Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Seahawks

Taking a look deep inside Monday night's battle of NFC West rivals between the 49ers and Seahawks at Qwest Field in Seattle, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the game.

KICKOFF: Monday, 5:30 p.m. Pacific
SITE: Qwest Field in Seattle
SURFACE: FieldTurf
RECORDS: 49ers 2-6, 2-1 in NFC West; Seahawks 4-4, 2-1 in NFC West
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya

SERIES HISTORY: 18th meeting. Seahawks lead series, 9-8. The Seahawks redeemed a series sweep last season by thumping San Francisco, 23-3, on Sept. 30 at Monster Park in San Francisco. Prior to the two-game sweep, the Seahawks had won six in a row.

KEYS TO THE GAME: With quarterback Alex Smith struggling with his accuracy and the Seahawks registering six sacks in the first meeting, the 49ers must keep the game close and keep the running game their primary focus. Smith's best friend could be TE Vernon Davis -- he has 13 catches the past two games and Seattle gave up 11 catches to Cleveland's Kellen Winslow last Sunday. ... The Seahawks' continued inability to run the ball means they'll see more of the 4-2-5 alignment the 49ers have employed in the past two meetings. With RB Shaun Alexander's status uncertain and the 49ers recording just seven sacks in their past six games, the Seahawks will spread the field and rely on QB Matt Hasselbeck's arm.

BY THE NUMBERS: 21 -- Consecutive games the 49ers have compiled fewer than 200 yards net passing. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the longest streak since 1978, when the NFL made rules changes to favor the offense. 14 -- Number of 300-yard games Hasselbeck has had in his career.

"It's tough to be 2-6, but we find ourselves in a unique position and with a unique challenge at only being two games out, playing our division leader. The season is a long way from being over." -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan
"When you get two or three 325-pound guys, it makes it a lot harder to run between those little cracks." -- Seahawks Linebacker Julian Peterson, on running backs struggling this season

49ERS GAME PLAN: When the 49ers played the Seahawks last December, they unveiled a new defense. The 49ers have very little respect for the Seahawks' run game, so they opened the game with four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. The 49ers did the same thing when the clubs met earlier this season, as they believe the Seahawks are much more efficient in the passing game. The 49ers have been playing defensive back Donald Strickland as a quasi-linebacker because he is sturdy and can come up and make tackles in the run game. The 49ers, looking to increase their pass rush, re-signed Roderick Green this week. Green was the 49ers' best pass rusher from last season, but they cut him in training camp. The 49ers have not gotten any kind of pass rush this season. After a six-sack performance against the Rams in Week 2, the 49ers have recorded just seven sacks in six games. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky does not have pass rushers who can beat the opposition one-on-one, so he has to get more creative in drawing up blitzes. Offensively, the 49ers hope to get running back Frank Gore back for this game. Gore rushed for 356 yards against the Seahawks last season, including a franchise-record 212 yards in one game. Seattle made some offseason acquisitions designed to become a better-tackling team. Gore had 79 yards on 16 carries when the clubs met earlier this season. If he's healthy, the 49ers have to do a better job of sticking with the run. Offensive coordinator Jim Hostler put the 49ers offense in good position to make plays last week, but quarterback Alex Smith had trouble connecting with open receivers.

SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN: With San Francisco having one of the worst all-around teams in the NFL, the Seahawks need to exert their dominance early at home and never let up. They will throw the ball regularly to their receivers, and against San Francisco's beat-up offensive line, which lost two starters this week to injury, the front seven must blitz and pressure inexperienced quarterback Alex Smith. Seattle's defensive backs should be good enough to cover the Niners' mediocre receivers, which should allow the linemen and linebackers to apply decent pressure.

