Ahkello Witherspoon prepares to face two different Denver WRs


Ahkello Witherspoon prepares to face two different Denver WRs

SANTA CLARA – The Denver Broncos on Wednesday lost wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for the rest of the season due a torn Achilles sustained in practice.

The 49ers face the Broncos on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, and second-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon learned of Sanders' injury. He said he was looking forward to the challenge of facing him.

“That hurts,” Witherspoon said. “As a competitor, you want to go against the best. You see him as a person, I feel for him. I wish him the best.”

The injury, however, did not impact Witherspoon’s preparation for Sunday’s game. He said as part of his weekly routine, he does not begin studying the opposing receivers until Friday evening. It is a change in preparation he has made this season after working with veteran Richard Sherman.

[RELATED: 49ers promote Taumoepenu from practice squad]

“Friday night and Saturday night, that’s when I go into the personal stuff, those third downs when you’re going to be one-on-one with the X (receiver),” Witherspoon said. “What does the X like to do? And I get really intricate and look at the release and stuff like that.

“Last year, I did more and was trying to break down all kinds of stuff. I was looking at too much information and not retaining enough. With the help of Sherm, and his ability to retain information as well, he told that less is more throughout the week.”

On a typical week, Witherspoon said on Wednesdays he concentrates on first and second downs. His focus shifts to third downs on Thursday. On Friday, the entire plan is in place for review. Then, he focuses on the nuances of the players he will be assigned to cover.

The Broncos no longer have their top two receivers from the beginning of the season. The club traded Demaryius Thomas five weeks ago to Houston. Now, Witherspoon will adjust his film study to prepare to match up mostly against rookie Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. 

Witherspoon has experienced an up-and-down second season. After struggling early in the season, he is playing much better in coverage in recent weeks.

On the season, the opposition has targeted him 62 times with 35 completions for 407 yards and five touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. On the other side, Sherman has given up 18 catches on 31 targets for 305 yards and one touchdown.

“I like where I’m progressing,” Witherspoon said. “I’m never really happy with where I am. I like the steps I’m taking throughout the course of the season, the good, the bad, the in-between. I’m just trying to keep growing, keep working and keep getting better.”

Four 49ers players to watch in NFL Week 15 game vs. Seahawks

Four 49ers players to watch in NFL Week 15 game vs. Seahawks

Kyle Shanahan has been around for the past three games of the Seattle Seahawks’ dominance over the 49ers.

He'd prefer not to be reminded of an ongoing streak next season.

“Regardless of whether I’ve been here for two years or since 2013, I don’t like having to answer that question,” the coach said on "49ers Game Plan," which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

“I don’t want to hear it for another year, that it’s been that long since the 49ers have beaten them. I’d like to only have to talk about that until Sunday and then not have to talk about it again.”

For the record, the Seahawks have beaten the 49ers in 10 consecutive head-to-head matchups, beginning with the victory in the NFC Championship game after the 2013 regular season. The Seahawks blasted the 49ers 43-16 two weeks ago in Seattle.

Here are four 49ers players to watch in the rematch Sunday at Levi’s Stadium:

QB Nick Mullens

Mullens threw for 300 yards against the Seahawks just two weeks ago.

Let’s clarify: Mullens threw for 300 yards against the Seahawks just two weeks ago ... in the second half.

Mullens finished with 414 passing yards, but nearly three-quarters of those yards came after halftime when the 49ers were hopelessly behind. Mullens will make his sixth consecutive start when the Seahawks come to Levi’s Stadium, and the 49ers must get off to a better start.

Mullens has thrown for 746 yards in the past two weeks. He ranks behind only Jimmy Garoppolo for most passing yards in his first five starts, and he has placed himself in an advantageous position to challenge C.J. Beathard for the backup role next season.

He even has caught the eye of Hall of Famer Joe Montana, who recognized that Mullens generally has been making good decisions.

“He knows he has to continue to do the things that he knows he can do and not try to become a player that he’s not,” Montana said.

SS Marcell Harris

Harris made his first NFL start two weeks ago in Seattle. It was a rough outing, as he missed three tackles, but his play dramatically improved last week with some big stops in the 49ers’ win over the Denver Broncos.

Harris will play close to the line of scrimmage, and he figures to be a major factor in the 49ers’ bid to slow down the Seahawks’ running game.

“I’m going to redeem myself with tackling, most definitely,” Harris said. “The first game I came out of, I felt like I didn’t do well. From here on out, that’s one of my biggest keys. Keep moving forward and keep stacking these games on top of each other.”

NT D.J. Jones

Jones replaced veteran nose tackle Earl Mitchell in the starting lineup last week, and he appeared to add some spark with his young legs. Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay was one of the hottest runners in the league, but the 49ers held him to 30 yards on 14 carries.

The 49ers’ defense will face a challenge against the Seahawks after yielding 168 rushing yards to them two weeks ago. Running backs Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis all have been used with success. Quarterback Russell Wilson also is a threat with his legs.

Jones likely will see the most action at nose tackle on base downs for the remainder of the season to show whether he's capable of being a starter next season.

TE George Kittle

After his 210-yard receiving game against the Broncos, Kittle isn't sneaking up on anyone. He already has put together the most prolific season for any tight end in 49ers history.

Kittle has been the 49ers’ most consistent offensive threat with 69 receptions for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns. Two weeks ago in Seattle, he caught six passes for 70 yards.

49ers-Seahawks injury report: Jaquiski Tartt out for second consecutive game


49ers-Seahawks injury report: Jaquiski Tartt out for second consecutive game

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers will face the Seattle Seahawks without safety Jaquiski Tartt, who will sit out for the second week in a row. 

This will be the sixth game that Tartt has missed over the course of the season while dealing with a re-occurring shoulder injury. Marcell Harris and Antone Exum Jr. will reprise their roles at the safety positions as a result. 

Harris had a much improved performance in the team’s win over the Broncos, exemplifying the learning curve that was expected by coach Robert Saleh. 

[RELATED: 49ers rookie Harris gets quick chance for redemption vs. Seahawks]

Wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis are questionable, which is a better sign than being downgraded, after being limited in practice this week. Expect to still see Kendrick Bourne in the lineup frequently, as well as tight end George Kittle working in as a receiving weapon. 

Running back Matt Breida also is questionable, but with solid performances by rookie Jeff Wilson over the last few weeks, there is less pressure to get him onto the field. His snap counts could be limited. 

Good news for the offense is that all offensive linemen are off the injury report. That could help their ability to work against a Seahawks front seven that held the 49ers to 66 yards on the ground in their first matchup. 

49ers injury report

S Jaquiski Tartt 

RB Matt Breida
WR Marquise Goodwin
LB Mark Nzeocha
WR Dante Pettis
CB K’Waun Williams
DL Cassius Marsh

Seahawks injury report 

S Maurice Alexander 
RB Rashaad Penny
LB K.J. Wright

G D.J. Fluker

WR Doug Baldwin 
S Bradley McDougald
DT Jarran Reed