‘It’s going to be a battle’ tonight

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comDecember 23, 2012 

Jim Harbaugh has Pete Carroll’s number.

And San Francisco has treated the Seattle Seahawks like their own personal punching bag for the past two years.

But with a playoff berth on the line, the Seahawks would like to change all of that in this evening’s highly anticipated, nationally-televised contest with the NFC West-rival 49ers traveling to CenturyLink Field.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Carroll said. “I know our guys are, and it’s been so much fun being here as a coach and coaching at CenturyLink. The way that the fans respond so consistently, and they love it so much, it is a factor. I can feel it.

“It changes the energy level, so hopefully we can perform up to that.”

Carroll and Harbaugh will face off for the seventh time in their coaching careers. Carroll has yet to beat his San Francisco counterpart as an NFL head coach, going 0-3 so far while in Seattle.

And he didn’t fare much better in the college ranks, finishing 1-2 against Harbaugh while serving as the coach at USC, while Harbaugh was at Stanford.

Two of Harbaugh’s former players at Stanford – Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin and cornerback Richard Sherman – also are winless against their old coach.

“It’s a little bit more personal, obviously,” Baldwin said. “We want to get the win. I haven’t beat Harbaugh since I’ve been here. So it’s a little frustrating in that regard. I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I always play, regardless.”

The Seahawks have lost four consecutive times to San Francisco.

Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant understands that in order to supplant the 49ers as NFC West division champions the Seahawks have to beat them, something they have not done since the 2010 season opener – Carroll’s first game in Seattle.

“We expect their very best,” Bryant said. “They’re a very good football team. They got a very good offensive line, one of the best in the league. So we know it’s going to be a battle. We’re definitely ready.

“It’s going to be testy. We’re going to exchange heated words. It’s going to be (a) great night of football.”

Seattle is 6-0 at home this season. But the last team to beat the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field was San Francisco, in a 19-17 nail-biter on Dec. 24 last year.

But the cast of characters will be a little bit different for San Francisco. Second-year pro Colin Kaepernick will get his first start against the Seahawks. The Nevada product has a 4-1 record since taking over for Alex Smith as San Francisco’s starting quarterback. Kaepernick has thrown for 1,289 yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, posting a 101.4 passer rating.

At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, possessing rocket-like power in his throwing arm with sprinter speed, Kaepernick offers more play-making ability than the steady Smith.

“I think Kaepernick is going to take more shots than Alex,” Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said. “That’s the difference. He’s going to take a lot more chances.”

Someone who might not be on the field is 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith. The 12th-year pro suffered an elbow injury in the second half of his team’s 41-34 victory over New England last week, and did not practice this week leading up to today’s game.

Smith is listed as questionable for the game, and would cut short a streak of 189 consecutive games played if he cannot take the field today.

The All-pro defensive tackle helps free up talented defensive end Aldon Smith, who leads the league with 19.5 sacks, to heat up the pass rush off the edge.

Justin Smith’s potential replacement is fellow defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois.

“I think he is going to play,” Carroll said about Justin Smith. “If there was ever a guy that is going to fight through whatever, he’s going to make it. I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”

Seattle receiver Golden Tate wants a chance to redeem himself. In Seattle’s Week 7 contest at San Francisco, a 13-6 loss, Tate had two of Seattle’s five dropped passes that dramatically affected the game.

Since then, Tate has totaled 27 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

“Me personally, I definitely have the thought in my head of how I played the last time we played,” Tate said. “Obviously I don’t want to play like that again. I want to put something better on film. And I feel like in order for us to win this game, I feel like I’m going to have to come up big, and make some big plays for us, along with the whole receiving corps.”

SEAHAWKS GAMEDAY

SAN FRANCISCO (10-3-1) AT SEATTLE (9-5)

Kickoff: 5:20 p.m., CenturyLink Field

TV: Ch. 5. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.

The series: The 49ers hold a 14-13 edge in the series. This is the 28th meeting between the two teams. San Francisco has won the past four. The 49ers took the last matchup earlier this season, 13-6. It was a Thursday night game leading off Week 7 on Oct. 18 in San Francisco.

What to watch: Richard Sherman had his appeal with the NFL on Friday, contesting his four-game suspension for allegedly violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Both Sherman and Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he’s expected to play today. Cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant returned to practice on Friday after sitting out most of the week nursing hamstring injuries. Both players are questionable for today’s game. If they cannot play, then rookie Jeremy Lane likely will make his second start of the season. … Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has 12 touchdown passes, one interception and a passer rating of 118.4 at CenturyLink Field. He is the first rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger to start and win his first six games at home. … Both teams are known for their defense, but their offenses are putting up a lot of points of late. The Seahawks are averaging 54 points a contest in the past two games, while the 49ers have averaged 34 points a contest in their last two. … Running back Marshawn Lynch is 121 yards short of becoming the third player in franchise history to reach 1,500 for a season, joining Chris Warren (1,545 in 1994) and Shaun Alexander (1,696 in 2004 and 1,880 in 2005). The Seahawks have a +12 turnover differential at home.

The pick: Seahawks, 28-24.

Prime numbers

SEATTLE

No. NamePos.Ht.Wt.Year

3Russell WilsonQB5-11206first

The 49ers will attempt to take away Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s running game, so Wilson needs to make plays with his arm and his feet.

81Golden TateWR5-10202third

The Notre Dame product is looking for redemption after struggling against San Francisco in the first contest.

92 Brandon MebaneDT6-1311sixth

The Seahawks got gashed up the middle in the first contest, and Mebane could help clog up the middle this time.

20 Jeremy LaneCB6-0190first

The rookie sixth-round draft pick will be tested by San Francisco’s big receivers on the outside.

SAN FRANCISCO

No. NamePos.Ht.Wt.Year

7 Colin KaepernickQB6-4230second

He played well enough to win on the road at New England, but can he duplicate that effort at CenturyLink Field?

15 Michael CrabtreeWR6-1214third

He’s finally playing like a first-round pick, leading the team in receptions with 73 for 868 yards and seven TDs.

95 Ricky Jean FrancoisDT6-3295second

If All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith can’t play because of an elbow injury, Jean Francois will have some big shoes to fill.

99 Aldon SmithOLB6-4258second

San Francisco’s leader in sacks needs only 3.5 more to top Michael Strahan’s NFL single-season record of 22.5 sacks.

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams eric.williams@thenewstribune.com

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