Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Seahawks
49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers have been a much better team at home this season, playing competitive football and earning both of their victories at Monster Park. In order for the 49ers to succeed, they must use their threat of the running game to open things up for the passing attack. The 49ers are sure to see eight defenders in the box. They have to be able to take advantage of some one-on-one matchups on the outside, though neither WRs Brandon Lloyd nor Arnaz Battle has shown an ability to make consistent plays against single coverage. Battle will probably miss Sunday's game with a knee injury, and backup Johnnie Morton has not shown great playmaking ability, either. The 49ers' best hope on offense appears to be rookie RB Frank Gore. He has performed very well while getting about half the carries of starter Kevan Barlow. But Gore has shown a much more effective running style than the ultra-talented Barlow. Gore is good at finding a crease in the opposing defense and hitting the hole hard. Meanwhile, Barlow does a little too much dancing for the liking of the team's coaching staff. When he hesitates in the hole, it allows fast defenses to swarm to him. Still, coach Mike Nolan has been impressed with Barlow's play. He said he has noticed vast improvements in his play from what he saw on film last season. "I think (RB coach) Bishop Harris has done an outstanding job with Kevan Barlow," Nolan said. "Kevan is twice the back he was last year, if not more than that. And he's getting better all the time. It's unfortunate that Kevan really hasn't reached his potential as a player. Even three years ago when he had one of his better seasons, he's a better back (now) than that." SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN: Seattle's offensive and defensive lines match up quite well against the 49ers. The Seahawks should be able to run the ball effectively with RB Shaun Alexander and even RB Maurice Morris, who topped 100 yards during a blowout victory over Houston earlier in the season. The Seahawks will find out whether RT Sean Locklear can handle 49ers OLB Julian Peterson without help. Locklear shut down Rams DE Leonard Little last week. This is another good challenge for the second-year pro from North Carolina State. Defensively, the Seahawks should have little trouble given the 49ers' obvious problems at the quarterback position. Seattle ranks second in the league with 30 sacks. MATCHUPS TO WATCH --- 49ers LOLB Julian Peterson, one of the team's top performers as a pass-rush threat on the outside, vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones, who is in the first year of a seven-year, $52.5 million contract. Peterson will line up and rush from both edges. --- 49ers FS Mike Adams, who has gotten caught committing to the run and then trying to recover to cover a tight end, vs. Seahawks TE Jerramy Stevens, who has 28 catches for 385 yards and two touchdowns. --- 49ers run defense, which has yielded just 3.7 yards a carry to the opposition, vs. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who leads the league with 1,114 yards and has averaged 5.4 yards a carry with 17 TDs. --- 49ers LT Adam Snyder, making his first career start at this position because of Anthony Clement's ineffectiveness, vs. Seahawks DE Grant Wistrom, a long-time NFC West nemesis of the 49ers. --- 49ers RT Kwame Harris, who has struggled with the snap count in recent games, vs. Seahawks LE Bryce Fisher, who leads the Seahawks with 6.5 sacks. --- Seahawks RT Sean Locklear, making his 10th career start, vs. Peterson, who will move around and rush from both edges, though he is the starter on the left side. Peterson has only 2.5 sacks so far this season. Locklear has held up well against some tough opponents, including Rams DE Leonard Little last week. This is another chance for Locklear to prove he's a long-term solution on the right side. --- Seahawks C Robbie Tobeck, a crafty but undersized veteran, vs. 49ers NTs Anthony Adams and Isaac Sopoaga. Tobeck often needs help against the game's bigger and more physical interior linemen. He gets a bit of a break in this matchup. If Tobeck can handle his matchups with Adams and Sopoaga, the Seahawks should be able to unleash all facets of their league-leading offense. INJURY IMPACT 49ERS: QB Alex Smith (right knee) is no longer on the injury report. He will serve as the backup for Sunday's game. ... Center Jeremy Newberry missed his first game of the season because of a bothersome right knee. He did not practice this week but is expected to return to the starting lineup. ... WR Arnaz Battle (right knee) is not expected to play this week after aggravating a sprain that has bothered him since the Sept. 25 game against the Cowboys. ... TE Billy Bajema (right shoulder) missed practice early in the week but has a good chance to play in against the Seahawks. ... FB Fred Beasley (neck) sustained a stinger last week. He is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game. If he is unable to go, Chris Hetherington would get the start. ... LS Brian Jennings (concussion) is listed as questionable but he is expected to play. ... LB Saleem Rasheed is expected to miss at least one more game after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus cartilage. ... CB Ahmed Plummer (left ankle) is out. The 49ers will stick with second-year player Bruce Thornton at left cornerback even when Plummer is healthy enough to play. ... RB Maurice Hicks (right knee) returned to practice two weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. He is expected to return kickoffs on Sunday. ... WR Derrick Hamilton is still on the physically unable to perform list after sustaining a torn ACL in the off-season. He is not expected to play this season. ... FS Tony Parrish (left leg), LT Jonas Jennings (right shoulder), LB Jeff Ulbrich (left biceps), CB Mike Rumph (foot), TE Eric Johnson (foot) and WR Rashaun Woods (thumb) are on injured reserve. SEAHAWKS: The team does not appear to miss injured veteran SLB Jamie Sharper, who could miss a few more games. The depth could be tested depending on whether LB D.D. Lewis can play a second consecutive game on his troublesome knee. Seattle has enough young depth at the position to hold up against the 49ers in this matchup. The 49ers also lack the defensive personnel to make Seattle pay for the absence of WR Darrell Jackson, who could return from knee surgery next week. DT Marcus Tubbs missed the St. Louis game last week. Seattle didn't miss a beat, holding Rams RB Steven Jackson to 70 yards. Tubbs could return this week, but Seattle can function without him.
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