a 14-7 lead at the end of the half, but the Seahawks ran away with the game in the second half. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch scored two touchdowns, extending his streak of consecutive games scoring at least one TD to 10, a franchise record.

LAST GAME (49ers, Dec. 13): After a pair of stadium power outages that delayed the game for nearly 35 minutes, the 49ers rode their top-ranked defense to a 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night. For San Francisco, Frank Gore ran for 65 yards and a touchdown and QB Alex Smith threw for 187 yards and a TD as the 49ers improved to 11-3.

COACHES: Pete Carroll is in his second season as head coach of the Seahawks. In 2010, he directed Seattle to the NFC West title, the Seahawks becoming the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing (7-9) record. Prior to joining the Seahawks, Carroll served as head coach at Southern California, where his Trojans won two national championships and seven Pac-10 titles.

Jim Harbaugh: Harbaugh is in his first year as head coach of the 49ers, and has already won a division title (NFC West). Prior to taking the San Francisco job, Harbaugh coached at Stanford University from 2007-10. A former Michigan quarterback, he played in the NFL from 1987-00.

SEAHAWKS STATS/NOTES: The Seahawks rank 28th in the NFL in total offense (301.9), 22nd in rushing offense (103.9), 23rd in passing offense (198.1) and 23rd in scoring offense (20.3). Defensively, Seattle ranks eighth in total defense (327.0), 11th in rushing defense (106.3), T13 in pass defense (220.7) and sixth in points allowed per game (19.5) . . . In the 25 games played between Seattle and San Francisco, the Seahawks have scored 600 points to San Francisco's 513 . . . DE Chris Clemons leads Seattle in sacks with 11.0 . . . The Seahawks placed WR Mike Williams on injured reserve after he underwent surgery to repair a broken ankle . . . The Seahawks have signed CB Phillip Adams in case Kennard Cox (hamstring) is unable to play against the 49ers.

49ers STATS/NOTES: The 49ers rank 25th in the NFL in total offense (307.4), 9th in rushing offense (125.0), 29th in passing offense (182.4) and 14th in points per game (23.4). Defensively, San Francisco ranks fifth in total defense (311.1), first in rush defense (71.5), 12th in pass defense (239.6) and first in points allowed per game (13.2) . . . Gore leads the San Francisco rushing attack with 1,119 yards and seven touchdowns . . . Quarterback Alex Smith has thrown for 2,752 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions and a passer rating of 91.1 . . . rookie Aldon Smith has 13.0 sacks for San Francisco.

ART THIEL'S TAKE: Williams becomes the sixth original offensive starter lost to injury, and at some point it figures to hurt. That point would be Saturday. Seattle's past three victories, over Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicago, have come against teams far more messed up than than were the Seahawks. As the 49ers showed Monday night against Pittsburgh, they are not messed up.This is an all-hands-on-deck game, and the Seahawks have too many difference-makers overboard.

Smith is becoming an efficient game manager, but still isn't a great quarterback. If the Seahawks defense can deliver big pressure on him, he will make mistakes. Otherwise, it's a battle of field goal kickers. San Francisco 16, Seattle 12.

STEVE RUDMAN'S TAKE: The Seahawks need to get more production out of their passing game than they've been getting in recent weeks (or for most of the season). The 49ers are actually worse at throwing the ball than the Seahawks -- San Francisco ranks 29th in the NFL, while Seattle ranks an almost-as-abysmal 23rd -- and the Seahawks need to exploit that.

Don't expect Seattle to run successfully against the 49ers, who haven't allowed a rushing TD in 14 games and feature the NFL's best offense against the run (71.5 yards per game), despite the fact the Seahawks have recorded 100-yard rushing games in six of their past seven. So Jackson needs to step it up.

Two interesting things are at play here: San Francisco has already clinched the NFC West, and is playing only for seeding. Seattle is still in the distant hunt for a playoff berth. Seattle has more at stake and will be playing its final game of the year at CenturyLink Field. That matters. Seahawks 24, San Francisco 21.

COMING UP: Seattle concludes its 2011 regular season with a Jan. 1, 2012 game at Arizona. 2011 Seahawks Schedule/Results

Date Opponent Time TV W/L Score Rec.
9/11/11 at San Francisco 1:15 p.m. FOX L 33-17 0-1
9/18/11 at Pittsburgh 10 a.m. FOX L 24-0 0-2
9/25/11 vs. Arizona 1:15 p.m. FOX W 13-10 1-2
10/2/11 vs. Atlanta 1:05 p.m. FOX L 30-28 1-3
10/9/11 at N.Y. Giants 10 a.m. FOX W 36-25 2-3
10/16/11 Bye week --- --- --- --- ---
10/23/11 at Cleveland 10 a.m. FOX L 6-3 2-4
10/30/11 vs. Cincinnati 1:15 p.m. CBS L 34-12 2-5
11/6/11 at Dallas 10 a.m. FOX L 23-13 2-6
11/13/11 vs. Baltimore 1:05 p.m. CBS W 22-17 3-6
11/20/11 at St. Louis 1:05 p.m. FOX W 24-7 4-6
11/27/11 vs. Washington 1:05 p.m. FOX L 23-17 4-7
12/1/11 vs. Philadelphia 5:20 p.m. NFLN W 31-14 5-7
12/12/11 vs. St. Louis 5:30 p.m. ESPN W 30-13 6-7
12/18/11 at Chicago 10 a.m. FOX W 38-14 7-7
12/24/11 vs. San Francisco 1:15 p.m. FOX --- --- ---
1/1/12 at Arizona 1:15 p.m. FOX --- --- ---

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