Jimmy Garoppolo, Russell Wilson prepared for 49ers-Seahawks 'dogfight'

Jimmy Garoppolo, Russell Wilson prepared for 49ers-Seahawks 'dogfight'

All eyes will be on Santa Clara on Monday night when the Seahawks visit Levi's Stadium to face the undefeated 49ers. 

At 8-0, Kyle Shanahan's team has rolled over just about everyone in their path to this point, but their NFC West rival poses their stiffest challenge to date. 

The long-time bullies of the NFC West, Seattle enters the "Monday Night Football" clash at 7-2, buoyed by the MVP-level play of quarterback Russell Wilson and powerful running game.

A win Monday night would put the 49ers on the fast track to winning the division and locking up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. A loss, however, would bring them back toward Seattle, with a treacherous second-half schedule still to come.

For the Seahawks, they enter the game against their division rival no longer the team with a vaunted defense, looking to choke the life out of their opponent. That honor now belongs to the 49ers, who own the NFL's second-best scoring defense led by a powerful defensive line and former Seahawks star Richard Sherman. 

Coming into the biggest game of his 49ers career to date, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is ready for what he knows will be the ultimate battle.

"It's a great opportunity for us," Garoppolo told ESPN's Steve Young on an interview to air on "Monday Night Countdown." "We've had a couple division games this year. Division games are always going to be tough and we know that. It's going to be a dogfight out there on Monday night but we're looking forward to it."

After opening the season 8-0, the 49ers have every right to feel like one of the favorites to head to Miami and play for the Super Bowl. They've been dominant in almost every aspect of the game, with each position group starring at times. The undefeated record, though, hasn't changed the 49ers' locker room.

"It's not that different," Garoppolo told Young about the feeling around the 8-0 Niners. "There's confidence. There's definitely a confidence, but we haven't been talking playoffs, we haven't been talking Super Bowl, all that stuff. One week at a time, and honestly, we've taken that mindset this entire season and it's worked out well for us."

Garoppolo enters the game as one of the biggest question marks surrounding the 49ers. He's thrown for 1,806 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season while completing 70.6 percent of his passes. The 49ers' defense has carried the day for most of the season, allowing Garoppolo to find his footing after missing last season with a torn ACL.

There are no question marks around Wilson, though. Deemed the MVP front-runner by many, the Seahawks star has been sensational this season, Following his five-touchdown performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Wilson now has thrown 22 touchdowns and only one interception.

The task of facing the NFL's lone undefeated team is one Wilson and the Seahawks are looking forward to, but they aren't focused on the bagel San Francisco still has in the loss column.

"I think for us, we've been preparing for moments like this, opportunities -- championship opportunities all season," Wilson told ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson. "Every game matters. Every practice matters. I think this is a great opportunity. They look great on film. They are playing great football. They are one of the best teams in the NFL. It's been interesting to watch how good they've been playing. It's going to be a battle.

"It's about our season, it's not about theirs necessarily," Wilson continued when asked if ruining an undefeated season means anything. "We got to continue what we're doing. We've been playing great football. The great thing is we can play even better. That's what we're looking forward to. it's about our season and what we're trying to do."

What Wilson and the Seahawks are trying to do is put a chink in the 49ers' armor. They'll look to establish the run early, using powerful back Chris Carson to pummel the 49ers' run defense, which has been mediocre this season. Getting Wilson into second- and third-and-manageable will keep San Francisco's front four from pinning their ears back and coming after Wilson.

Wilson's top target, Tyler Lockett, faces a crucial matchup against K'Waun Williams, who has been one of the best slot corners in the NFL this season. Will Wilson test Sherman on the outside with rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf or Josh Gordon? Can the 49ers defense keep him contained in the pocket and stop him from extending plays and creating big plays down the field?

For the 49ers, the addition of Emmanuel Sanders has taken the passing game from "break in case of emergency" to a bonafide threat. Garoppolo got the air attack going in Week 9 against the Cardinals, throwing for four touchdowns in the win. The Seahawks will look to bottle up Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and the 49ers' running game Monday night and make Garoppolo beat them. Getting Sanders going in the slot early will open up the playbook for Shanahan and force the Seahawks to alter their gameplan.

