49ers-Seahawks showdown rife with playoff implications


49ers-Seahawks showdown rife with playoff implications

The NFC West title will not be at stake when the division-leading San Francisco 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. But the game has plenty of implications for both teams.

The 49ers (10-3-1) are already in the playoffs. But they might need two victories to finish off the regular season to head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which guarantees a first-round bye.

The Seahawks (9-5) can wrap up a spot in the playoffs with a victory over the 49ers. They can also keep alive their slim chance of winning the division title.

"All we can do is focus on this game right here," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We'll have no trouble focusing. They're a great team, and coming home and all that, it will be exciting to get ready."

The 49ers won the first meeting, 13-6, on Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park. Since that time, the 49ers changed quarterbacks and the Seahawks have taken flight with their own rookie quarterback.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick got his chance to play when Alex Smith, the third-leading passer in the NFL at the time, sustained a concussion. When Smith was cleared medically, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick.

In Kaepernick's five NFL starts, the 49ers are 4-1. The 49ers are coming off a 41-34 victory over the New England Patriots last week in Foxboro, Mass. Kaepernick threw four touchdown passes and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson had his worst game of the season when the clubs met earlier this season. He completed 9 of 23 for 122 yards with no touchdowns and one interception at Candlestick Park.

Now, both teams are playing their best football of the season.

The Seattle offense has put up huge numbers the past two weeks, scoring 58 and 50 points in back-to-back blowout victories over Arizona and Buffalo. The Seahawks became the first team since the 1950 New York Giants to score 50 points in consecutive games in the same season.

This is a game that will feature two hard-hitting teams, and two coaches who are familiar with one another. Harbaugh and Carroll had an adversarial relationship as coaches at Stanford and USC. In three head-to-head games in the NFL, Harbaugh is unbeaten.

While both coaches joked this week about not exchanging Christmas cards, Harbaugh suggested he has a lot of respect for Carroll's coaching. He said there are certain characteristics of a Carroll-coached team.

[RELATED: Carroll, Harbaugh joke about greeting cards]

"Enthusiastic team. They play with a lot of energy. Play a high level of energy, intensity," Harbaugh said "Well-coached teams."

Both teams use similar formulas from their young, mobile quarterbacks to strong defenses. The 49ers rank second in the NFL in total defense, while the Seahawks are No. 3. The 49ers are preparing to play without All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith, who missed most of the second half against the New England Patriots with a left elbow injury.

[RELATED: Justin Smith might not play Sunday]

"The Seahawks are a hot team right now," Kaepernick said. "Their defense is playing great. Their offense is putting up points, so we have to be ready."

Seattle, which has not lost a home game this season, has won five of its past six games overall. Over the past six games, Wilson has led the charge with 11 touchdown passes and just one interception.

"Our trust in him has just skyrocketed in the last month," Carroll said. "He's ready, and we try to utilize every way we can to make it hard on our opponents."

“That’s our goal,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “We want to get the bye. We don’t shy away from what our goals are. We want to win the division, get the bye and go into the playoffs and go on from there. That’s something we control if we win out. It’s a big game, as far as the division and getting the bye.”

Kaepernick and the 49ers will a tough challenge in dealing with a loud environment at CenturyLink Field, along with a strong challenger. This is Kaepernick’s most important start, as the 49ers hold a half-game lead over the Green Bay Packers for the No. 2 seed with two weeks remaining.

"We're both great teams that want to win," Wilson said. "It's going to be a one of a kind (atmosphere). This is the best place to play in the NFL in terms of the energy."

With as well as both teams are playing, it's not out of the question there could be a third matchup down the road in the NFC playoffs.


Inactives: Ward, Robinson suiting up for 49ers

Inactives: Ward, Robinson suiting up for 49ers

SANTA CLARA – Cornerbacks Jimmie Ward and Rashard Robinson will be in uniform and available for the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium.

Ward started the 49ers’ first three games of the season before sustaining a right quadriceps strain that sidelined him for the past three games. Robinson started every game in place of Ward, but he sustained a concussion in the 49ers’ loss last week at the Buffalo Bills.

Robinson cleared the concussion protocol this week to be cleared to return to action. It is unclear whether Robinson or Ward will start at right cornerback. Ward practiced this week at cornerback and nickel back.

