49ers key matchup No. 3: Patrick Willis vs. Marshawn Lynch

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49ers key matchup No. 3: Patrick Willis vs. Marshawn Lynch

This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Seahawks matchups to watch Thursday, 5:20 p.m. (NFL NetworkKGO-TV, Ch. 7), at Candlestick Park.49ers LB Patrick Willis vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn LynchTale of the tape
Willis (52): 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, sixth season, Mississippi
Lynch (24): 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, sixth season, CalThrough three quarters, there was nothing out of the ordinary going on with the 49ers' usually stout run defense.But in the fourth quarter on Sunday, New York Giants running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson had five runs of 11 or more yards, including gains of 23 and 20 yards, respectively.Bradshaw finished with 116 yards rushing on 27 carries.Who was the last person to gain 100 yards rushing on the 49ers?The answer: He is coming to Candlestick Park on Thursday night.Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is the top running back in the NFC and he ranks third in the NFL with 549 yards on 128 rushing attempts."He's still the same running back. He runs the ball hard. He's an elusive guy. He's a hard guy to tackle," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. "We have to have everybody swarming to the ball and not expecting one guy to make the play. He's by far one of the best running backs in this league and will be one of the best backs we face all year. And we have to face him twice."Willis and Lynch went back to back in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. The 49ers selected Willis at No. 11 overall, while the Buffalo Bills chose Lynch. In October of 2010, Lynch was traded to the Seahawks. He has been the focal point of the Seattle offense since his arrival.Lynch gained 107 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in the 49ers' 19-17 victory in Seattle on Dec. 24.
"Their running game is the bread and butter of their offense," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "And everything works off of that. He's one of the best backs in the league. He's the best back we played last year by far."He broke more tackles than any back we played against last year. He broke the most against us. He runs hard. He's a slasher. But, yet, he's got really good cutting ability. So, when he's coming off his cut and maybe you don't have a clean, full shot at him, he's strong through the arm tackles."The 49ers know they'll be in an all-game battle against Lynch. And nobody will be tested as much as Willis, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his five NFL seasons.
The 49ers' run defense experienced uncharacteristic breakdowns in the fourth quarter against the Giants, and that unit will expect to tighten it up against a formidable opponent.Former Pro Bowl linebacker Matt Millen, an analyst on 95.7-FM The Game, said the Giants' game was the worst performance he's seen from Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Millen has raved in the past about the 49ers' inside linebacker duo.Fangio referred to the run defense in the fourth quarter as "sub-par."He added, "We've just got to take on our blocks better. We've got to play a little bit more physical in the front seven. We've got to get off blocks better. We've got to tackle better."

Agent: 49ers to re-sign running back DuJuan Harris

Agent: 49ers to re-sign running back DuJuan Harris

PHOENIX – Free-agent running back DuJuan Harris will re-sign with the 49ers, his agent said.

Harris, 28, appeared in 10 games for the 49ers last season with one start. He rushed for 138 yards on 38 attempts. He also caught eight passes for 115 yards.

Harris has also seen time with Jacksonville, Green Bay and Seattle in his four-year NFL career.

The 49ers did not tender Harris as a restricted free agent, but agent Andy Simms revealed his client will re-sign with the 49ers via Twitter. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and defensive lineman Chris Jones are the only other free agents the 49ers have re-signed.

Bruce Allen: Kirk Cousins will play for Washington in 2017

Bruce Allen: Kirk Cousins will play for Washington in 2017

PHOENIX – Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins will continue to be Washington’s quarterback for the 2017 season, according to team president Bruce Allen.

“That’s why we franchised him, yes,” Allen said during an interview with CSN Mid-Atlantic at the NFL owners meetings.

Cousins and Washington did not reach agreement on a multi-year contract extension before the start of the free-agent signing period. Washington tagged Cousins as the organization’s exclusive franchise player, taking him off the free-agent market for any interested clubs, such as the 49ers.

Cousins is set to earn $23.94 million in 2017, unless the sides agree to a new deal before the July 15 deadline. The price for Cousins to be franchised again in 2018 would be $34.47 million.

"We’ve had a lot of dialogue," Allen said. "He signed his tender. Obviously, we have an option for the ’18 season. Our goal from the beginning has been long term. I'm still hopeful and confident we'll do it."

The 49ers with new coach Kyle Shanahan are expected to be interested in Cousins, but there have no trade talks with any teams, Allen said. Shanahan was Washington's offensive coordinator under his father, then-head coach Mike Shanahan, for Cousins' first two NFL seasons.

"I can't keep up with the rumors," Allen said. "Kirk and I have talked almost a dozen times this offseason, and we get to laugh when we hear these different rumors. We haven't talked to anyone."