Game breakdown: 49ers/Seahawks

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's season opener between the 49ers and defending NFC West champion Seattle at Candlestick Park, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the early showdown between divisional rivals.


KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:15 p.m. PT
SITE: Candlestick Park in San Francisco
SURFACE: Natural grass
2010 RECORDS: 49ers 6-10, 4-2 in NFC West, third-place finish in division; Seahawks 7-9, 4-2 in NFC West, division champion, advanced to semifinals of NFC playoffs
TV: FOX (Dick Stockton, John Lynch, Jamie Maggio)

SERIES HISTORY: It's the 25th regular-season meeting between the division rivals, with the Seahawks holding a 13-11 lead in the series. Embattled quarterback Alex Smith had his signature game to date against the Seahawks in December 2006. After struggling for three quarters in a Northwestern downpour, the weather cleared briefly and Smith led three fourth-quarter touchdown drives which included an eight-yard touchdown strike to Vernon Davis and another 20-yarder to running back Frank Gore. The Seahawks beat the Niners at home in last year's season opener, 31-6. But the Seahawks lost on the road in San Francisco for the third consecutive year, 40-21 on Dec. 12. The Seahawks have won 11 of the last 16 contests and five of the last eight between the teams.

FAST FACTS: Seattle's new quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, along with WR Sidney Rice and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell all were with the Vikings last season. ... The 49ers are 10-0 when Smith has a passer rating of at least 96.0. ... Pete Carroll (Southern Cal) and Jim Harbaugh (Stanford) meet for the first time as NFC West division rivals. They were noted enemies in the Pac-10.

BY THE NUMBERS: 127.6 – The average number of yards Frank Gore amassed from scrimmage in his career against the Seahawks. No player has a higher average against Seattle. 20-12 – Seattle's opening-month record from 2001 to 2010, tied for the fourth-best winning percentage (62.5 percent) in the league. 10 – Number of Seattle players left on the roster from when Carroll took over the team in January 2010.

QUOTES TO NOTE
"You try to hit delete on those and move forward," – 49ers quarterback Alex Smith when asked about how he prepared in his prior six NFL seasons.
"It's very exciting that we get this opportunity to go out here and play the game we love. After how everything started out with the lockout and stuff, I'm just very excited about everything." - Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on looking forward to his first season-opener with Seattle.

49ERS GAME PLAN: Employing the old Bill Walsh tactic, the 49ers might attempt to get the early lead by throwing the ball. Alex Smith has had some of his best games against the Seahawks. The 49ers also might try to attack using short passes, which is what Smith did throughout the preseason with a West Coast characteristic.

SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Seahawks will focus on limiting their mistakes, taking care of the ball and putting points on the board when they have an opportunity. Seattle had a minus-17 turnover ratio in the team's nine, regular-season losses last season, and a plus-8 turnover ratio in the team's seven wins. Defensively, Seattle will focus on stopping running back Frank Gore and make quarterback Alex Smith beat them through the air behind an untested offensive line.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

49ers OLB Ahmad Brooks, who was the team's best pass rusher in training camp, vs. rookie RT James Carpenter, who struggled in the preseason. Carpenter, in his first career start, also will be involved in another key matchup with Niners DE Justin Smith, a two-time Pro Bowler. Carpenter also could start at left guard if Robert Gallery does not make it back from a sprained knee. But where ever he winds up, expect the San Francisco defense to find him and test him early with Smith, one of the best pass rushers in the game.
49ers RB Frank Gore, who once gained 212 yards rushing against Seattle, vs. Seahawks MLB James Hawthorne, who's been slowed with a knee injury.
49ers running game, which will try to bounce plays outside, vs. Seattle defensive line, which is big and plays a lot of two-gap.
Seahawks CB Brandon Browner, CFL standout and first career start, vs. 49ers WR Braylon Edwards. The Seahawks will start the 6-4, 220-pound Browner in part to face big receivers like Edwards, a free agent who signed during the offseason with the 49ers. So expect San Francisco to test Browner with Edwards, Michael Crabtree and other big receivers

Inside the camps


SEAHAWKS

Even with San Francisco going through several changes in the offseason, driven by the hiring of new head coach Jim Harbaugh, one thing remains the same if you want to beat the 49ers - you have to stop running back Frank Gore.

