Game breakdown: 49ers/Seahawks

Taking a look deep inside Saturday's game between the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, NFL rankings for both teams, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the key battle between NFC West rivals with playoff implications on the line for both teams.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 1:15 p.m. PST
SITE: CenturyLink Field in Sattle
SURFACE: Field Turf
RECORDS: 49ers 11-3, 3-1 in NFC West, 8-2 in NFC, 3-1 vs. AFC North; Seahawks 7-7, 3-1 in NFC West, 6-4 in NFC, 1-3 vs. AFC North
LAST WEEK: 49ers defeated Pittsburgh Steelers 20-3; Seahawks defeated Chicago Bears 38-14
NFL RANKINGS: 49ers: No. 25 in total offense, No. 5 in total defense. Seahawks No. 28 in total offense, No. 8 in total defense
TV: FOX (Ron Pitts, Charles Davis, Drea Avent)

SERIES HISTORY: 26th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series 13-12. The 49ers won the last meeting in the season opener 33-17 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The Seahawks have since lost several starters including both cornerbacks and three offensive linemen. The Seahawks hold a 7-6 edge in Seattle, having won six of the past eight games against San Francisco at CenturyLink Field.

KEYS TO THE GAME: For all the ill will between the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh and the Seahawks' Pete Carroll, the coaches have similar philosophies in that they have instilled very physical approaches on both sides of the ball. While San Francisco has a run-based offense, look for QB Alex Smith to test Seattle's tall cornerbacks on double-moves – if the offensive line holds up well for a second straight game. The Seahawks have battled through injuries to continue to pound away at opposing defenses, but wearing the 49ers down won't be easy. QB Tarvaris Jackson is also now dealing with a short deck at wide receiver – literally, as injuries have left him with a much smaller receiving corps.

FAST FACTS: The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 36 straight games or a rushing touchdown in 14 consecutive games to start the season, a NFL record. ... Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch has a touchdown in a franchise-record 10 consecutive games.

BY THE NUMBERS: 18 -- The number of turnovers Seattle has forced since Week 10, the most in the league during that stretch. 20 and 19 -- In their three losses, Alex Smith has been sacked 20 times. In their 11 wins, he's been sacked 19 times. 748 -- Marshawn Lynch's rushing yards since Week 9, the most in the league over that period. 210 -- The number of interception return yards for cornerback Brandon Browner, the most in a single season in franchise history.

"Just the look on his face is he wants to be out there bad. But I don't know the reason he's not. That's up to the coaches and him and Ferg (head trainer Jeff Ferguson) and the trainers." – 49ers TE Vernon Davis on WR Braylon Edwards
"Not a lot of people talk about him. You hear a lot about Red Bryant and all these guys but he is a big part of it up front because at times he controls two guys at the line of scrimmage and that brings up the linebackers." -- Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on the play of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane

49ERS GAME PLAN: The Seahawks have changed more markedly than the 49ers since the two teams faced each other in the season opener. Injuries have caused the Seahawks to install two big corners in rookie Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Their length and toughness makes it difficult for receivers to get off the line of scrimmage. For that reason, the 49ers might look more towards their tight ends. Defensively, the 49ers might even put eight in the box to subdue Marshawn Lynch. It's something the 49ers rarely do, but it might be a good strategy against the dangerous Lynch.

SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN: This game could come down to which team gets the first touchdown, with two pretty good defenses. San Francisco has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season, while Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has scored a touchdown in 10 straight games, so something has to give. The Seahawks gave up two returns for scores late in the game at San Francisco earlier this season, so special teams once again could play a key role in the outcome of the game.

--- Seahawks S Earl Thomas, who was all over the place in the opener, vs. 49ers RB Frank Gore, who's hurting with a number of injuries.
--- Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, who might be the toughest runner in the league right now, vs. 49ers LB Larry Grant, who's been playing well in the absence of Patrick Willis.
--- 49ers DL Justin Smith, a three-time Pro Bowler, vs. Seahawks LG Robert Gallery. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh calls Smith the MVP of his team, and for good reason. Smith is one of the most active players on San Francisco's defense. He's fifth on the team in tackles with 50, has 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Gallery is the glue guy for a Seattle offensive line that lost three starters to season-ending injuries and the veteran up front at 31 years old.
--- 49ers CB Carlos Rogers, tied for fourth in the league in interceptions with six vs. Seahawks WR Golden Tate. Rogers' ball-hawking ability is one of the reasons the Niners lead the league with a plus-25 turnover differential. Tate, in his second season, has stepped into a more crucial role for the Seahawks as a playmaker with Sidney Rice and Mike Williams done for the year.

Inside the camps


The Bay Area is buzzing about pass rusher Aldon Smith and his two-and-a-half sack performance against a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Smith was instrumental in holding the mighty Pittsburgh offense to three points with sacks and pressures.

Smith emerged as a controversial seventh overall pick in April. Most draft projections had Smith going by the 15th selection or lower because of concerns about his youth (he just turned 22) and injuries at Missouri. But now, Smith is a leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year with his 13 sacks. Smith is challenging the rookie sack record of 14.5 by Jevon Kearse in 1999.