The 49ers on Saturday promoted running back DuJuan Harris from the practice squad to the active roster. He will suit up for Sunday’s game and be the second running back into the action, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Mike Davis will start in place of Carlos Hyde, who is out with a shoulder injury.

Harris was productive late last season after signing with the 49ers. He rushed for 140 yards on 27 carries (5.2-yard average).

Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey is inactive due to a knee condition for the second time in the past three weeks.

49ers inactives
QB Christian Ponder
WR Keshawn Martin
CB Marcus Cromartie
RB Carlos Hyde
T John Theus
TE Je’Ron Hamm
DL Glenn Dorsey

Buccaneers inactives
QB Ryan Griffith
RB Doug Martin
CB Johnathan Banks
T Leonard Wester
OL Caleb Benenoch
DE Robert Ayers
DT Clinton McDonald

Keenum throws four interceptions, Rams lose to Giants in London


Keenum throws four interceptions, Rams lose to Giants in London


LONDON -- The New York Giants capitalized on four interceptions of Case Keenum to defeat the Los Angeles Rams 17-10 Sunday in the first NFL game played at London's home of English rugby.

Keenum, coming off the best start of his career, had the Rams at the Giants 15-yard line with 50 seconds left when he lobbed a pass in the left corner of the end zone that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off. His intended target, Brian Quick, had broken off his route.

Keenum has thrown an interception on the Rams' final offensive play of the last three games.

The win kept the Giants (4-3) in good shape in the ultra-competitive NFC East, where no one has a losing record. The Rams (3-4) lost their third in a row.

The Giants entered Sunday with the worst turnover differential in the NFC at minus-10. That became -11 on their second play from scrimmage as tight end Larry Donnell coughed up the ball on the Giants 35, leading to the Rams' lone touchdown, a 10-yard grab by Tavon Austin.

But the Rams were unable to build on that early edge and instead hit the self-destruct button. Keenum threw two interceptions, both off high-sailing deflections, to safety Landon Collins, and two more in the end zone to cornerback Rodgers-Cromartie.

Collins returned his first pick 44 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, running from right to left across the field and making several Rams miss tackles before he bowled over center Tim Barnes to draw the Giants even.

Collins' second pick set up the winning drive, which featured a 22-yard catch by Odell Beckman Jr. to the Rams 6. Rashad Jennings from the 1.

The Rams' final two possessions ended in the end-zone interceptions by Rodgers-Cromartie, the pro-Giants crowd of more than 74,000 roaring their approval.


The Giants took the field looking jet-lagged, Rams the savvy travelers. That perhaps reflected the fact Los Angeles chose to fly overnight from Detroit the previous Sunday for a full week in England, while the Giants did most of their preparations at home before arriving Friday in London.

The Giants gained a single first down in the first quarter on an 11-yard completion to Sterling Shepard. The Rams, by contrast, controlled 11:36 of the first-quarter clock, gained seven first downs with a balanced attack, and scored on their first two drives to lead 10-0 with less than 10 minutes gone.


New York struggled for a seventh straight week to move the ball on the ground, frequently attempting ineffective draw plays from shotgun formation straight into Aaron Donald's turf. The Rams' run defense was stout up the middle despite the absence of Michael Brockers (thigh injury).

The Giants finished with 36 yards rushing.


Austin rightly celebrated scoring the opening TD, but much of his game was a head-scratcher. He fumbled twice, one out of bounds after a catch, one on an ill-advised punt return that he recovered - and his butterfingered catch attempt gift-wrapped Collins' interception. He also fair-caught another punt inside the Rams 5.

Austin redeemed himself with a nice 19-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter. He made two good catch-and-runs in the fourth quarter, once juking Rodgers-Cromartie for a first down. But Austin could do nothing to contest the first interception ball thrown to Rodgers-Cromartie minutes later.


New Giants kicker Robbie Gould made a 29-yard field goal in his only attempt and converted two extra points. He replaced Josh Brown, who was placed on the NFL's commissioner exemption list after more information surfaced concerning his abusive behavior toward his ex-wife.


Giants kick returner Dwayne Harris suffered what looked like a serious injury when returning the final punt of the first half. He lay still on the ground for several minutes, was immobilized and carted off the field as teammates prayed. But he returned to field the first punt of the fourth quarter. Neither team reported any other serious injuries.