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Five matchups to watch: Seahawks at 49ers

Posted Dec 7, 2013

The Seahawks travel to Candlestick Park for the final time, looking to clinch the NFC West title against the two-time defending division champion San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

A look at the Seahawks’ Week 14 game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, including five matchups that could impact the outcome:

When: Sunday, 1:25 p.m., Candlestick Park, San Francisco

Records: Seahawks 11-1 and first NFC West after Monday night’s 34-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints; 49ers 8-4 and second in the NFC West after Sunday’s 23-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams

Playoff implications: The Seahawks, who clinched a playoff spot with Monday night’s win, can win the NFC West and a first-round bye with a victory; the 49ers hold the NFC’s No. 6 seed

TV: FOX (Q/13), with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver

Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 KIRO FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Rest of the West: Rams (5-7) at Cardinals (7-5)

Other games with NFC postseason implications: Panthers (9-3) at Saints (9-3); Lions (7-5) at Eagles (7-5); Cowboys (7-5) at Bears (6-6) on Monday night

Matchup microscope

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. 49ers RB Frank Gore: No one-on-one matchup here, just a matchup where the back who gets the most yards and most carries likely will carry his team to victory because each team likes to run first and use the run to set up the pass. The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, but Lynch came the closest with 98 in the Seahawks’ 29-3 romp in Week 2 at CenturyLink Field. Gore has been unstoppable in the past against the Seahawks (see his franchise-best efforts of 212 yards in 2006 and 207 yards in 2009, both at Candlestick Park). But in the 49ers’ past three games, Gore has 121 rushing yards. Lynch, meanwhile, needs 30 yards to reach 1,000 for the third consecutive season and has scored five touchdowns in his past two games against the 49ers.

One to watch

The Seahawks’ nickel defensive line vs. the 49ers’ offensive line: Who plays where for the 49ers remains to be seen, because Pro Bowl LT Joe Staley sprained a knee last week and Pro Bowl LG Mike Iupati has been out the past two games with a sprained knee. That has prompted RG Alex Boone to slide to LT and be replaced by Joe Looney; and Adam Snyder to start for Iupati. If the Seahawks can stop Gore, they’ll be able to unleash the pass-rushing hounds on their D-line – ends Cliff Avril (7.5 sacks) and Chris Clemons (3.5) and tackles Michael Bennett (6.5) and Clinton McDonald (3.5). Some added pressure could play into the All-Pro duo of FS Earl Thomas and CB Richard Sherman adding to their interception totals (each has four).

Fun to watch

The Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary vs. 49ers TE Vernon Davis: The first number you need to know about Davis is 10, as in his touchdown catches. Then there’s 4.38, his time in the 40-yard dash at the 2006 NFL Scouting Combine. It’s Davis’ speed that sets him apart from the other productive tight ends the Seahawks have faced, and held in check – the Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez, the Saints’ Jimmy Graham and the Panthers’ Greg Olsen. As defensive coordinator Dan Quinn explained it, “We’ve got all the respect for Vernon, but it’s really the long speed that changes how he plays, compared to some of the other tight ends in the league.” And how the Seahawks play him. Davis had three catches for 20 yards in the Week 2 game at CenturyLink Field, when SS Kam Chancellor matched up against him a lot. That also worked in Week 16 in Seattle last season, when Davis had one catch for 27 yards.

One tough task

The 49ers’ No. 5-ranked defense vs. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: In his seventh NFL start, Wilson did not play well at Candlestick Park last season (9 of 23 for 122 yards and a 38.7 passer rating). But the kid QB is on a roll. In his past three games, Wilson has produced three of the Top 4 passer ratings in his career – 151.4 against the Vikings; 139.6 against the Saints; 134.6 against the Falcons. Dig a little deeper and there’s this: On his throws of at least 15 yards this season, Wilson is completing a league-best 59.7 percent. The 49ers, meanwhile, are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 31 percent of those throws, also the best in the league.

Don’t overlook

The second quarter: That’s when each team has scored the most points – 107 for the Seahawks, 101 for the 49ers. But while the Seahawks have allowed 95 points in the second quarter, the 49ers have allowed 48. As coach Pete Carroll will tell you, you can’t win the game in the second quarter. But the performances of these teams in the second quarter have been vital to the Seahawks winning 11 games and the 49ers eight.

Worth noting

This will be the Seahawks’ final game at Candlestick Park, as the 49ers will move into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara next season. … The Seahawks lead the series 15-14 after their 29-3 victory in Week at CenturyLink Field, but the 49ers have a four-game winning streak at the Stick. … 49ers’ WR Anquan Boldin leads the NFL with 27 third-down receptions. … The 49ers’ Lee Andy Lee is third in the league punting average (48.7 yard) and net average (42.9), while the Seahawks’ Golden Tate is ninth in the NFL in punt return average (11.6). … Seahawks K Steven Hauschka is second in the NFL with 114 points. … The Seahawks lead the league in takeaways (27), share second place in interceptions (16) and are tied for second in turnover differential (plus-12). … The Seahawks are 5-1 on the road; the 49ers are 4-2 at home. … Thomas (81) and MLB Bobby Wagner (80) lead the Seahawks in tackles. … ILB NaVorro Bowman (147) is the 49ers’ leading tacklers.

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks