Richard Sherman returns to Seattle for the first time since being released by the Seahawks. Will Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin challenge him? No. 25 will be a central figure as he roams the CenturyLink Field secondary again.
The Seahawks get back to CenturyLink Field on Sunday for just their third game at home since Oct. 7.
Here’s a preview of the 1:25 p.m. kickoff against the 49ers.
Seattle has been a surprise to some this season, if not to themselves, in winning four of the past six and five of the past eight to move into playoff contention at 6-5 (the Seahawks could hold the No. 5 spot in the NFC by the end of the weekend). And Seattle now plays four of the final five at home. The 49ers have been one of the NFL’s disappointments at 2-9, a faceplant that truly began after the loss for the season to a knee injury of promising young quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers, though, have some decent stats (fifth in rushing, 11th overall in defense) and have lost four games by four points or less.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Seattle QB Russell Wilson & WR Doug Baldwin vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Seahawks mailbag: Is Jadeveon Clowney still on Seattle's radar? And which veteran could be a cap casualty?
- The year of the decommit? How a football recruiting cycle altered by the coronavirus pandemic could affect UW
- Golf is back from the coronavirus shutdown, but Seattle tennis courts remain closed. Why?
- Mariners will pay minor-leaguers through 2020 season, but coronavirus shutdown forces other reductions
- Analysis: Making the case for the Pac-12 playing football in the fall
The return of Sherman is the more-than-interesting subplot to this game — to many, maybe a bigger deal than the game itself. One of the most iconic players in Seattle sports history, Sherman made it clear again this week he wasn’t happy with how his Seahawks career ended and also took some shots at Wilson (that he’d seen him throw five interceptions before) and called the Seahawks a “middle of the road’’ team. Sherman’s close friend Baldwin likewise said he didn’t like the way Sherman’s Seattle career ended (Wilson met the media this week before Sherman made his comments). Baldwin and Sherman were teammates at Stanford and with the Seahawks with Sunday marking the first time they will play an official games as foes. “It’s an interesting matchup to watch,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ll see how it goes. They’ve competed as hard as they could compete for a lot of years, whether this game shows that or not. They’ve already been to the top of that mountain. I’m sure there will be times when they’re lining up with each other.” For what it’s worth, Sherman does not have an interception this season. He had 32 as a Seahawk, tied for fourth in franchise history.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Chris Carson/Rashaad Penny.
After being held to 75 yards by Carolina last week, the Seahawks will want to get the running game going again against the 49ers. Seattle had rushed for 155 or more yards in seven straight games before the Panthers contained them. Carson got most of the work last week (55 yards on 16 carries) while Penny had just 4 yards on four carries. Carson will start but expect Seattle to get Penny involved again early (he’s been typically starting the third series of the game of late) and then go with the hot hands. The 49ers, though, have been solid against the run, allowing 4.0 yards per carry, eighth in the NFL.
Sherman’s return colors everything about this game and was one of the reasons this was originally scheduled for Sunday night before it was flexed out of that a few weeks ago. Still, his every movement — before, during and after — will be closely monitored and heavily analyzed Sunday, and you know he’s hoping he can get his hands on a pass or two (and then who knows what will happen if he does). Sherman’s presence may be enough for Seattle to avoid any letdown after two huge wins the past two weeks pulled out in the fourth quarter. But a chance to further improve their playoff positioning should be enough for the Seahawks.
WILD CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Running back J.D. McKissic.
McKissic is back after missing the first 11 games due to injury and figures to be active. Seattle already has a good tailback trio going with Carson, Penny and Mike Davis, who has been largely playing the third-down/two-minute role lately. But figure the Seahawks to try to find some ways to work McKissic in, either as a tailback or split out. He should also be on several special teams.
5-11 (Seattle’s interceptions on offense and defense)
14-2 (San Francisco’s interceptions on offense and defense).
The 49ers average the same number of yards per play on offense as the Seahawks (each 5.6) and are better on the ground (4.8 to Seattle’s 4.6). And the 49ers allow more than half-a-yard per play less than Seattle (the Seahawks are at 6.2, the 49ers 5.5). So what explains the difference in the two team’s records? As Carroll would say, “it’s all about the ball.’’ Sure, it’s probably a little more complicated than this. But the most striking difference in the two is turnovers, and specifically interceptions. The 49ers have thrown 14 this year, the fifth most in the NFL, while picking off just two, the fewest. Seattle, meanwhile, has thrown just five, tied for the third fewest (behind only New Orleans and Green Bay) while picking off 11, tied for the sixth most. 49ers rookie QB Nick Mullens, who will be making his fourth career start Sunday, has thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Wilson has admittedly thrown two critical pick-sixes this year. But his interception rate of 1.6 is the second lowest of his career.
THE FINAL WORD
Seahawks 31, 49ers 13.
The 49ers are reeling and turnover prone and with a rookie quarterback making just his fourth career start. Seattle is riding high after the two huge wins the past two weeks made the playoffs begin to look like a high probability. That should add up to one of Seattle’s more comfortable wins of the season.