"No doubt," Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "You know all three of those running backs have been playing pretty good in preseason. And I know coach Solari (San Francisco's offensive line coach), he's got those O-linemen playing really well right now. So we're getting into a mindset that we're just going to have to be flexible. We kind of have our base game plan, with a chance to adjust a little bit depending on what we're seeing. But the whole premise is to stop the run."

San Francisco averaged a robust 4.6 yards per carry during exhibition play, including running for a whopping 239 yards against Oakland.

The 28-year-old Gore is still going strong; he recently inked a three-year, $21 million extension to stay in San Francisco. Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter also proved they can get the job done if called upon during preseason play.

The Seahawks are hopeful they will be up to full speed defensively when they travel to San Francisco.

Linebacker David Hawthorne (knee) was a limited participant in practice on Thursday, working mostly with the scout team, which allowed rookie K.J. Wright to take most of the reps at middle linebacker with the first unit.

"K.J.'s been getting the majority of the reps," Bradley said. "And he's been playing really well in the preseason, so hopefully - I don't know what's the latest with the trainers - but whatever the case I think the team has a lot of confidence in K.J."

There's also some concern if the team's leading pass rusher last season, Chris Clemons, will be ready. Clemons tweaked his ankle during the team's walk-through before practice on Thursday, and had to miss practice to get his ankle treated.

Clemons injured the same ankle he had surgery on during the offseason.

"He just tweaked his ankle a little bit in walk-through if you can believe that," Bradley said. "So he got treatment, and we just wanted to make sure he got enough treatment for it."

49ERS

Jim Harbaugh vowed to revive the wide receiver position as coach of the 49ers. Steps were taken Thursday to bring that about. Not only did Michael Crabtree return to the practice field without incident after undergoing foot surgery in July, but, according to the The Sports Xchange, the team worked out former Rams receiver Donnie Avery.

Known as a speedster, Avery ran a 4.43 40 in 2008 at the college combine that year and a 4.27 time at his pro day. Taken in the second round that season, Avery's best season was his rookie year when he caught 53 passes for 674 yards. The next year, he dropped to 47 catches. In 2010, Avery injured his knee in the third game of the season and missed the rest of the year.

This summer, Avery was released when the Rams trimmed the roster to 53 players.

Crabtree, meanwhile, engaged in his first full practice of the year after breaking his foot on June 8, the first day of informal lockout workouts organized by quarterback Alex Smith. When pain persisted, Crabtree went for an X-ray, which revealed the break. However, unlike the last broken foot, which occurred in his last year at Texas Tech, Crabtree did not require a pin to set the bone.

Crabtree said the recovery time was relatively short and he will be outfitted with an orthopedic insert in his new Nike cleats, which Crabtree called "pretty sweet."

This is the third time Crabtree has missed all of training camp. The first year, he held out. Last season, he sustained a neck injury and this year, he had the broken foot. Nevertheless, Crabtree could see some playing time against the Seahawks in the opener.

Personnel news


SEAHAWKS

--- OG Robert Gallery (knee) missed practice for a third straight day on Friday and appears unlikely to play on Sunday.
--- WR Sidney Rice (shoulder) also did not practice for a third straight day Friday and also appears unlikely to play on Sunday.
--- OT James Carpenter worked primarily at left guard at the end of the week with Gallery out, and appears ready to start there.
--- OT Russell Okung (ankle) appears to have fully recovered from a sprained ankle and is expected to play on Sunday.
--- RB Marshawn Lynch has showed no ill effects from a sore ankle and is ready to play against San Francisco.

49ERS

--- S Dashon Goldson has not practiced since last week due to a knee injury and has declared himself out for the game. He was listed as doubtful on the team's injury report Friday.
--- LB Keaton Kristick reached an injury settlement with the team and was waived from injured reserve. Kristick injured his ankle in the final preseason game.
--- S Madieu Williams appears to be the likely starter at free safety for Goldson, because even though Reggie Smith is practicing, he's also recovering from a knee injury sustained early in camp.
--- DE Justin Smith is set to start his 155th straight game on Sunday, which is sixth among active players.


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