8:20 PM ET, December 23, 2012
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
Techin' In with the 49ers O-Line
The San Francisco 49ers need one win to clinch their second straight NFC West title.
Getting that done this week will mean doing something no other team has this season -- winning in Seattle.
The 49ers' top-ranked scoring defense could be in for a major test Sunday night when the high-scoring Seahawks will try to clinch their second playoff berth in three seasons and stay in the West race.
San Francisco (10-3-1) could have found itself in danger of letting the division lead slip away in Seattle after the Seahawks ripped Buffalo 50-17 at Toronto on Sunday, but instead turned in an impressive performance in their first of back-to-back prime-time contests. The 49ers built a 28-point lead at New England and hung on for a 41-34 win over the AFC East champs, clinching a playoff berth.
"Our team has now hung in in a lot of big-time pressure games," said coach Jim Harbaugh, whose team is in the driver's seat over 10-4 Green Bay for the NFC's No. 2 seed. "They've overcome adversity. They've shown they can do that."
The 49ers, though, have yet to show they can win three in a row this season, going 0-3-1 in their previous four chances. San Francisco has won four straight in this divisional matchup following a 13-6 victory on Oct. 18, but the Seahawks (9-5) are a much different team now with three consecutive wins and five in six games.
"The Seahawks are a hot team right now," 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw four TDs in Foxborough to earn NFC offensive player of the week honors, told the team's official website. "Their defense is playing great. Their offense is putting up points. So we have to be ready."
San Francisco's defense is the best in terms of points allowed (15.6 per game, one total point less than the Seahawks) and second in total yards (293.0), but Seattle's offense has been clicking lately. After setting a team record for points in a 58-0 win over Arizona on Dec. 9, the Seahawks became the first team in 62 years to score at least 50 points in consecutive weeks.
Their 108 points in those contests is tied for the third-most over a two-game stretch.
"We're definitely clicking well," said quarterback Russell Wilson, who ran for three scores and threw for another against the Bills. "I've been on a couple of teams that have scored that many in college. But to do it in the National Football League, I mean that's really tough to do."
No rookie QB since the 1970 merger had won his first six home games, but that's exactly what Wilson has accomplished.
Since he posted a season-low 38.7 passer rating in the loss at San Francisco, Wilson has completed 66.3 of his passes for 13 TDs with just two picks and a 111.3 rating.
Seattle is averaging 33.4 points in those contests -- second only to the Patriots' 41.3 during that stretch.
"I'm just thrilled that (Wilson's) been able to continue to grow," coach Pete Carroll said. "For a time, we were just trying to get the offense going and not screw it up and make sure he could keep growing.
"Well, we're past that now."
While Wilson and Marshawn Lynch -- who is 121 yards shy of becoming the third Seahawk back to reach 1,500 -- deserve much of the credit for Seattle's improved offense, the defense has been equally as impressive. This unit has allowed 14.2 points per game and forced 17 turnovers during this 5-1 run.
Seattle has been winning without cornerback Brandon Browner, who's served half of a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing substances, but the news could get worse. Teammate Richard Sherman will have an appeal of the same suspension heard Friday, and if he loses it, he could also be forced to sit as soon as Sunday.
The Seahawks could also be without cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant, both of whom are nursing hamstring injuries. Should they be unable to go, Seattle would be down to rookie Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Ron Parker in the secondary.
Those absences figure to make it more difficult to keep 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in check. Crabtree has 23 receptions for 301 yards and two TDs in the last three contests.
The 49ers rank second in the league with 162.9 yards per game on the ground, but leading rusher Frank Gore hasn't totaled 100 since running for a season-best 131 against Seattle.
If the Seahawks win, they'll still have a chance to win the West. Even with a loss, Seattle can clinch a playoff spot Sunday with losses by the Bears, Vikings and Redskins.
"It's a big division finish for us and we'll see how it goes," Carroll said.
"All we can do is focus on this game right here. We'll have no trouble focusing. They're a great team and coming home and all that it will be exciting to get ready."
San Francisco was the last visitor to win in Seattle with a 19-17 victory last Dec. 24.
More from ESPN.com
Dolphins trade Martin to 49ers for draft pick
The Miami Dolphins traded offensive tackle Jonathan Martin to the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional draft pick on Tuesday.
Jags send former 1st-rounder Gabbert to SF
The Jacksonville Jaguars have traded quarterback Blaine Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers.
Sources: Giants add linebacker Schofield
The New York Giants have agreed to terms with outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield on a two-year deal worth $8 million, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
49ers-Seahawks: What to watch
After watching film of both teams, Scouts Inc. breaks down key elements of the Week 16 49ers-Seahawks matchup.
• Who runs the read option best? The Seahawks slashed the Buffalo Bills last week with their version of the read option. QB Russell Wilson scored on runs of 14, 25 and 13 yards, and Marshawn Lynch gashed the defense for 113 yards when Wilson handed the ball off. Both teams will rely on their athletic quarterbacks to move the game with their legs, making it more difficult for the defenses to key on stopping individuals.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||17.3||15.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||SF|
|Rush Yds Allowed||SF|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Seattle leads 12-10|
|Oct 18, 2012||SF 13, SEA 6|
|Dec 24, 2011||SF 19, @SEA 17|
|Sep 11, 2011||SF 33, SEA 17|
|Dec 12, 2010||SF 40, SEA 21|
|Sep 12, 2010||SF 6, @SEA 31|
|Dec 6, 2009||SF 17, @SEA 20|
|Sep 20, 2009||SF 23, SEA 10|
|Oct 26, 2008||SF 13, SEA 34|
|Sep 14, 2008||SF 33, @SEA 30|
|Nov 12, 2007||SF 0, @SEA 24|
|Sep 30, 2007||SF 3, SEA 23|
|Dec 14, 2006||SF 24, @SEA 14|
|Nov 19, 2006||SF 20, SEA 14|
|Dec 11, 2005||SF 3, @SEA 41|
|Nov 20, 2005||SF 25, SEA 27|
|Nov 7, 2004||SF 27, SEA 42|
|Sep 26, 2004||SF 0, @SEA 34|
|Dec 27, 2003||SF 17, SEA 24|
|Oct 12, 2003||SF 19, @SEA 20|
|Dec 1, 2002||SF 31, SEA 24|
|Oct 14, 2002||SF 28, @SEA 21|
The 49ers have used pistol sets on 33 offensive plays their last two games after using such sets on 30 times the first 12 games of the season. With Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, the 49ers have run more than 80 percent of the time from pistol formations, and have averaged 6.4 yards per rush.[+]
49ers Rush Offense with Colin Kaepernick at QB - By Formation This Season
Russell Wilson has completed at least 50 percent of his attempts against four or fewer pass rushers in every game but one this season, his Week 7 matchup against the 49ers. Wilson went 6-of-15 (40 percent) against such rushes in the game for 85 yards.[+]
Russell Wilson Facing 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers - This Season
The 49ers defense has allowed one touchdown on throws more than 20 yards downfield this season, best in the NFL. Russell Wilson has touchdown passes of those distances this season, second best in the NFL, but was held to 0-of-5 with an interception in Week 7 against San Francisco.[+]
Passing More Than 20 Yards Downfield - This Season
Nearly 25 percent of the Seahawks rushes the past three games have been option plays. Over that time, the Seahawks' rush offense has averaged 5.2 yards per rush before first contact, twice the rate the team averaged in the first 11 games played.[+]
Seahawks Rush Offense - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information