Much of his success belongs to fellow Missouri Tiger Justin Smith, an 11th-year veteran who began mentoring the youngster shortly after he was drafted.

The younger Smith showed wisdom by choosing to work out at San Jose State during the lockout with a group of 49ers led by the elder Smith. On the first day of workouts, Aldon Smith threw up twice, which made players openly wonder if he was up to the task to being a successful NFL player.

However, Aldon Smith kept showing up at workouts and kept listening to Justin Smith, who was the first to teach him about the team's 3-4 scheme. Once the season began, Justin Smith kept helping, mainly by being the perfect stunt partner. Typically both line up on the defense's right side and often Justin Smith will consume to blockers while Aldon Smith races unimpeded into the backfield.

The wily Justin Smith excels at grabbing offensive linemen without drawing notice from officials. Smith has yet to be called for defensive holding. It sets the younger Smith up perfectly because of his burst and ability to dart through small spaces. Aldon Smith has also incorporated power into his pass rush, something defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he developed as the season progressed.

If the lanky Smith can get under an offensive tackle, he can use his long limbs and explosion to knock offensive tackles who outweigh him by 60 pounds, back into the quarterback. Smith's decking of Rams tackle Adam Goldberg has become a memorable 49ers highlight this year.

The younger Smith is clearly enjoying his newfound celebrity and some have tried to pin him with a nickname. Fellow linebacker Parys Haralson has called him, "Great Dane," a name that has stuck with some players, although Smith would prefer a different handle.

As for the roaring approval Smith hears after a sack, he says, "You get chills. Everybody saw what you did. It's kind of like you're giving everybody what they want."


The Seahawks could be without their leading receiver when they take on the 49ers.

After tweaking his ankle midway through practice on Wednesday, rookie Doug Baldwin did not practice on Thursday.

However, Seattle coach Pete Carroll told reporters after practice that he expects Baldwin to play on Saturday, and Baldwin was able to answer the call.

"He couldn't practice (earlier this week), so we're going to rest him until the weekend," Carroll said. "He just turned his ankle a little bit yesterday, but we think he's going to make it. He'll be all right."

Baldwin, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Stanford, has been a pleasant surprise for the Seahawks.

He leads the team in receptions with 46 catches for 731 yards and three touchdowns. Baldwin also is fourth among rookies in receptions, and is third in the league with 21 catches for first downs on third down. Only Roddy White (25 receptions) and Antonio Brown (23) have more.

Baldwin gets another shot to play against his former coach at Stanford, current San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh. Baldwin finished with four receptions for 83 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown, in the first game against the Niners, a 33-17 loss to open the regular season.

Harbaugh had a chance to draft Baldwin this year, but instead selected USC product Ronald Johnson in the sixth round, and Johnson no longer is with the team.

"Well, I should have drafted him," Harbaugh said. "Yeah, I'm kicking myself for not doing that. And at the same time I'm really, really happy for Doug. I've watched him this whole year whenever we're watching crossover tape. Or I've sometimes put on the tape, just to watch him and Richard (Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, another rookie from Stanford.). And I've seen him really grow the whole season."

While Harbaugh missed out, Carroll's excited to have Baldwin in Seattle.

"He just has had a great season for us - had a great camp, a terrific preseason and has just been rock-solid throughout," Carroll said. "We're thrilled to have him. We love his competitiveness, his toughness and more than just the finesse things he brings, he's such a great competitor and is right in the middle of the mentality that we love to have on this football team.

"To be able to do all that is such a great accomplishment and he's surpassed all kinds of guys that were drafted way higher than where he came in. He's got a natural chip on his shoulder, but it's a little bigger because of that I think."

Personnel news


--- LB Patrick Willis (hamstring) engaged in practice in a limited manner for the first time since sustaining the injury Dec. 4 against the Rams, but he was not in uniform against the Seahawks, missing his third consecutive game.

--- WR Braylon Edwards was again limited in practice with shoulder and knee injuries.

--- WR Ted Ginn Jr. missed practice this week with a sprained ankle and was inactive for Saturday's game.

--- WR Kyle Williams said he's prepared to fulfill Ted Ginn's return duties, and Williams was in that role Saturday. Ginn returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the opener against Seattle.

--- LB Aldon Smith is second in the league in sacks per pass play with one sack in a little over 36 snaps. Eagles DE Jason Babin averages a sack in just over every 34 snaps.


--- LB Malcolm Smith (concussion) did not practice this week.

--- OG Robert Gallery (pelvis) was a full participant in practice this week.

--- CB Kennard Cox (hamstring) didn't practice this week and was uncertain to play against the 49ers.

--- QB Tarvaris Jackson (strained pectoral muscle) was a full participant in practice this week and started against the 49ers.

--- LB David Hawthorne (knee) was a full participant in practice this week.

--- DT Clinton McDonald (concussion) returned to practice as a limited participant on Thursday.

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