SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Before the 49ers finished 8-8 in 2014, they averaged 12 wins a season during Jim Harbaugh's first three years as head coach, when they went to three straight conference title games while making a Super Bowl appearance.
Sunday's opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, have also averaged 12 regular season wins over the last three seasons, which included two straight Super Bowl appearances, with their lone championship coming in 2013.
Now, the Seahawks find themselves at 4-5 after Sunday's home loss to Arizona, tied with four teams who are two games out of a wild card spot behind Green Bay and Atlanta, who stand at 6-3.
"Sometimes you get the breaks and sometimes you don’t," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. "Guys played hard, they’ve done everything their supposed to do. You win some, you lose some."
Despite being virtually the same team that contended over the last three seasons, much like the 49ers were in 2014, Seattle's losing record speaks to how difficult it is to remain an elite team for a prolonged period.
And with that losing record, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula doesn't believe the rivals to the North are any less potent than they have been over the last three seasons.
"To answer that question, that would be, I had a view that Seattle is on the decline, which I do not. I think Seattle is really good," Tomsula said Wednesday. "The second part of that, in terms of is it hard to stay consistently winning in the NFL? Yeah, I think all know that. Winning a game in the NFL is extremely hard, let alone multiple, let alone for years. It’s a tough business."
The Seahawks defense is still one of the best in the league, ranking second in total yards (303) and second in passing defense (202).
It remains to be seen if Seattle's 'championship window' is indeed closing, like the 49ers' has, now that the front office has allocated more money to its quarterback Russell Wilson, who will make an average of $21 million starting next season, while the team faces an uphill climb to return to the playoffs for a fourth-straight season.
On his rookie contract, Wilson's highest cap figure was $817,302 last season, according to Overthecap.com, allowing Seattle the luxury of allocating resources elsewhere.
The last time the 49ers and Seahawks played Oct. 22, a Thursday night, both teams entered the week 2-4. Of course, Seattle soundly beat San Francisco 20-3, two weeks before Tomsula decided to bench Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert.
Oddly enough, Seattle's 4-5 record comes on the heels of Wilson signing a four-year extension in July. Kaepernick signed his six-year deal in July before the start of last season, when the 49ers were considered serious contenders to reach the Super Bowl after coming up a play short in Seattle in the previous winter's conference title game.
Barring injury or Gabbert needing to be replaced, Kaepernick isn't likely to play Sunday at CenturyLink Field, where he's never won a game.
Sherman, who has consistently been a thorn in Kaepernick's side, isn't surprised Kaepernick's no longer the starter considering the nature of how things go in the NFL.
"Football’s a crazy game," Sherman said. "It’s who’s playing well at the time, at the end of the day. Who would have thought when they were playing well and Alex Smith was out there, that a year later Alex Smith would be gone from San Francisco and Colin Kaepernick would be their guy. Things like that happen in football and you just got to roll with the punches."
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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