Richard Sherman is the only individual who could have saved this game.
But even the spectacle of the flamboyant star returning to his former home to play for the team he took such pleasure in antagonizing over the years wasn't enough to convince the NFL to keep the game in its scheduled prime-time slot.
The 49ers will face the “middle-of-the-road” Seattle Seahawks -- Sherman’s words, of course -- on Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PT, and his every move still will be worth watching. The 49ers are 2-9, while the Seahawks remain in the thick of the NFC playoff picture at 6-5.
Here are the four 49ers players to watch in the NFL Week 13 game at CenturyLink Field.
CB Richard Sherman
Sherman is coming off the only game this season in which he was repeatedly tested. He didn't hold up, as he surrendered five receptions (on five targets) for 113 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.
Sherman made it clear this week that he doesn't especially care for Russell Wilson. This could be the Seahawks quarterback's chance to go after Sherman, letting his actions do his speaking for him.
“Richard’s got to play a little bit better, and so do the 10 people around him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan, which airs Saturday on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3) at 7 p.m. “But Richard is not a guy to say, ‘Hey, I got beat this week, let me just back up and try not to get beat the next week.’ He’s going to compete.”
Shanahan said he has been impressed with Sherman’s willingness this season to keep playing and not make excuses, even while he hasn't bounced all the way back from Achilles surgery. Shanahan likes the example that has set for his teammates.
“I still don’t think he’s been fully healthy this year,” Shanahan said. “But he’s played at a high level, and he’s helped us a lot. He’s helped the young guys. He has a lot of experience in this scheme. It’s been nice to watch him play and play well.
“What has been neat is to watch a guy a lot who people expect to see play at a high level, and to watch him go out there sometimes play at 80 percent and not really care how he looks. Just go out there and compete, do his best and try his best to help us win. He’s going go out there and fight, and I want our young guys to see that.”
WR Dante Pettis
The 49ers want to see Pettis finish the season strong and make his bid for a starting job next season after he was limited for most of his rookie year with injuries. Pettis took advantage of increased playing time last week against the Bucs to catch four passes for 77 yards and one touchdown.
Said Shanahan: “That’s the first time where I said, ‘Hey, Dante, we’re not just rotating you. We are putting you at the X position, and you’re playing it the whole game,' and he did some good things and did some bad things. What was neat was the more he played, the better he got.”
Veteran Pierre Garçon isn't expected back next season, and the 49ers would like to place Marquise Goodwin in a specialized role for the future. So it is imperative that Pettis come through and become a reliable every-down receiver.
Garçon is out with a knee injury, and he might not play again this season. Goodwin remains away from the team to deal with a serious family matter.
DL Solomon Thomas
The 49ers gave Thomas his most playing time of the season last week at defensive tackle in hopes of getting him in a rhythm. He still has a long way to go to live up to his draft status as last year's No. 3 overall selection.
“I’m not at my expectations right now. I’m not where I should be,” Thomas told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “I’m not playing like I want to. There’s a long way for me to go. It’s going to be a long journey, but I can definitely get there, and I can definitely prove to everyone who I am and why I was drafted where I was drafted. It’s going to be a journey, but I’m going to get there.”
Thomas ranks 17th on the team with 19 tackles. He has only one sack this season after recording three as a rookie.
QB Nick Mullens
The 49ers still consider C.J. Beathard as their likely backup quarterback of the future because he simply has a better skill set than Mullens, who has worked hard and performed admirably in his three starts.
This is a difficult situation for any quarterback -- going into the den to face a young, aggressive Seahawks defense. Mullens got off to a hot start in his debut against the Raiders, but his play fell off in the past two games against the New York Giants and the Bucs.
Mullens hasn't received a lot of help from a depleted supporting cast that looks more like the fourth preseason game than an NFL regular-season offense.
The question that Shanahan might have to answer Sunday is whether a change at any point to Beathard really will make any difference.
“Nick got his opportunity because of an injury,” Shanahan said. “Nick came in and took advantage of his opportunity, and that’s why we kept him in here. He’s played well, and he’s given us a chance to win.
“I’ll assess the game and see how it goes, and I’ll always try to put the guy in who I think at the time gives us the best chance to win.”