49ers

49ers-Seahawks showdown rife with playoff implications

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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.

 

49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin downplays concern over head injuries

49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin downplays concern over head injuries

SANTA CLARA -- Marquise Goodwin received medical attention twice in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ 27-23 loss to the New York Giants on Monday.

Twice the wide receiver was examined for head injuries, and twice he returned to the game.

Goodwin downplayed the injuries and concern over his condition afterward. He said the night was no more or less physical than the standard NFL game.

“That is every week,” Goodwin said. “That is the name of the game.”

Goodwin, 27, has been placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol a reported six times in his six-year career, including last year’s season finale against the Los Angeles Rams. He was taken to a Los Angeles hospital after being knocked unconscious from a helmet-to-helmet hit from Rams safety Blake Countess. Goodwin was released, and traveled home with his teammates after the Dec. 31 game.

Goodwin was not immediately diagnosed with a concussion Monday night.

He was injured on a 13-yard reception late in the third quarter on a play in which Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree was penalized for unnecessary roughness for a high hit. After sitting out one play, Goodwin returned for the first play of the fourth quarter.

Later, Goodwin got both hands on a Nick Mullens pass but failed to make the catch, and Giants linebacker B.J. Goodson made an interception off the deflection. Goodwin was injured when he made helmet-to-helmet contact with Goodson on the tackle.

When asked if the 49ers’ medical staff tried to convince him to not go back in the game, Goodwin answered: “I have no idea. They were saying the same thing that they would say when anybody is on the ground, which is to take your time getting up.”

Goodwin returned to the game and had a 26-yard catch and run to set up one final 49ers play from the Giants’ 21-yard line. He played 61 of the 49ers’ 73 offensive snaps and caught four passes for 69 yards.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he has “zero” say whether players are cleared to return from injuries. He leaves those decisions entirely in the medical staff’s hands.

“The guy is a warrior,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said of Goodwin. “We have seen him fight through injury before. It is unfortunate that he has to even experience that. We appreciate him putting his body out there and coming back and giving us a chance to win.”

[RELATED: 49ers Report Card vs Giants]

[MORE: Whitner didn't like Goodwin's dance-off]

Kyle Shanahan non-committal on 49ers starting QB after loss to Giants

Kyle Shanahan non-committal on 49ers starting QB after loss to Giants

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers have some time to determine who will start at quarterback after their Week 11 bye, but the likely choice still is Nick Mullens. 

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was brief when discussing who would be under center after the break, but he did initially say Mullens would get the nod for a third start.

“I’m sure,” Shanahan said, “but I haven’t thought about it yet.”

Mullens’ second start wasn’t nearly as impressive as his first, but he still remained cool under pressure. He completed 27 of his 39 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown. Unfortunately, he also gets credit for throwing two interceptions, which gave him a passer rating of 73.7. 

Shanahan said that even while facing the adversity of throwing interceptions, Mullens stayed steady.

“He was the same,” Shanahan said. “He had one early. Didn’t change. Didn’t get gun shy. Played his game. I don’t think the picks affected him. He played his game.”

While Mullens might get a third start, Shanahan has been vocal about not having given up on C.J. Beathard. There likely will be a point in the remainder of the season where he is back on the field leading the 49ers’ offense. 

Earlier in the week, Shanahan spoke about giving Beathard a chance to get healthy. 

“I think C.J. started off well, and I think he went through a tough stretch,” Shanahan said. “I think it is good for him to sit back and get fully healthy and heal up and watch someone else do it. He’s only a play away from getting in. So, he’ll be ready.”

The day before Mullens made his NFL debut against the Raiders, Shanahan maintained that a healthy Beathard clearly was the best quarterback on the 49ers' 53-man roster.

“As I’ve said,” Shanahan said, “and I still firmly believe, if C.J. is healthy, he does give us the best chance to win. We just got to see if he’s going to be healthy.”

Shahanan also has said, more than once, that his decision on who starts at quarterback will be made on a week-to-week basis. 

The 49ers have the week off before they begin preparations to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Nov. 25.