[RELATED: Jimmy G has chance to make statement in 49ers vs. Seahawks]

The 49ers are expected to be without star tight end George Kittle, who has been battling through knee and ankle injuries, while the Seahawks are expected to have newly-acquired wide receiver Josh Gordon on the field.

After being dormant for a few years, one of the NFL's best rivalries returns Monday night.

Dogfight. Battle.

Call it whatever you want, it promises to be a lot of fun.

George Kittle fittingly helps deliver emotional victory for 49ers, York family


George Kittle fittingly helps deliver emotional victory for 49ers, York family

NEW ORLEANS – Following the loss last week to the Baltimore Ravens, 49ers tight end George Kittle sought out CEO Jed York to make an emotional promise.

“I was talking to Kittle last week,” York said, “and he was with his parents at the end of the game, and he said, ‘We got it next week.’”

Kittle knew this would be an difficult week for the York family. One year ago on Saturday, Jed York’s brother, Tony York, died at the age of 35. The 49ers took the field on Sunday in New Orleans with “TY” helmet decals.

And when his team needed a big play on a fourth-and-2 in the final minute, of course, it was Kittle who came through with the reception of the game to help propel the 49ers to a riveting 48-46 victory over the Saints.

“And watching him on that play was just huge,” Jed York said.

Kittle made the catch of a Jimmy Garoppolo pass, picked up the first down – and was not satisfied until he got a heck of a lot more. Kittle’s 39-yard reception included 31 yards after the catch. Then, the 49ers picked up an additional 15 yards when New Orleans safety Marcus Williams was called for a facemask penalty as he did all he could to try to tackle Kittle.

The play put the 49ers in position for Robbie Gould’s 30-yard field goal as time expired for the winning points.

A year ago, the 49ers had an emotional victory over the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium just two days after Tony York’s death. Jed York spoke passionately to the team after that game.

On Sunday, Jed York was too emotional to speak. Team co-chair Dr. John York addressed the team following the victory over the Saints, which took place just a few miles from where Tony attended college at Tulane University.

“It was an emotional beginning of the week, and I tried to get that out,” Jed York said. “My brother liked to party and have fun and celebrate. So you had to celebrate.

“Tony was just cool. He’d be smiling, probably have a hurricane. That’s Tony.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan presented members of the York family, including twin sisters Jenna and Mara, with game balls after the victory over the Saints. Kittle relished his role in bringing the victory to the family, and helping team improve to 11-2 on the season.

“We were going to do everything we could,” said Kittle, who caught six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. “We know he’s watching over us. We’re just going to do everything we can to get this ‘W’ for their family. What they do for us as a team is incredible. They spare no expense. They just want us to be as successful as we can. I couldn’t ask for a better owner.

“There was a lot of emotion. Usually, the family is down on Fridays and Saturdays. We didn’t get to see them because, obviously, it’s tough time for them. They are so incredible to us and the support we get from them day-in and day-out is bar none.”

Kittle paused a bit when asked about his promise to Jed York and how it was his clutch play that got the 49ers into position for the winning points.

“It’s football, and things come full circle sometimes,” Kittle said.

Said Jed York, “You can’t get too ahead of yourself. It was definitely special. We have a lot more to accomplish. I think if anything, it shows the tightness we have as an entire group. Everybody having each other’s back.”

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers used Saints' own play to get crucial first down

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers used Saints' own play to get crucial first down

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Saints coach Sean Payton should be blushing after what the 49ers pulled off Sunday in New Orleans.

Earlier in the week heading into San Francisco's big game in the Big Easy, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan made it known that he occasionally steals a play or two from Payton, who also is regarded as one of the best offensive minds in football. In the 49ers' thrilling 48-46 Week 14 win, Shanahan lived up to his word.

Remember that clever fullback option San Francisco utilized late in the second half on a crucial third down play? It definitely should have looked familiar to the opposing sideline.

Just take a look:

Poor Kyle Juszczyk. The Saints' fullback didn't get blown up in their version. That's the definition of taking a hit to make a play, though, as the 49ers not only got a first down as a result of that stolen play, but would go on to score a touchdown on that drive.

[RELATED: Where 49ers stand in playoff picture after win vs. Saints]

While San Francisco got the win, New Orleans managed to drop 46 points on the 49ers, who entered the game with the league's best defense. Don't be surprised if Shanahan steals another play or two that Payton used against him Sunday.