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#HawksMailbag - December 4: Points of emphasis when facing 49ers?

Posted Dec 4, 2013

Answering your questions about the club on weekly basis.

Welcome to another edition of #HawksMailbag here on Seahawks.com, our weekly feature where we answer your Twitter questions about the club.

After clinching a playoff spot by topping the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday Night Football at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks ready for a Week 14 matchup with the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers.

A win this Sunday at Candlestick Park equals a division title and at least one home playoff game for the Seahawks. Pretty exciting, huh? Let's get to your questions. 

Limiting wide receiver Anquan Boldin's opportunities should be a high priority this Sunday on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. Of Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 303 passing attempts this season, nearly one-third (96) of them have gone Boldin's way, accounting for a team-high 61 catches and 822 yards.

The Seahawks did a nice job shutting down Boldin when they faced the club in Week 2 at CenturyLink Field, limiting him to just one catch for seven yards. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman shadowed Boldin most of the night - a request Sherman relayed to head coach Pete Carroll after he saw Boldin explode for 13 catches and 208 yards in Week 1.

It will be interesting to see how the team handles its coverage of Boldin this time around, as the return of 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree, who missed the team's first 11 games with a torn Achilles tendon, might not grant Sherman that same luxury.

Sticking in the NFC, I think you have to point to either the San Francisco 49ers or the Carolina Panthers as the club the Seahawks should be most wary of. Both teams are built to play a similar style of football as Seattle - emphasize the run to open up the pass, operate a fast, physical and ball-hawking defense, and incorporate a quarterback (Colin Kaepernick, 49ers; Cam Newton, Panthers) capable of causing headaches with their legs.

Both the Niners and Panthers are hot, with San Francisco winning seven of their last nine and Carolina owning the League's longest current win streak at eight games - one more than the Seahawks. The two teams rank in the top five in yards surrendered per game - Carolina at No. 2 with 289.8 yards per game, San Francisco at No. 5 with 311.7 yards per game. They also rank in the top three in points given up per game - Carolina at No. 1 with 13.1 points per game and San Francisco at No. 3 with 16.4 points per game. For comparison, Seattle ranks at No. 1 in yards surrendered per game (284.5) and No. 2 in points given up per game (15.5).

Several things still need to shake out down the regular season stretch, but I believe Carolina and San Francisco will both be tough outs if they can clinch a spot in this year's playoffs. Right now, they're penciled in as the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds, respectively, in the NFC playoff race. But the postseason offers a "reset button" for clubs and presents a unique situation where anything can happen. Any team can pose a threat on any given day.

Head coach Pete Carroll hasn't mentioned any offensive linemen when asked about team injury woes, but I think the most-telling sign of the group's health came on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. Left tackle Russell Okung, right tackle Breno Giacomini and center Max Unger - each of whom has missed significant time this season - played all 71 of the team's offensive snaps. The only other player on the field for every offensive snap? That was quarterback Russell Wilson.

Paul McQuistan and James Carpenter essentially split time at left guard, with McQuistan logging 40 plays to Carpenter's 34, while J.R. Sweezy was on the field for 70 snaps, most of those at right guard in addition to some rare-action at fullback late in the game. All-in-all, this unit appears to be in good health.

Head coach Pete Carroll confirmed Wednesday that linebacker Bruce Irvin suffered a thigh injury on Monday night, but he does not expect the injury to keep Irvin out of Week 14's contest with the San Francisco 49ers. Carroll said Irvin's practice time will be limited to start the week, so we'll have to wait and see how he responds leading up to Sunday's game at Candlestick Park.

Head coach Pete Carroll did not mention running back Marshawn Lynch by name when asked about any injury concerns as the club began the week of practice, but Lynch has appeared on practice reports with knee ailments since Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Entering the final quarter of the regular season, expect Seahawks staff to err on the side of caution during the week of practice to ensure Lynch is rested and ready to deliver his physical, punishing style of play on gameday.

That is not official, no. Head coach Pete Carroll confirmed on Wednesday that there is no thought about resting wide receiver Percy Harvin until the playoffs.

"He wants to play right now," Carroll said.

Harvin did do some running on Wednesday at Seahawks Headquarters, but did not participate in practice. Carroll has noted they will wait and see how Harvin's sore hip responds to each day of work before determining if he'll be available for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

I don't think so. I think adding a player of wide receiver Percy Harvin's talent level can only aid an already effective offensive unit. Head coach Pete Carroll has said they are not going to change the offense to completely feature Harvin. Instead, they'll simply add him into the mix, offering another weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson.

Although it was Harvin's first game-action in more than a year, I think you saw glimpses of that gameplan when he played against his old team - the Minnesota Vikings - in Week 11 at CenturyLink Field. Harvin's mere presence opened up big plays for other Seattle playmakers, most notably fellow wideout Doug Baldwin, who hauled in a 44-yard deep ball after the Minnesota safety cheated to Harvin's side because Harvin had beat his man out of the slot position. Opposing defenses are aware of the damage Harvin can do if he is left to operate in one-on-one situations, and they'll be forced to react accordingly.

Harvin also adds value on kickoffs, made obvious by his 58-yard return that set up a Baldwin touchdown just before halftime in that Week 11 game against the Vikings. But it was the ensuing kickoff to Harvin that was just as important. Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh booted short - away from Harvin - to fullback Michael Robinson, who was stationed at Seattle's 31-yard line. Robinson returned the ball to Seattle's 35, which outside of Harvin's 58-yarder was the best field position the team started with after a kickoff that afternoon.

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