A Seahawks victory Thursday at Candlestick would build the national notice Seattle's is drawing, but no one expects the San Francisco 49ers to make it easy.
Pete Carroll has an ingrained football coach’s belief in not overselling — or underselling — any single game on the schedule. His players have bought into that mantra, which he is peddling fast and furious this shortened week as they approach their Thursday showdown in San Francisco with the 49ers.
Yet the Seahawks are fully aware that in a season of early challenges, this game is their most profound test yet. Not only do the 49ers have possession of the NFC West title to which the Seahawks aspire, but they were the only team last year to defeat Seattle twice.
To up the ante, the teams go into the game — the first division contest of the season for San Francisco, and already the last division road game for the Seahawks — tied for the NFC West lead at 4-2.
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“It’s a cliché to say, but each week is the biggest week,” said Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner. “But this most definitely, because we lost to them twice, division game — we don’t have any division wins. They’re ranked No. 1 in the run game (at 176.8 yards per game on the ground), and their pass game is coming along. It’s a big challenge, and to get this ‘W’ would be so big for us.”
For starters, a victory at Candlestick Park would build upon the national notice the Seahawks are starting to earn after eye-catching wins over the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots. Not that they would willingly hand in their underdog card.
“If it were to happen that we were to come out victorious, I’m sure people would find a way to say San Fran lost it,” shrugged fullback Michael Robinson. “We’re going to keep playing our game, and whoever’s next.”
Adding to the degree of difficulty, the 49ers are coming off a 26-3 home loss to the New York Giants — the team that kept them out of the Super Bowl last year with a win in the NFC title game.
In their year-plus under coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have lost just four regular-season games. In the four games that followed, they’ve won them all by a combined 93-11 score, forcing 14 turnovers and not allowing a single touchdown.
“I think that when we lose, we have a chance to sit back and realize what just happened,” 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. “We have a chance to think about the playoffs, the feeling that you get when you make it to the playoffs, and how great it is being there. So we get a chance to reflect on all of those things when we take a loss, and I think it helps us out for the next week. We can’t continue to lose. We can’t.”
Said Seahawks veteran Leon Washington: “Usually, when teams come off a loss, they’re more amped to get the win. Knowing this 49ers team, they’re a veteran-led team that understands the game of football. We know they’re going to come bang it, and we know we’re going to come bang it. So it’s going to be a game where it comes down to will, who can last the longest.”
The Seahawks suffered a season-opening 33-17 loss to the 49ers last year as Ted Ginn Jr. returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns. And in Week 16, Seattle lost a 19-17 heartbreaker as quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was stripped of the ball late in the game. Running back Frank Gore, averaging 5.4 yards per carry this season, has always been a load for the Seahawks.
“It’s going to be a brawl, and we know that,” said Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill. “That’s how I remember San Fran as long as I’ve been in the league. Over my eight years, I’ve played them 14, 15 times. It’s a brawl when you play San Fran, and that was before Harbaugh even got there.
“They always had that personality. It’s always been tough. We know that. They’re even more so a pounding team now that Harbaugh’s there. … You have to get your body ready for it, especially in a short week. It’s going to be a tough one.”
And one that reverberates with significance, even if the Seahawks are downplaying it.
|One for the defense|
|The Seahawks and Niners will bring two of the best defenses in the NFL when they meet Thursday night|
|Pts allowed||Yds per game||Yds per play|
|Seahawks||15.5 (2nd)||294.7 (4th)||4.7 (2nd)|
|Niners||15.7 (3rd)||275.8 (1st)||4.6 (1st)|