49ers LT Adam Snyder, who struggled last week against the Falcons' John Abraham, vs. Seahawks OLB Julian Peterson, a former 49er who has recorded a team-leading seven sacks. Snyder is standing in for recently injured starter Jonas Jennings, out for the rest of the season. Peterson is among the league leaders in sacks, and if he can get to QB Alex Smith it could be a long night for the gun-shy thrower.
49ers TE Vernon Davis, who is beginning to emerge as the No. 1 threat in the San Francisco offense, vs. Seahawks Peterson, the same guy who is a top pass rusher also will be assigned on occasion to cover Davis.
49ers RB Frank Gore, expected to return to the lineup this week, vs. Seahawks SS Deon Grant, who will often be the unblocked player in the box that has the responsibility of bringing down Gore one-on-one.
49ers RT Joe Staley, who has played well with the exception of a 3.5 sack showing against the Giants, vs. Seahawks DE Patrick Kerney, a former Pro Bowl player who has brought a lot of veteran leadership to the defense.
49ers LB Patrick Willis, who leads San Francisco with 109 tackles in eight games, vs. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who has struggled this season with a 3.4 average yards per carry.
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has an 88.7 passer rating, vs. 49ers secondary, which is 14th in the league in yards permitted. The Seahawks are going to place more of an emphasis on the pass, and Niners CB Nate Clements, one of the best cover corners in the league, had an interception of a Hasselbeck pass the last time the teams played.
Seahawks kickoff and punt returner Nate Burleson, who has had two long returns each of the last two games, vs. 49ers kick coverage units. Burleson had a 91-yard kickoff return two games ago and a 94-yard punt return last game.

Gore has been bothered by a right ankle sprain since the Oct. 21 game against the Giants. He aggravated the injury when he played the following game, but he sat out last week against the Falcons. The 49ers are expecting Gore will be able to play against the Seahawks. If he is unable to play, Michael Robinson and Maurice Hicks would split the action. WR Darrell Jackson returned to action last week after missing one game with a right quadriceps strain. He is not 100 percent, but he is expected to play Monday night against his former team. CB Walt Harris missed last week's game against the Falcons with a left knee sprain. There is a chance Harris will be available for Monday's game. Shawntae Spencer started in his place last week. S Keith Lewis has missed three games with a significant hamstring strain. He is one of the team's top special-teams players. His status remains up in the air. RG Justin Smiley is definitely out and will require season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. Willis has a small fracture of his right hand. He played most of last week's game with the injury. Willis is not expected to require surgery. He is expected to continue to play with a cast on is hand.
SEAHAWKS: Alexander did not practice all week because of a sprained left knee, which means even if he can play, he likely will not be a part of the full game plan, especially since the Seahawks will focus more exclusively on the pass. Alexander is not a good receiver -- he dropped two passes last week -- and not a good pass blocker. If TE Marcus Pollard is unable to return from knee surgery, Will Heller will start. Heller is not as good a receiver as Pollard but is a better run blocker. And if WR Deion Branch cannot play, that means Bobby Engram, who leads the team with 48 receptions, will remain as the starting flanker.


--- QB Alex Smith is no longer on the injury report, more than five weeks after sustaining a separated right shoulder in a game against the Seahawks. Smith ranks 34th in the league with a 57.6 passer rating. He has completed just 49.7 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions in six starts.
--RB Frank Gore went through limited work in practice this week and expects to be available for Monday's game. Gore missed last week's game with a right ankle sprain. Gore rushed for 356 yards in two games against the Seahawks last season. When the clubs met earlier this year, Gore rushed for 79 yards on 16 carries.
--- T Kwame Harris, the team's top backup at both tackle positions, sat out Thursday's practice with back spasms. He is expected to be available for Monday's game.
--- CB Walt Harris was limited in practice this week with a knee sprain. Harris sat out last week's game against the Falcons with the injury he sustained Oct. 28 against the Saints. Harris is expected to be available to play against the Seahawks.
--- OT Patrick Estes was re-signed to the active roster after guard Justin Smiley was placed on injured reserve. Estes was waived five days before the start of the regular season. He was later re-signed for a week, but did not suit up.
--- LB Patrick Willis leads the 49ers with 109 tackles, according to the team's film review. Willis has 42 more tackles than Derek Smith, who ranks second on the team. Willis has a half-sack this season. He was originally given credit for a full sack in last week's game, but the NFL ruled that Willis and Parys Haralson each deserve half-sack credit.

