49ers-Seahawks Matchup No. 1: Bowman vs. Lynch

49ers-Seahawks Matchup No. 1: Bowman vs. Lynch
January 18, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Marshawn Lynch has rushed for 100 yards or more in four his eight games against the 49ers since coming to the NFC West. (USATSI)

Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights four 49ers-Seahawks matchups to watch Sunday, 3:30 p.m., in Seattle

49ers LB NaVorro Bowman vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch

Tale of the tape
Bowman (53): 6 foot, 242 pounds, fourth season, Penn State
Lynch (24): 5 foot 11, 215 pounds, seventh season, Cal

The 49ers are the only defense in the NFL that did not allow a 100-yard rusher during the regular season.

Marshawn Lynch came close when he accumulated 98 yards on 28 rushing attempts in the Seahawks’ 29-3 victory over the 49ers in Week 2.

[RELATED: 49ers-Seahawks matchup No. 2: Davis vs. Bennet]

And Lynch has definitely done it before. Lynch has rushed for 100 yards or more in four his eight games against the 49ers since coming to the NFC West in a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills. Of the past five games in which the 49ers have surrendered 100 yards rushing, Lynch has been the responsible party three times.

So there is little doubt about the mindset of the 49ers’ defense entering the NFC Championship game on Sunday.

“Marshawn Lynch,” 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. “You have to take him away. He’s one of the best backs in the National Football League. Very rough style. We have to take him away and make the quarterback (Russell Wilson) beat us.”

And while the 49ers entire defense will have a huge role in stacking up Lynch, who rushed for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season, the largest share of the responsibility will rest on the shoulders of All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Bowman was the 49ers’ leading tackler during the regular season. He will be the person most likely to be coming face-to-face with one of the league’s most punishing backs.

“You want to gather yourself and make sure you have him in front of you,” Bowman said. “And if you can do that you can definitely get him down or have a better chance of doing it.

[RELATED: 49ers-Seahawks matchup No. 3: Crabtree vs. Sherman]

“But a lot of guys shoot their gun, think he’ll fall down off of that. He just does a great job of fighting through it and breaking tackles. He’s a hard tackle I will admit, but it can be done.”

Bowman said it’s easy for a defender to fall into a trap of leaving his feet to attempt tackles against a powerful runner. He said he must concentrate on being “fundamentally sound, gathering, forming up and tackling.”

Whereas 49ers’ running back Frank Gore figures to be the focus of the Seahawks, too, the defenses will likely go about defending the run in different ways.

The Seahawks are likely to stack the box on occasion with eight defenders. But the 49ers do not figure to have that luxury very often.

Seattle likes to play a lot of three-receiver formations, which will force the 49ers to go with their nickel defense. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey leaves the game when the 49ers go with five defensive backs. On Sunday, cornerback Carlos Rogers will enter the game to cover the Seahawks' slot receiver, Doug Baldwin.

That means Lynch could get a lot of opportunities to run against a lighter 49ers defense. How the 49ers handle Lynch’s running with their nickel defense could be the biggest single factor in Sunday’s game and determine which team represents the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII.

“I think that’s where the game comes down to, if they can lighten up the box and run the ball,” Bowman said. “I think that’s what makes us unique. We’re able to do that more than other teams and it forces them to do other things.

“That’s the reason why they run the ball so much when we’re in nickel, because the box is lighter. But if we can stop it, they have to go to another plan.”