Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Seahawks
49ERS GAME PLAN: QB Alex Smith looked impressive in his first half back last week after missing five games with a right knee sprain. However, Smith reverted back to his early-season form with three second-half interceptions in a 17-10 loss to the Cardinals. Smith is a big key against the Seahawks, because he has shown a vulnerability to being rattled. The Seahawks are going after home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, so they will want to turn the heat up on Smith and get him off-balance early in the game. Smith will need to get some help from the running game. It looks as if RB Kevan Barlow will return to the lineup after missing a game with a banged-up knee. The 49ers will likely face a Seattle defense that puts eight men in the box. It is incumbent on offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy to put Smith in a place to succeed by taking advantage of one-on-one matchups on the outside. WR Brandon Lloyd, who is wildly inconsistent in his production, must take advantage of some favorable matchups to make some plays down the field. Defensively, the 49ers will be focused on stopping Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who leads the NFL with 1,388 yards and 22 touchdowns. The 49ers have done a relatively good job against the run this season, yielding an average of 3.8 yards a carry. They made Alexander work for his 115 yards rushing on 24 carries - 40 of which came on one run - in Seattle's 27-25 victory when these teams met Nov. 20 at Monster Park in San Francisco. SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN: The Seahawks should try to re-establish their running game after Alexander got only 49 yards in limited work Monday night. Alexander remains the best option on offense even though the 49ers are weak in the secondary. The entire Seattle offense is eager to get untracked after it wasn't needed much during Monday night's stunning 42-0 rout of the Eagles in Philadelphia. With a 42-point lead, the Seahawks started running out the clock the first time they got the ball on offense in the second half as starters began going to the bench. They'll be looking to get their offense - which fell from No. 1 in the league to No. 4 after gaining only 194 yards Monday - back in sync in all facets. Defensively, the Seahawks have some depth problems at cornerback, but they should not forget about the blitz because 49ers QB Smith probably lacks the experience to make them pay consistently. MATCHUPS TO WATCH --- 49ers LOLB Julian Peterson, who has been held without a sack since the first week of the season, vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones, who is in the first year of a seven-year, $52.5 million deal. --- 49ers run defense, which has yielded just 3.8 yards a carry to the opposition, vs. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who leads the league with 1,388 yards and has averaged 4.9 yards a carry and 22 TDs. --- 49ers LT Adam Snyder, making his fourth 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 who was neutralized when the teams met just three weeks ago. --- Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant vs. 49ers WR Brandon Lloyd. Trufant is generally in position to make plays but he doesn't always play the ball very well. Lloyd has an uncanny ability to make seemingly impossible catches. He hurt the Seahawks during Seattle's 27-25 victory in San Francisco last month. Slowing down Lloyd should be a huge priority for Seattle. --- Seahawks DT Rocky Bernard vs. the 49ers' interior offensive line. Bernard collected two sacks when these teams played last month. He sat out the first quarter of Seattle's recent victory over the Eagles as punishment for missing the team flight to Philadelphia. Bernard leads the team in sacks and can earn a fat payday this off-season by finishing strong. He has been leading or tied for the NFL lead in sacks by a defensive tackle, a trend that should continue in this game. Bernard benefits from teams' decision to double-team DT Chuck Darby on passing downs. INJURY IMPACT 49ERS: DE Bryant Young (right knee) is making tremendous progress after missing two games with tears to the MCL and meniscus cartilage. It is unlikely he will play this week against the Seahawks, but looks to be on target for a return Dec. 18 against the Jaguars. ... FS Mike Adams (left knee) is doubtful out Sunday's game with an MCL sprain. The club expects him to miss one game and be back for the Dec. 18 game at the Jaguars. ... RB Kevan Barlow (left knee) missed one game and is questionable for Sunday's game against the Seahawks, though it appears he will play and possibly start. ... FB Fred Beasley (neck) is listed as probable after missing three games with a stinger. ... TE Steve Bush (concussion) is probable. ... CB Ahmed Plummer (left ankle) is out for Sunday's game. He has missed nine games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in late September. ... WR Arnaz Battle (right knee) won't play on Sunday, either. He has been bothered by knee problems since the third week of the season. ... C Jeremy Newberry (right knee), FS Tony Parrish (left leg), LT Jonas Jennings (right shoulder), LB Jeff Ulbrich (left biceps), CB Mike Rumph (foot), TE Eric Johnson (foot) and WRs Derrick Hamilton (left knee) and Rashaun Woods (thumb) are on injured reserve. SEAHAWKS: The team's rock-solid depth at cornerback has hit rock bottom, or close to it, with the loss of Kelly Herndon and Andre Dyson to injuries. Seattle has just enough depth to get by against less-talented passing games. DB Jordan Babineaux gets the start on the left side. He's a physical player and a competitor who has gotten playing time at safety. The Seahawks also will be without safety John Howell, who is out with a hamstring injury, and linebacker Jamie Sharper, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Receiver Darrell Jackson (knee), linebacker D.D. Lewis (knee) and defensive tackle Craig Terrill (shoulder) are questionable for Sunday's game.
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