--- LB Leroy Hill missed practice this week with a hamstring injury and is questionable for Monday.
--- DE Baraka Atkins missed practice this week because of a sore ankle but is probable to play against the 49ers.
--- LB Will Herring missed practice this week with a strained hamstring suffered against Cleveland and is doubtful for Monday's game.
--- DE Patrick Kerney, who suffered an oblique injury, missed some practice time this week and is questionable against the 49ers.
--- LB Niko Koutouvides, the special teams captain, suffered a hamstring injury Sunday in Cleveland. He missed some practice time this week.
--- TE Marcus Pollard, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, missed some practice time this week and is questionable for Monday.
--- RB Shaun Alexander, who has a sprained knee and an injured wrist, missed some practice this week and his status will be a game-time decision.
--- WR Deion Branch, who has a sprained foot, missed practice this week, saying he will not risk his sprained foot just because it is on Monday night.
--- DT Rocky Bernard did not practice this week because of a chronically sore groin but should play on Monday night.



The 49ers will debut two permanent changes on their offensive line against the Seahawks.

With left tackle Jonas Jennings and right guard Justin Smiley being placed on injured reserve this week, the 49ers will go with Adam Snyder and David Baas as the starters.

"It's unfortunate that there were some injuries," Baas said. "But we all know we can trust each other on the offensive line. We just need to do our jobs and cut out any mistakes."

Those are probably the two positions that would be least-affected by change. Snyder has already started three games this season in place of Jennings. Snyder also played the fourth quarter Oct. 21, as coach Mike Nolan planned to have those players splitting some playing time.

Also, Baas had been working in for a couple series a game in place of Smiley for several weeks.

"Adam's been starting for a few games, and David has been playing, too," 49ers center Eric Heitmann said. "Those are two guys who have played a lot this season, so there should be good chemistry."

Baas was the No. 33 overall pick in the 2005 draft. The 49ers wanted guard Logan Mankins, whom the New England Patriots selected with the pick at No. 32. Baas started five games near the end of his rookie season, but played only six snaps of offense in his second season.

The 49ers have been pleased with the progress Baas has made and wanted to get him more and more playing time. Smiley is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and Baas is penciled in as the starter for next season.

If the Seahawks are going to be as successful in the rematch against the 49ers as they were in their 23-3 defeat of San Francisco on Sept. 30, they are going to have to replicate the pass rush that altered the course of that game from the very beginning.

On the third play of that game, Rocky Bernard broke through the line, sacked quarterback Alex Smith, separated his shoulder and knocked Smith out for several weeks thereafter.

With Trent Dilfer in at quarterback, linebacker Julian Peterson recorded three sacks against his former team. Darryl Tapp had a sack in that game. Patrick Kerney had a sack. Dilfer was continually harried in that game, completing just 12 of 33 passes.

That game is a microcosm of the Seahawks' entire season; when they get pressure on the quarterback, as they did against Tampa Bay and St. Louis, they win. When they don't, as was the case against Arizona, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Cleveland, they lose.

"That to me has been the common denominator," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.

The Seahawks have several things going in their favor against San Francisco. Left tackle Jonas Jennings had his season ended with an injury, leaving the job to Adam Snyder. Guard Justin Smiley also is out and will be replaced by David Baas.

Of course, the Seahawks are hurting too. Kerney suffered an oblique injury against Cleveland on Sunday and is questionable to play. Darryl Tapp had surgery on his hand and is wearing a cast; though he had an interception against the Browns, he did not record a sack. And Chuck Darby, who played in the first victory over San Francisco, has since been placed on injured reserve, leaving rookie Brandon Mebane with the job, though Mebane is stronger against the run than rushing the quarterback.

The last time the teams played, defensive coordinator John Marshall - a former 49ers defensive coordinator - designed some stunts to free up Peterson, whose combination of speed and power are difficult to contend with. With so many other injuries, the Seahawks need Peterson to again embarrass his former teammates.

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