San Francisco 49ers head coach said he likes rivalries and always has. But that hasn't deterred his thinking that Sunday night's prime time tilt against Pete Carroll and his Seahawks is no different than any other game on the schedule.
"10 out of 10 your next game is your most important game of the season," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "I don't know if you can make it 11 out of 10 you know, it's 10 out of 10."
At least that much is clear.
For everyone outside the team's facility in Santa Clara, Sunday night's matchup between the two premier teams in the NFC will tell a lot about how the rest of the regular season will shape up. And the loser will have Dec. 8 - when the two teams meet again in San Francisco - circled on the calender in red ink.
Both teams have engaged in their varying degrees of passive aggressive behavior typical of rivalries, and it all means nothing.
Whether or not Harbaugh honked his horn at Seattle's team bus last season has no impact on players winning the battle at the line of scrimmage or a jump ball in the end zone. His comments about San Francisco being "above reproach" in regards to Seattle players' use of Adderall will mean nothing Sunday, either.
Nor would Richard Sherman's smack talk prevent a field goal from flying through the uprights. All the printed and posted fodder is meant to keep the dialogue going until the helmets come on.
It's all just noise that neither team has to worry about come 5:30 P.M. Sunday night.
But not all the noise involved is inconsequential.
The Seahawks and their famed "12th Man" are hoping to break a Guinness world record for making the most noise of any outdoor sports venue. That's the noise that can have an impact on the game.
"You have to try to project your voice, make sure everyone's hearing what's going on," Colin Kaepernick said.
Late last season during their run to the Super Bowl, the 49ers introduced a system to snap the ball with no verbal interaction between Kaepernick and the rest of the offense.
When the formation was set, right guard Alex Boone would look back at Kaepernick from his three-point stance, and would then tap center Jonathan Goodwin when Kaepernick indicated he was ready for the ball.
It allowed for Goodwin to keep his focus on the defensive front instead of having to look back at the quarterback.
Why is a seemingly small issue so important for one of the best team's in the NFL? Because getting the proper plays called on time has been the offense's Achilles heal since Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith. It cost them on the last drive in the Super Bowl and it cost them in Sunday's win over Green Bay.
"At times it can be deafening, so you have to make sure everybody on the same page," Anquan Boldin said. "We'll try to communicate without words as much as possible."
And there lies the challenge.
The 49ers implement a system where they call multiple plays in the huddle and check to one based on what the defense dictates, or audible to a new play all together.
As highly regarded as coordinator Greg Roman is for his creativity and ability to take advantage of certain looks the defense is giving him, those skills become moot if his offense can't get the right signals to all the players before the play clock runs out.
It could be even more difficult in a no-huddle situation, when there are receivers 15 and 20 yards away.
"I'm sure they're going to take care of whatever their issues are," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
"But our crowd does it make it hard on the opponent. It's not just the fact that it's loud, it's so constant, it just doesn't go away."
With Seattle's defense likely being the best the 49ers will see all season, the margin of error will be considerably smaller Sunday night than it was against a Packers group that was missing two of its key players in the secondary.
San Francisco has dealt with the noise with the customary use of loudspeakers blasting music and crowd noise on to their practice field in Santa Clara. And they have the advantage of playing in loud venues outside of Seattle en route to the Super Bowl.
Despite throwing for a career-high 412 yards in the season opener against Green Bay, Pete Carroll said he didn't see much improvement from Colin Kaepernick in his first full season as the starter.
He's seeing the same things that helped guide the 49ers to New Orleans last winter, he said.
"I thought he looked great from his stretch in the postseason last year and was really on it – was able to make all the throws that they needed and a lot of challenging throws. I think it's just an extension of that, but you can see the belief in him from the coaching staff. They really trust him and he really went for it," Carroll said via conference call Wednesday.
Kaepernick had his worst start as a pro in Week 16's 29-point loss in Seattle. His 52.8 completion percentage was his lowest of the year and the offense converted just 3 of 11 (27 percent) of its third downs. Vernon Davis had one catch on his lone target of the night.
The 49ers are hoping to continue to see improved results from its young quarterback as he gets deeper into his second season as the starter. But he faces much more difficult challenge Sunday than what Green Bay had to offer.
Carroll was asked Wednesday if the Seahawks had any potential interest in quarterback B.J. Daniels heading into last spring's draft. The 49ers drafted the former South Florida QB in the seventh round and he beat out two-year incumbent Scott Tolzien for the No. 3 job by showing his play-making ability in the preseason.
"As a matter of fact we did and we thought he was a very good football player, somewhat underrated and maybe under the radar a little bit," Carroll said.
Daniels was sporting a No. 3 scout team jersey at Wednesday's practice, and has very similar profile to the Seahawks' star quarterback he was emulating: Russell Wilson.
"We thought he was a nice player and an interesting guy to get on the team. Thought a lot of him," Carroll added.
Unless something unforeseen happens to one of the 49ers' quarterbacks this week, Daniels will likely remain inactive Sunday night. But if something freakish did occur, Carroll thinks he has a good idea of what to expect.
"We feel like we know him, so if he has a chance to play, at least we have some background in him," he said. "We studied him very carefully and all that. But we think a lot of his ability."
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