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What To Watch In The Seahawks' Week 12 Game vs. The 49ers

Players, matchups and storylines to watch when the Seahawks host the 49ers on Thanksgiving.


The Seahawks and 49ers will meet in prime time on Thanksgiving night, an NFC West clash between the top two teams in the division this year, and the teams that have won nine of the last 13 division titles since Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in 2010, with Seattle winning five and San Francisco winning four, including last season.

"They're as balanced as anyone in football right now, they're right there," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "You can't win 12 games in a row like they did (last season) and factor in the playoffs and all of that and bring it back to the next season without great continuity and a plan. I think Kyle (Shanahan) has done a fantastic job, I've always had great respect for the guys that come out of his family, and he's really at the top of his game."

Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks host the 49ers on Thursday night:

1. Can Seahawks avoid costly mistakes that have shown up in losses?

There were several factors at play that led to Seattle's Week 11 loss to the Rams, but perhaps the biggest was the 130 yards worth of penalties the team piled up, including two late-game flags on the defense that extended Rams drives after third-down stops. And while some of the calls may have been debatable, plenty of others, including some pre-snap penalties on both the offensive and defensive lines, are very avoidable.

The Seahawks have also been somewhat turnover prone in losses, turning the ball over five times in their past three losses. Facing a team as talented as the 49ers, the Seahawks know they'll need to play a cleaner game if they want to end up victorious on Thursday.

"We just have to play cleaner, especially in key situations and key scenarios," said safety Julian Love. "The refs know who we are. We put it on tape that we play a physical style of football. They are a little more keen on watching guys. We have to know that. We have to take that into account and just play clean ball, because we have the talent to do so."

While the Seahawks have improved when it comes to turnovers the past two weeks, committing just one, a third-down interception thrown by backup quarterback Drew Lock, after having nine in the previous four games, they know that keeping up that trend won't be easy against the 49ers. In three meetings last season, including ga playoff loss, the Seahawks were minus-eight in turnover differential, and this season, the 49ers have 19 takeaways, tied for second most in the NFL, including a league-high 14 interceptions.

"It starts with protecting the football, not turning the ball over," said quarterback Geno Smith. "It starts with converting on third downs; something we talk about every single week, and then going out there and executing. Especially in the red zone, getting touchdowns, trying to get more touchdowns than field goals. And then overall, just winning the game however we can. Whatever it takes to get out there and get a win. Obviously, they beat us three times last year, and to me that's unacceptable. We have to do whatever it takes. We have to fight, scratch, and claw to get it done."

2. How much better equipped is this year's defense to slow down a loaded 49ers offense?

The 49ers feature one of the most talented and balanced offenses in the NFL, a collection of talent made even better by the scheme and play-calling of head coach Kyle Shannahan, a unit that ranks third in the NFL in total offense (387.0 yards per game), sixth in rushing offense (132.7 YPG), eight in passing offense (254.3), and fourth in scoring (27.9 points per game).

"These guys are loaded," Carroll said. "When they're cooking like they have been the last couple of weeks again, they had their three weeks where they took a dip, but when they got back on track in the last couple of weeks, they looked like the team that was playing earlier in the year. Which means they're terrifically balanced, they have a defense that they can count on, they've been really consistent, really good pass rush, bunch of guys on the second level that really make problems for you. Combining that with a team that does mix so well on offense. Their run-pass mix is really good, they've been very explosive on both ends of that. It gives you no way to get away from the special aspect of this team. It's a really well-balanced club."

And while the Seahawks know they'll have their hands full, they do come into this game feeling like their defense is much better equipped to slow down the 49ers than was the defense that allowed 41 points and 505 yards in last season's playoff loss in Santa Clara.

Only two players who started that game, Quandre Diggs and Riq Woolen, will be starting Thursday, and the Seahawks feel like they're significantly better on all three levels, having added players like Dre'Mont Jones, Jarran Reed and Leonard Williams up front, Bobby Wagner at linebacker and Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love in the secondary, not to mention players who were injured for the previous meeting like Jordyn Brooks and Jamal Adams.

"We're going to be better," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "We're still improving, but obviously better than what we were. And still growing. I like where things are going. But there's lots of parts of our game we have to clean up, too. But we're taking strides.

"Up front we're playing better. Linebackers, Jordyn is better than last year. And having Bobby back, you can't replicate that. And obviously having guys back in the secondary and being a year improved and healthy. At all three levels we're better than we were last year without question.

3. How does Geno Smith look coming back from injury.

While Smith is listed as questionable for Thursday's game, Carroll said he's expecting the quarterback to play despite a triceps injury that temporarily knocked him out of Sunday's game in Los Angeles.

Smith was limited in what he could do in walkthrough practices this week, but Carroll said that Smith "did really well" throwing on Wednesday, giving him confidence that his quarterback is ready to go.

Smith, of course, is facing a tough test in a 49ers defense that has allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, but one cause for optimism is that he played progressively better in his three outings against the 49ers last year, culminating in a playoff loss in which he completed 71.4 percent of his passes, throwing for 253 yards, two touchdowns an interception.

4. How do the rookie running backs fare with Kenneth Walker III unlikely to play?

Carroll all but ruled out starting running back Kenneth Walker III for Thursday's game, the result of an oblique injury that knocked him out of Sunday's loss to the Rams. And while Walker's playmaking ability will be missed, the Seahawks do feel good about the depth at that position, led by rookie Zach Charbonnet, who is the team's second leading rusher behind Walker with 261 yards on 53 carries, giving him a very respectable 4.9 yards-per-carry average. The Seahawks also will use DeeJay Dallas, who primarily has been a factor on special teams this season, and are also expected to see rookie Kenny McIntosh make his NFL debut. McIntosh was having a strong training camp before injuring his knee in August, an injury which landed him on injured reserve. With Walker unlikely to play, Carroll said he is expecting to see McIntosh get his first playing time, and perhaps the rookie can add a spark to the offense.

"He's really versatile," Carroll said. "He's more of a scat back type of guy, quickness and explosion, real bursty, catches the ball really well. You think that he's going to break it when he gets the ball in his hands. That's what you feel like with him."

5. How big of a boost can the 12s provide?

The Seahawks have long enjoyed one of the NFL's best homefield advantages, and the 12s have brought the noise this season, helping the Seahawks to four straight wins at Lumen Field since a season-opening loss. With a Thanksgiving game in prime time against the NFC West-leading 49ers, the Seahawks are expecting an especially lively crowd for this game.

"I would hope so," Carroll said. "I would think so. It just feels like playoff time for the rest of the season. We're so fortunate to be rolling in that kind of area. It just feels like that. Every game coming up is crucial and this one is as obvious as it gets. I hope the fans are juiced and ready to go and we will be and make it a great night. We'll look good in the unis and all of that. It will be an exciting night."

Even 49ers players can respect the energy Seahawks fans will bring for this one.

"Very excited about Thursday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks," 49ers tight end George Kittle told reporters. "… It's one of my favorite atmospheres and places to play. They absolutely hate us, and what a great fan base to absolutely hate us. It's really fun. It's going to be an exciting game and we have to go up there and get a win."

The Seahawks and 49ers face off on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the 49ers.

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