SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Wide receiver Stevie Johnson hasn't exactly been the No. 1 receiver for the 49ers that he was with the Bills when he notched three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2010 to 2012. But he's been an important piece of the offense, even in his limited snaps.
"I feel like my position is get in where you fit in," Johnson said Monday. "Take advantage of the strengths that I have, somewhat like an X-factor. I feel like me and Brandon Lloyd are X-factors that they have in their back pocket and we’ll see what happens as the season goes on."
With the Seattle Seahawks (6-4) coming to Santa Clara Thursday in a must-have game for San Francisco's playoff hopes, Johnson could see an increase in his role. The 49ers added the San Francisco native in a draft-day trade to bolster their passing attack that struggled against Pete Carroll's vaunted secondary in recent years.
When the 49ers acquired Johnson from Buffalo in May, many were quick to point to his game against Seattle in 2012 when went had eight catches for 115 yards and a score in a 50-17 loss. His quickness and ability to get off the line of scrimmage is an advantage he has against bigger, physical corners like Richard Sherman.
But Johnson has downplayed that idea - including the thought of being brought in by San Francisco primarily to give the defending world champs problems.
"You just got to run your route, get open for your quarterback," Johnson said. "It don’t really matter about the size or the speed of any other cornerback. You just got to be able to get to your spot."
Johnson has three touchdowns while catching a team-high 78 percent of his targets with his new club. He has 407 yards on 32 catches while playing just 237 snaps, compared to Michael Crabtree, who has 567 yards on 559 snaps in his contract season.
"I feel good about all of our wide receivers," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "The execution in the passing game, I feel good about. Glad, going through the stretch, we have a very healthy and productive receiving corps."
The 49ers are going need it Thursday. The Seahawks have the No. 1 ranked defense in the league, including the No. 3 unit against the pass. In their three meetings last year, including the conference title game, San Francisco averaged just 136 yards through the air.
As far as the rivalry goes, the 49ers aren't willing to add any fuel to the proverbial fire, despite everything that's been said or written since January's conference title game.
"We’ve been categorizing (the games) as every week. That’s the way we got to play," Harbaugh said. "...Think of it as your college rival. We know what that felt like, Stanford versus Cal, Michigan and Ohio State...We think of it as a playoff type of game. That’s how you got to think of it."