Seattle Seahawks (6-3) at San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Chris Myers
SERIES: 15th meeting. Seattle leads the series, 8-6. The Seahawks have won six consecutive games against the 49ers, including 27-24 at San Francisco last season. The Seahawks prevailed in the most recent meeting, a 41-3 victory at Qwest Field.
2006 RANKINGS: Seahawks: offense 22nd (14th rush, 21st pass); defense 18th (13th rush, 22nd pass). 49ers: offense 26th (11th rush, 25th pass); defense 25th (18th rush, 24th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers are riding a two-game winning streak, but have still been outscored by a combined 115 points against their four opponents that currently have winning records. To change that trend, RB Frank Gore needs to recover from the concussion he suffered last Sunday and control the clock on the ground. Seattle's secondary is vulnerable, but the Seahawks also blitz heavily from the linebacker spot and could abuse QB Alex Smith against a line not as adept at pass blocking. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander practiced this week and should split duty with backup Maurice Morris, but QB Matt Hasselbeck is likely another week away from playing. Seneca Wallace has managed the offense well in his absence, and coach Mike Holmgren won't be shy about spreading the field and allowing Wallace to attack a 49ers secondary that will have trouble keeping tabs on all of Seattle's receiving options.
Seahawks: OLB Julian Peterson, a former 49er, has a career-high 8.0 sacks. ... Have won the past six meetings, scoring an average of 31.3 points.
49ers: Coach Mike Nolan will wear a suit on the sideline -- the first of two games the NFL approved him to allow the attire this season. ... Are 4-0 when Gore has at least 20 carries.
--QB Seneca Wallace is signed through the 2007 season. He signed a one-year extension back in August. The deal included an $800,000 roster bonus this year with salaries of $700,000 and $800,000, according to the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune.
--CB Kelly Jennings suffered a knee injury of unknown severity during practice Thursday. He did not return.
--CB Kelly Herndon (hamstring) missed practice Thursday. He is probable.
--FB Josh Parry (ankle) missed practice Thursday. He will not play Sunday.
--C Robbie Tobeck (sick) missed practice Thursday. He hopes to play Sunday, but a decision has not been announced.
--RT Sean Locklear (ankle) missed practice Thursday. He remains questionable.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck (knee) practiced Thursday. He seemed to improve as practice progressed, but Seneca Wallace continued to work with the starters. Hasselbeck appears a week away from retaking the starting job, but coach Mike Holmgren has not announced a decision. Hasselbeck remains questionable.
--RB Shaun Alexander (foot) practiced Thursday. The team limited his reps, but Alexander appeared to show no ill effects from practicing Wednesday. There seems to be a good chance Alexander will return Sunday, but coach Mike Holmgren has not announced a decision. Alexander remains questionable.
--TE Vernon Davis went through limited practice Thursday and is still listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Seahawks because of a leg injury. Coach Mike Nolan said Davis' status is likely to be determined at game time Sunday.
--LB Manny Lawson had the best game of his rookie season against the Lions, defensive coordinator Billy Davis said, even though he did not record a tackle. "Basically, he did his job within the defense called," Davis said. "It was 30 or 40 plays before he had an actual minus. Manny had a great focus, and his techniques were exactly like they were taught. His understanding went to another level."
--WR Arnaz Battle had six catches against the Lions, four of them coming on successful third-down conversions. But Battle also made his mark as a run-blocker. Battle had several good blocks for RB Frank Gore, including his downfield effort to help Gore on his 61-yard TD run.
--LB Derek Smith leads the 49ers with 69 tackles despite playing most of the season with a sprained left eye muscle that restricts his field of vision. Although the 49ers coaches have said Smith's play has been adversely affected, Smith said, "I don't feel like it's a problem."
