The Seattle setup
GAME PLAN: The 49ers will have to remain patient against Seattle's aggressive defense, as they figure to see a lot of the Cover 2 scheme that Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes has employed this season. The 49ers might have some opportunities to run the football, as coach Dennis Erickson implied that the 49ers are probably a better running team at this point in the season. The Seahawks are No. 17 in the league against the run. The 49ers will use the platoon system at running back again, with starter Garrison Hearst and second-series replacement Kevan Barlow. Hearst averages 4.7 yards a carry, while Barlow checks in with a 4.3-yard average. The 49ers' passing game has been a major disappointment through five games. QB Jeff Garcia, one of the most efficient passers in league history, is connecting on just 54.8 percent of his passes. His passer rating is a meager 67.4. Defensively, the 49ers will have to focus on stopping the running attack of Shaun Alexander, who has rushed for 319 yards and three touchdowns on 71 carries. The 49ers are still susceptible to a team with a good passing attack. QB Matt Hasselbeck will look for one-on-one matchups on the outside involving WRs Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson. The 49ers have done a good job of applying a lot of pressure through dogs and blitzes. If the 49ers can generate some pass rush from their front four, whenever they start sending blitzes, they can create all kinds of problems for Hasselbeck. MATCHUPS TO WATCH:--- 49ers LB Jamie Winborn vs. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander. Winborn does not start but the 49ers use him a lot in all situations. Starter Jeff Ulbrich's status is a little uncertain because of concussion he sustained last week, so Winborn might get more time than usual. Winborn, one of the fastest players on defense, will find himself matched up against Alexander a lot, as the Seahawks are not shy about getting the ball in his hands in the passing game. --- CBs Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph, who can be vulnerable on deep routes, vs. WRs Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson, who have combined for five TD receptions this season. --- RE Andre Carter, one of the game's top young pass rushers, vs. LT Walter Jones, a three-time Pro Bowl performer. --- DT Bryant Young, who has yet to record a sack this season as he is a regular target of double teams, vs. C Robbie Tobeck, a wily 10-year veteran who has started every game since the beginning of the 2001 season with the Seahawks. --- LT Derrick Deese, who reported no problems after playing a full game following sitting out three games with a high right ankle sprain, vs. RE Chike Okeafor, a former 49er who has 10 tackles, two sacks and one interception in his first season with the Seahawks. --- LG Eric Heitmann, who returned to practice this week and is likely to make his first start since the season opener, vs. DT John Randle, a 14-year veteran who appears to be slowing down quite a bit. --- QB Jeff Garcia, who has not experienced much success getting the ball down the field, vs. FS Ken Hamlin, who leads the Seahawks with 31 tackles and six passes defensed. --- WR Terrell Owens, who sees about one of every three 49ers passes come his way, vs. CB Marcus Trufant, the 11th overall pick who figures to get plenty of safety help against Owens. INJURY IMPACT:--- WR Terrell Owens has a sore right heel and Achilles but is expected to play Sunday night at close to 100 percent. --- LG Eric Heitmann, who has not played since the opening week of the season, returned to practice Wednesday and might start Sunday. Heitmann sustained a sprained right ankle in practice Sept. 11. --- LB Jeff Ulbrich, who sustained a concussion in the 49ers' victory over Detroit, will have his status evaluated as the week goes on. If the team decides to keep him out, Jamie Winborn will take over at the "plugger" position. --- CB Jason Webster is expected to return to practice next week, and is tentatively scheduled to be available for the Oct. 19 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Webster sustained a hyper-extended right knee seven weeks ago, at which time he sustained a hairline fracture of his tibia. --- TE Eric Johnson is hopeful he will be able to play the final handful of games of the regular season after sustaining a broken collarbone Aug. 23 against New Orleans in an exhibition game. But coach Dennis Erickson said this week for the first time that there is a possibility Johnson will not return this season because his injury is not healing as expected. Erickson said the Niners will decide in the next two weeks whether it might be necessary to put Johnson on injured reserve.
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