It’s Sunday: Yes, gameday. Forget all the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry talk. Not easy, since there’s been so much.
The Jim Harbaugh-Pete Carroll “what’s your deal?” non-deal; the Colin Kaepernick-Russell Wilson mutual respect symposium; and the Anthony Dixon-K.J. Wright smack-war on Twitter.
None of it matters. What does matter are three players certain to be X-Factors in a San Francisco victory: Kendall Hunter, Eric Reid and Phil Dawson.
The Seahawks gave up 124 rushing yards at Carolina last week, and San Francisco’s stout offensive line — two sacks allowed in Week 1 — won’t be any easier to penetrate. This bodes well for Frank Gore and more so for Hunter, the spell back, who’ll likely encounter a more fatigued defense.
With Seattle’s talented secondary and ear-splitting noise, the 49ers’ run game will need to move the chains — meaning more opportunities for Hunter.
Hunter was on the field for 11 snaps against Green Bay getting six touches for 24 yards in relief of Gore. He was mostly stifled, except for a 23-yard dash. Those dashes are what the 49ers need from him.
In his lone game at CenturyLink Field in 2011, Hunter rushed 12 times for 73 yards and caught an 11-yard pass. Expect a similar game from Hunter on Sunday.
Last week the Panthers held Seattle to just 70 rushing yards of which Marshawn Lynch had 43 yards and Wilson just seven.
Yes, Lynch has had three-consecutive 100-yard games against the 49ers, but this defense is better — first-round pick Reid is here.
Reid made seven tackles and picked off Aaron Rodgers in his NFL debut showing strong awareness against the run and pass. His target is the ball carrier and in Seattle that means the Wilson-Lynch firm.
Despite the decibels look for the SEC veteran to rack up double digit tackles and force at least one turnover.
Dawson hasn’t been to the “Noise Bowl” since 2003 when he was kicking for Cleveland. In San Francisco’s last two games in Seattle, David Akers made 6-of-8 field goal attempts.
The 49ers’ 2013 offense is much better than the 2012 and 2011 versions, so Dawson may get fewer attempts, but the tries he does get will be crucial.
Maybe a game-winning field goal on the road would ramp up the rivalry even further?