Six Points: 49ers vs. Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have posted only two convincing victories, and one of them came against Sunday's opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks put on a defensive clinic in a 20-3 victory at San Francisco on Oct. 22 and look to sweep the season series for the second straight year.
Seattle coughed up a fourth-quarter lead for the fifth time in last weekend's 39-32 loss to Arizona that dropped the Seahawks below .500 and three games back of the Cardinals in the NFC West. Despite the defensive woes, Seattle has limited the 49ers to 13 points in the past three meetings.
San Francisco managed eight first downs and 142 yards of total offense in last month's matchup, one of the reasons Colin Kaepernick was enevtually benched and replaced by Blaine Gabbert. Although Gabbert led the 49ers to a victory in his first start versus Atlanta, he faces a considerably tougher task in Seattle.
Here are three keys to the game for both the 49ers and Seahawks.
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1. Test the Legion of Boom
Gabbert carried a 5-22 career record into the start versus Atlanta so he's not a panacea for all of San Francisco's offensive struggles. However, he was praised for getting rid of the ball quickly and showing a willingness to run with 32 rushing yards versus the Falcons. Given the uncertainty of the 49ers' backfield, Gabbert will have to throw the ball to give his team a chance.
2. Come after Russell Wilson
Perhaps the lone positive for San Francisco in the previous meeting versus the Seahawks was its ability to get to the quarterback, registering five of its 16 sacks. With NaVorro Bowman saying his surgically repaired knee is feeling the best it has all season and fellow linebackers Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks notching two sacks each against Wilson in the past, it's one of the few areas where the Niners have a matchup edge.
3. Keep targeting Garrett Celek
Celek inherited the starting tight end job when Vernon Davis was traded to the Denver Broncos and responded by catching a pair of touchdown passes against the Falcons. Although they were Celek's only two targets, Davis did have four catches for 61 yards against a Seattle defense that has repeatedly been burned by tight ends.
1. If it worked once ...
Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman still doesn't have an interception but typically draws the assignment of covering the opposition's top receiver. He shadowed San Francisco's Torrey Smith last month and held the speedster to zero catches on one target. Although Smith contended he was open on plenty of occasions, why stray from the blanket strategy?
2. Backup plan at running back
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 122 yards on 27 carries -- both season highs -- at San Francisco to help Seattle control the game, but he has been dealing with an adominal injury. Rookie Thomas Rawls played superbly when Lynch was sidelined earlier in the season, but he had been slowed by a calf injury. Now healthy, it might be time to give Rawls a bigger workload.
3. Take some deep shots
Any talk of the Seahawks' passing game invariably revolves around whether tight end Jimmy Graham is being utilized properly. Doug Baldwin did provide a lift to the beleaguered wide receiving corps with a pair of touchdowns catches last weekend. However, blazing rookie Tyler Lockett had his best outing versus the 49ers and is facing an injury-ravaged secondary.