Up next: San Francisco 49ers

Posted Jan 14, 2014

The race to represent the NFC in Super XLVIII is down to two teams who are very familiar with one another, as the Seahawks will host the NFC West-rival 49ers in Sunday’s conference title game.

A look at the Seahawks’ opponent in this week’s NFC Championship game, the San Francisco 49ers:

When: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. PT, CenturyLink Field

Record: 2-0 in the postseason, having beaten the No. 4-seed Packers in Green Bay during the wild-card round and the No. 2-seed Panthers in Carolina in the divisional round; 12-4 in the regular season, to finish second in the NFC West behind the Seahawks and secure the No. 5 seed in the playoffs.

Where they rank: No. 7 on offense (tied for 4th rushing, 7th passing) and No. 3 on defense (5th rushing, 5th passing) in the postseason; No. 24 on offense (3rd rushing, 30th passing) and No. 5 on defense (4th rushing, 7th passing) during the regular season.

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

Series: First meeting in the postseason; 15-15 in the regular season, including a split of this season’s home-and-home series – with the Seahawks winning 29-3 at CenturyLink Field in Week 2 and the 49ers winning 19-17 at Candlestick Park in Week 14.

Star power: NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, a.k.a. the 49ers’ linebackers. This started out as just Bowman and Willis, the inside ’backers who combined for 249 tackles (145 by Bowman, 104 by Brooks) and eight sacks (five and three) and are so good got clogging the inside running lanes and also applying pressure on the quarterback up the middle. But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made it all encompassing when asked about the 49ers’ linebackers. “When we evaluate their defense, the great strength they have is their four linebackers are really fantastic,” Carroll said. “That’s really the heart of the problem is those four guys.” It’s difficult to argue. Brooks had 8.5 sacks during the regular season and added 2.5 against the Panthers, while Smith had 8.5 sacks in 11 games this season and 19.5 last season. Bowman, Willis and Brooks were voted to the Pro Bowl, and Bowman also earned All-Pro honors. “Each guy has special dimensions and is athletic and they play with great energy,” Carroll said. “They’re natural football players. They all can do stuff. So that’s really the difficulty dealing with them, is those four guys. And they’re all over the place. They mix them and move them around. They’re aggressive. They cover. They blitz. They can do everything. That’s what’s given them the consistency over these years.”

Unsung hero: Anquan Boldin. Unsung is not quite the right label with this guy. It’s more that the choir isn’t singing his praises loud enough, especially when it comes to playing in the postseason. This is Boldin’s first postseason with the 49ers, after they acquired him in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Ravens – for a sixth-round draft choice. Boldin caught eight passes for 136 yards against the Panthers on Sunday. In the Ravens’ win over the 49ers in last season’s Super Bowl, Boldin had six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. In the Ravens’ win over the Patriots in last season’s AFC Championship game, Boldin had two TD catches. In the Ravens’ wild-card win over the Colts, Boldin caught five passes for 145 yards and a TD. In the 2008 season, while playing for the Cardinals, he caught eight passes for 84 yards in Arizona’s loss to the Steelers in the Super Bowl. In 13 playoff games, Boldin has 63 receptions for a 15.6-yard average and seven TDs.

On the spot: Colin Kaepernick. Of all the impressive things the 49ers’ QB has done since stepping in as the starter midway through last season, he has never done it at CenturyLink Field. In the 49ers’ 42-13 loss to the Seahawks last December, Kaepernick was 19 of 36 for 244 yards, with one TD pass and an interception. In the 49ers’ 29-3 loss to the Seahawks in Week 2 this season, Kaepernick was 13 of 28 for 127 yards, with three interceptions, for a 20.1 passer rating. But he did run for 87 yards on nine carries.

Burning question: Has there ever been a title game where neither team scored? Of course not, because someone has to win to advance, no matter how long it takes. Which brings us to the next question: Will these teams play into Monday to determine the NFC Champion? Think about it. Last week, the Seahawks shut out the Saints for the first 47 minutes in their divisional game; while the 49ers blanked the Panthers for the final 33 minutes of their divisional game. During the regular season, the Seahawks ranked No. 1 in the league in average points allowed (14.4), while the 49ers were No. 3 (17.0). “As the game goes on we wake up as a defense and play even harder. We get stronger,” Bowman told reporters after Sunday’s game.

Numbers to know: 12, teams that have reached the conference title game three years in a row since 1970, including this 49ers team. … 0, points allowed by the 49ers in the first and third quarters of their first two playoff games. … 31 and 36, points allowed by the 49ers in the first and third quarters during the regular season. … 4, 100-yard receiving performances by Boldin in his past seven postseason games. … 71-16, combined scored of the 49ers’ past two games against the Seahawks in Seattle.

Familiar faces: CB Perrish Cox was with the Seahawks last month. … Offensive line coach Mike Solari held the same position with the Seahawks in 2008-09. … Special teams assistant Tracy Smith was an assistant with the Seahawks in 2011 and is the son of Seahawks QB coach Carl Smith. … National scout Matt Malaspina spent five years as a scout for the Seahawks before joining the 49ers in 2006.

The last word: “They know us. We know them. Everything is on the line. That says it all.” – ILB NaVorro Bowman