Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Seahawks

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's pivotal NFC West battle between the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in San Francisco's home opener at Candlestick Park, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the first-place showdown between divisonal rivals.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:05 Pacific
SITE: Candlestick Park in San Francisco
RECORDS: 49ers 1-0, 1-0 in NFC West; Seahawks 1-0, 1-0 in NFC West
TV: FOX (Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick)

SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead 11-9. Since 2003, the Seahawks have won nine of the 12 meetings.

KEYS TO THE GAME: With the 49ers' goal of running the ball roughly 60 percent of the time, coordinator Jimmy Raye knows the offense will face consistent eight-man fronts. Raye was slow to turn to the pass against Arizona, and coach Mike Singletary admitted the offensive line struggled. But at some point Raye will need to sprinkle in more passes on running downs. Seattle is coming off a shutout, but it included three first-half turnovers as QB Matt Hasselbeck struggled with his rhythm early. Look for RB Julius Jones to get more first-half carries to open up play-action. The offensive line is taking to the new zone blocking scheme and the 49ers must be aware of Jones looking for the cut-back.

FAST FACTS: Hasselbeck has a 93.5 passer rating in winning eight of his past 10 starts against San Francisco. ... 49ers RB Frank Gore has averaged 76 rushing yards in the past four meetings.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15,018 -- Career receiving yards for Isaac Bruce, becoming the second player in league history, behind Jerry Rice, to go over 15,000 yards receiving. 1 -- Number of wins Jim Mora has against San Francisco as a head coach. Mora's Atlanta Falcons defeated the 49ers at San Francisco in the first game of the year of the 2004 season. 76 -- Average number of yards Frank Gore has rushed for against Seattle in the last four games. 3 -- Seattle scored on its first three possessions in the team's 34-13 win at San Francisco in 2008.

"I know that what I'm doing is right, so I don't question myself and you just go forward and if you don't win this game, it's not the end of the world, you've got 15 more. The most important thing is you continue to build. Sometimes you can lose a game, but you gain something." -- 49ers coach Mike Singletary on beginning the season with a win over the Cardinals.
"You kind of chuckle. Guys that have coached in this league, we've all done things that we wished we hadn't. It's a passionate and emotional game and sometimes you get caught up in it. He was just trying to make a point. He certainly did a nice job with that team when he took over." -- Seahawks head coach Jim Mora commenting on Mike Singletary pulling his pants down in front of his team as a motivational ploy during halftime of last year's Niners-Seahawks game.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers know that every team will be focusing on their run game, so they are going to have to feature the pass more this week against the Seahawks. The offense will still run through running back Frank Gore, but 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye needs to do a better job of mixing it up on run downs. Quarterback Shaun Hill must use play-action to freeze the linebackers and pass rush and try to get the ball to the wideouts. Second-year player Josh Morgan and veteran Isaac Bruce have to provide the 49ers with a deep threat down the field to keep the Seahawks honest. Of course, the 49ers can't abandon the run, either. Gore should be a major factor in the run and pass games. Tight end Vernon Davis needs to work the underneath routes, and Hill has to deliver the ball to him in stride across the middle so he can use his speed to turn up field with a head of steam.

SEAHAWKS GAME PLAN: Like Arizona did the game before them, the Seahawks will load up the box defensively and force quarterback Shaun Hill to beat them through the air. Offensively, Seattle will run the ball just enough to keep San Francisco's defense honest, and then look to get the ball to playmakers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson.


--- 49ers CB Nate Clements, vs. Seahawks WR Nate Burleson. Clements is one of the top cover corners in the game, and Burleson has played well so far in his first season back since ACL knee surgery a year ago. If Clements can shut down Burleson by himself, it frees up San Francisco to use the rest of its defense to deal with Seattle's other receiving threats.

--- 49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Seahawks DT Colin Cole. Seattle picked up the free agent defensive lineman from Green Bay in order to be a run stuffer for the revamped defensive line. After doing a good job in helping hold Steven Jackson to 67 yards in the team's first game, Cole gets another stiff challenge on Sunday.

--- 49ers OLB Parys Haralson, who has emerged into the team's best pass rusher, vs. Seahawks RT Ray Willis, a fifth-year pro who outweighs Haralson by 60 pounds.

---- 49ers RT Adam Snyder, who struggled in the season opener against the Cardinals, vs. LDE Cory Redding, a free-agent pickup from Detroit who had two tackles in a quarterback hurry in the opener.

--- 49ers OLB Manny Lawson, who has been solid in coverage since coming into the league as a first-round pick in 2006, vs. Seahawks TE John Carlson, who caught six passes for 95 yards and two TDs in the season opener.

