Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks at 49ers

Posted Dec 8, 2013

The Seahawks look to clinch the NFC West title Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park, the home field of the two-time defending division champion San Francisco 49ers.

SAN FRANCISCO – Greetings from Candlestick Park, for the final time.

And what a way to end it, as the Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title with a victory over the two-time defending division champion 49ers on Sunday afternoon. After clinching a playoff spot with Monday night’s impressive win over the New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks can add a division title and first-round bye in the postseason with an eighth consecutive victory.

Before Niners Nation comes unglued, yes the Seahawks could play here again in the postseason – if they lose their remaining four games and the 49ers run the table, because the 11-1 Seahawks have a three-game lead over the 8-4 49ers. But if you believe that’s going to happen, you haven’t watched how the Seahawks have fashioned their best-in-the-league record.

They’ve won going away against the 49ers in Week 2 (29-3); Jaguars in Week 3 (45-17); Cardinals in Week 7 (34-22); Falcons in Week 10 (33-10); Vikings in Week 11 (41-20); and Saints (34-7). They’ve won despite spotting the Buccaneers a 21-point lead (27-24 in overtime). They’ve won games they could have lost to the Panthers in their opener (12-7); Texans in Week 4 (23-20 in overtime); Titans in Week 6 (20-13); and Rams in Week 8 (14-9).

They’ve won with a short week to prepare (the Thursday night game against the Cardinals). They’ve won games with preparation time to spare (the Saints following their bye week).

Let’s just say that the Seahawks have the best record in the league because they have found ways to win.

This matchup with the 49ers is just the latest challenge. The Seahawks are coming off an emotional victory over the Saints, on Monday night no less. They’re already in the playoffs. They’re playing a team that has beaten them the past four times they’ve played at Candlestick. They’re playing a team that doesn’t much care for them, and a team the Seahawks don’t much care for.

Russell Wilson: Since his career-low 38.7 passer rating against the 49ers at Candlestick Park in Week 7 last season, the Seahawks’ second-year QB has thrown 40 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and had a 111.9 passer rating. And don’t forget, Wilson enters this game having thrown multiple TD passes in a franchise record six games.
Colin Kaepernick: In the 49ers’ four losses, the third-year QB has committed eight turnovers, completed 50 percent of his passes and has a 45.9 passer rating. In the 49ers’ 29-3 loss in Week 2 to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, Kaepernick had a career-high three interceptions among his four turnovers. And don’t forget, the Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense also leads the league in opposing passer rating (69.5).

But they also practiced during this short week with not only a purpose, but a focus on the latest task at hand.

“We’ve had a great week,” coach Pete Carroll said after Friday’s practice. “These guys have really put together the kind of week that makes us feel really good about the process. Every game is huge. This is an enormous opportunity for us and we’re going to do everything we can to play a great football game.

“We practiced the way we needed to.”

Despite the short week, the potential of having their emotions sapped against the Saints, the possibility of having their focused blurred because they’re already in the playoffs and with so much riding on this latest championship opportunity that really is.

“Even though the fact that it was short, we made the most of Wednesday and then we came back Thursday and Friday and put together great days,” Carroll said. “And it’s the kind of days we were hoping to put together and you could tell not just from the spirit of it, but the attention to the details and the guys really on their game plan.

“So that’s what we’re looking for.”

And they’re looking for it in a venue where they’ve had little success in recent seasons. Last October, the Seahawks failed to find the end zone for the only time all season in a 13-6 loss to the 49ers here. In the 2011 season opener, when Russell Wilson was the quarterback at the University of Wisconsin, the Seahawks didn’t score until midway through the third quarter in a 33-17 loss to the 49ers. They also lost at Candlestick 40-21 in 2010 and 23-10 in 2009.

But the 2013 edition of the Seahawks hasn’t wasted any energy looking back. This team is too busy looking ahead – to the next week, the next opponent, the next challenge, the next championship opportunity, the next chance to go 1-0.

“Obviously this is a big game for us, an NFC West game,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to win the NFC West. That’s our No. 1 goal at the beginning of the year, is seeing if you can do that first. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

And it’s an opportunity that is there for the taking on Sunday afternoon – with a win over the two-time defending division champions; on their home field; in the Seahawks’ final visit to Candlestick Park.

So sit back and enjoy, with kickoff and televised coverage on FOX (Q/13) set for 1:25 p.m. PT.