--WR Brandon Williams has been the team's return specialist in recent weeks. Williams, a third-round draft pick from Wisconsin, is averaging 7.2 yards on 10 punt returns, while he has returned 11 kickoffs with a 21.7 average.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Seahawks can't shake the injury bug. Nickel cornerback Kelly Jennings became the latest potential casualty when he left practice Thursday with a knee injury of unknown severity. Jennings, chosen 31st overall in the 2006 draft, did not return to practice. The team was already practicing without starting left corner Kelly Herndon, who is probable with a hamstring injury. Dime corner Jimmy Williams is probable with an ankle injury.
Seattle listed 10 players on its injury report earlier in the week. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (knee) and running back Shaun Alexander (foot) practiced Thursday for a second consecutive day. Hasselbeck seemed to show improvement as practice progressed, but he still has some limitations in terms of movement. Coach Mike Holmgren wants to see how well Hasselbeck plants on his back foot, steps forward and accelerates to avoid pressure. That type of movement has been difficult for Hasselbeck because his knee lacks stability.
"Some movement doesn't bother him at all and some does, which is understandable with the type of injury he had," Holmgren said. "So we just have to see where he is." Hasselbeck is wearing a brace in practice. He remains questionable on the injury report. Holmgren said he'll wait until Friday before deciding whether Hasselbeck plays Sunday, and in what capacity. There's a chance Hasselbeck will serve as the No. 2 passer, giving Seneca Wallace one more game as the starter.
Wallace has worked with the starters this week in practice. Hasselbeck is working with the scout team. Holmgren doesn't have a rule requiring the starter to work "X" amount of days with the first team before gaining clearance.
"You would like him to practice, but we certainly had games before where he didn't practice until Friday and then, he has to practice a little bit to play in the game," Holmgren said. "With the injury thing, we just have to play it by ear. I wish I had a better concrete answer for you, but I don't."
Alexander appears closer to full strength after missing the past six games with a foot injury. He practiced without limitations Wednesday. The team limited his reps Thursday as a precaution, but all signs point to Alexander having a shot at returning Sunday.
Seattle's ground game has improved over the past two weeks. Maurice Morris has games of 124 and 138 yards over that stretch. But the Seahawks miss Alexander, particularly in the red zone. The team has only three rushing touchdowns in nine games after finishing the 2005 regular season with 29. Alexander scored 28 of them.
The fourth metatarsal in Alexander's foot still has a tiny crack, but doctors think he's had enough time off.
"It's been long enough, and if he is not experiencing any pain, I suppose eventually there will be no little crack," Holmgren said. "However they judge healing off those pictures, the reality is they go to school for a long time to look at those things, and stuff we can't even see. It's come down to the fact that it's been, they feel, a sufficient amount of time not to put him at risk as long as he feels good. Your body should tell you if it's not working."
Running back Frank Gore had his sights set on 200 yards rushing last week when the 49ers played the Lions. But he didn't get his chance after sustaining a concussion in the third quarter. Gore did not return to action, and he finished with 159 yards rushing in the 49ers' 19-13 victory. He said he felt light-headed earlier this week after sustaining the first concussion of his football career, but Thursday he said he was 100 percent.
Nonetheless, Gore did not go through full team drills on Wednesday or Thursday, but he was expected to practice Friday. Although he is listed as questionable for the 49ers' game Sunday against the Seahawks, Gore is expected to play.
The 49ers (4-5) have a big game Sunday at Monster Park against the Seahawks, who lead the NFC West by two games. The ability of the 49ers to run the ball with Gore is a key to the team's success. "Their defense is pretty good," Gore said of the Seahawks' 13th-ranked run defense. "They play together real good. They have a great group of linebackers. We got to keep punching at it and then Alex (Smith) can make some big plays in the passing game."
Gore ranks fifth in the NFL with 831 yards rushing. His 5.0 average ranks only behind Tiki Barber's 5.1 among the top 10 rushers this season. Gore also leads the 49ers with 33 receptions. His 1,092 yards from scrimmage are also fifth in the league.
"There's not a weak part of Frank's game," Smith said. "Watch him run between the tackles and see him break tackles and get those extra yards. Then, he's on the edge and breaking long plays and catching balls out of the backfield, and he blocks well. He works hard at every facet of the game. People around the country are starting to take notice."