--- 49ers FS Dashon Goldson, who was promoted to the starting lineup because of his playmaking ability, vs. Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, who threw three TD passes and was intercepted twice in the Seahawks' opening-week win over the Rams.


WR Brandon Jones is expected to return to practice this week after being out since Aug. 6 with a fractured right shoulder. He might be a game-time decision. He was originally scheduled be out of action through the end of September. LB Ahmad Brooks underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month and is doubtful. CB Marcus Hudson (chest) saw limited practice early in the week but should be available for Sunday's game.

SEAHAWKS: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu did not practice on Wednesday because of a hamstring he injured against St. Louis, but is expected to play on Sunday. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back spasms) also sat out of practice on Wednesday but is expected to play.



--- WR Brandon Jones returned to practice this week, but he did not look sharp after being out of action since Aug. 6 with a fractured right shoulder blade. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said Jones will have to show a lot of improvement to get to the point that he can contribute.

--- DE Justin Smith returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's work with an elbow injury. Smith is coming off an outstanding game against the Arizona Cardinals. After the 49ers' coaches' film review, Smith was credited with one sack, 13 pressures and nine quarterback hits.

--- LB Ahmad Brooks is not expected to be available for Sunday's game against the Seahawks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 31.

--- RB Frank Gore is coming off a game in which he scored a touchdown rushing and a touchdown receiving. His 30 yards rushing were the fewest of his career when he had at least 20 carries.

--- QB Shaun Hill ranks fourth in the NFL since 2008 in fourth-quarter passer rating. Hill's 102.1 rating ranks behind only Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Trent Edwards.


--- Offensive tackle Walter Jones (knee) went through practice for a second straight day, working through team drills as moves toward a possible, regular-season debut against San Francisco.

--- Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh missed practice for a second straight day with back spasms and is listed as doubtful on the team's practice report.

--- Center Chris Spencer worked through individual drills but did not participate in 11-on-11 action in practice. It was Spencer's first practice work since injuring his quad in the second preseason game against Denver.

--- Linebacker Lofa Tatupu missed a second straight practice due to a hamstring injured in Sunday's game against St. Louis.

--- Cornerback Travis Fisher participated fully in practice for the first time since injuring his hamstring during preseason play.



The last time the 49ers played the Seahawks at Candlestick Park, tight end Vernon Davis had a memorable game.

Davis found himself in coach Mike Singletary's doghouse when he responded to taunts from Seattle safety Brian Russell with a shove to the facemask. Davis was called for unnecessary roughness and Singletary brought him to the sideline.

When Davis did not show enough contrition for Singletary's liking, he banished Davis to the locker room for the remainder of the fourth quarter.

Less than a year later, Davis has not only made amends with Singletary but he'll be wearing a "C" on his chest as one of the 49ers' team captains against the Seahawks.

"It means I'm a leader and a lot of people are looking at me and seeing how I'm doing," Davis said. "They expect me to step up, which I will every game."

And although Russell is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Davis figures there will be plenty of Seahawks players who will try to pick up where Russell left off.

"I'm sure they're going to try to do something to get me fired up and get me go back to locker room," Davis said. "But it ain't happening. I plan on playing with discipline. They will not get to me. There's nothing they can do to get me fired up."

Davis said he heard plenty about his banishment during the final eight games of last season. But he managed to turn the other cheek.

"They'd tell me, 'Vernon, go to the locker room,'" Davis said. "It didn't get to me. People still say it. I just laugh. I go on about my business."


Wide receiver Deion Branch moved closer to playing in his first regular-season game of the 2009 season.

Branch missed his team's 28-0 win over St. Louis because he tweaked a hamstring early in the week, and Seahawks head coach Jim Mora decided against playing the veteran receiver, choosing to make sure Branch is fully healthy.

On Wednesday Branch participated in individual and some 11-on-11 drills, trying to show Mora that he's ready to contribute.

But ultimately Branch understands it is Mora's call.

"I think I have a great chance," Branch said. "But it's up to Coach Mora though. The only thing I can do is go out there and show him I can move around, try to make some plays here and there, and hopefully that can get me to go."

Branch tweaked his hamstring in practice the Monday of the Rams game and did not practice the rest of the week.

Branch was a limited participant in practice on Thursday. He's hoping to get enough work in practice this week to show Mora that he's fully healthy and ready to play. But Branch also understands that Mora has to make roster decisions based on the receiver's long-term health over the length of the season.

"I understand it's a hard decision, and he knows I want to be out there," Branch said. "But at the same time he has to do what's best for the team and myself. I have to be honest with him, and accept his answer, whatever it is."

And with T.J. Houshmandzadeh missing practice for a second straight day with back spasms, getting Branch back could be important for Seattle's offense this Sunday in the team's contest against San Francisco.

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