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For the first time since 2013, the 49ers and Seahawks are atop the NFC West. The rivalry that peaked in 2012 and 2013 has reignited into a battle between two of the NFC’s best teams.

San Francisco (8-0) is the team coming into this matchup with the better defense, which has not been the case for the majority of the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry. The “Legion Of Boom” is no more, as Seattle (7-2) will now rely on their MVP-caliber quarterback and an abundance of offensive weapons.

Kyle Shanahan is in awe of Russell Wilson‘s abilities:

“He’s got the talent with his arm and with his size and then what he can do with his legs. That’s some God-given ability, that’s very impressive. Just what he’s consistently done over the years, I mean, he’s one of the few guys I’ve seen that can consistently make off-schedule plays.”

Scot Tucker/SFBay Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson (3) breaks outside the pocket in the fourth quarter as the Seattle Seahawks face the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif, on Sunday, December 16, 2018. (Scot Tucker/SFBay.ca)

Containing Wilson could be the 49ers toughest challenge all season

The Seahawks quarterback is having a phenomenal season thus far. Throwing for 2,505 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only 1 interception, the Seahawks have relied on Wilson more this season than they ever have. Anyone who has followed the 49ers through the years knows how much this team has struggled against Wilson and the Seahawks. The only difference is, (and it’s a big one) the 49ers have an elite defense, with a ferocious defensive line.

For years, the Seahawks have had a sub-par offensive line protecting Wilson. Seattle’s offensive line has been rather underwhelming this season as well, which is a testament to Wilson’s ability to escape pressure and make plays downfield. The 49ers defensive line will certainly apply pressure, but the key will be to prevent the ever-so-common big plays that Wilson is known for pulling out of a hat.

Scot Tucker/SFBay San Francisco 49ers’ Richard Sherman (25) intercepts a pass in the first quarter as Cleveland Browns face the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Monday, October 7, 2019. (Scot Tucker / SFBay.ca)

On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers will have Richard Sherman across from one of the Seahawks receivers. The former Seahawk has not experienced much success as a member of the 49ers, until this season. With his former team coming into town, could Sherman be extra motivated Monday night?

49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, formerly a quality control coach in Seattle, said:

“You try to keep it as internal as possible, it’s just another Championship game. If you think otherwise, that’s where you can get kind of screwed up. And it’s a very, very hard thing to do to keep yourself within the moment, day-to-day, to make sure that you focus on every team as a Championship team and every moment as a Championship moment. If you allow the external factors of the team, the lights, the game, Monday night, all that different stuff, you allow those external factors to seep into what you’re trying to do internally, you can get out of whack. … (Sherman)’s wired the right way, so I think he’ll be able to stay in the moment.”

Speed, size and athleticism; the Seahawks have it all at wide receiver

Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett (59 rec, 767 yards, 6 TDs) has put together a breakout season through eight weeks and will be a tough cover over the middle for the 49ers secondary.

Said Shanahan:

“He’s one of the better receivers in our league. They play him on the outside and the inside so everyone will have to match up. Whoever’s got him over in man, that will be a challenge and when it’s zone it could be anybody. It could be our linebackers, our safeties, or DBs. Everyone has a challenge with Lockett and [DK] Metcalf. They’ve got a good group of receivers there.”

Metcalf (29 rec, 525 yards, 5 TDs), who is something of a freakish physical specimen. Joining the two wideouts could be an even-more gifted wide receiver in Josh Gordon, who was claimed by Seattle last week. It remains unclear whether Gordon will play, and how involved he will be, but it would certainly pose another challenge for the 49ers defense.

Saleh called Gordon “dynamic”:

“He’s fantastic. It’ll be interesting to see how they use him if they get a chance to use him this week. He’s always been a fantastic playmaker. It’s just a matter of getting on the field and finding his role and niche. I’m sure they’ll find a way if they can.”

Injuries and recoveries; 49ers are getting healthy — kind of

One of the most impressive parts of the 49ers 8-0 run has been their ability to weather the storm of injuries. Losing both offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, the 49ers have had their fair share of big injuries throughout their undefeated run. The depth the 49ers have created at these positions has allowed them to survive the slew of injuries, just in time for these players to return for the stretch run.

With Staley and Juszczyk seemingly ready to go for Monday nights matchup with Seattle, it remains unclear if McGlinchey and Witherspoon will be available.

Shanahan gave an update on the three offensive players, and which of them have a better shot at playing Monday night:

“We’re hoping all three of them will be out there. I’d say I feel a little more confidence, just a little bit more with Staley and ‘Juice’. I think they are just a hair ahead of McGlinchey in that area, but today will be their first real practice. We had a practice on Tuesday, but it really wasn’t against each other, we were doing a lot of stuff on air, so this will be their first day to really go against people and put bodies on each other. … We’re hoping to get all three, but can’t guarantee any of them.”

The 49ers will not have everyone back. In the Week 9 win over the Arizona Cardinals, linebacker Kwon Alexander suffered a torn pectoral muscle and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Without Alexander at linebacker, the 49ers defense will suffer in the passing game, specifically in the middle of the field where Alexander was so dominant against the pass.

Saleh discussed Alexander’s absence and what the defense will miss most:

“His energy, his juice, obviously his playmaking ability. There’s going to be a lot to miss, but we’ve got tremendous faith in [LB] Dre Greenlaw and the guys that are going to step up in his place. Not really, obviously it’s a loss, but at the same time this is like I’ve always said before it’s the NFL, they’re not going to wait, no one’s going to feel sorry for you. They never ask how, they ask how many and Dre’s got to step in and make sure that there’s not misstep once he steps in there.”

The latest bit of injury news that hit the 49ers Thursday was that of kicker Robbie Gould. Suffering a strained quad, Gould’s availability for Monday night is up in the air. With the injury to Gould, the 49ers signed rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin. Shanahan hopes to have Gould for Monday night, and if not, he expects him back next week.

Notes

Preparing for Russell Wilson can be quite the task. The 49ers are getting creative in their preparation for Monday night.

Following the win over the Cardinals, social media was stirring with clips of Jimmy Garoppolo calling Fox NFL sideline reporter Erin Andrews “baby.” Garoppolo was asked about the win, and responded with ‘feels good baby.’ It was obviously not intended as any sort of advance, and Garoppolo made sure to make that clear on Thursday.

49ers tight end George Kittle sustained both knee and ankle injuries in the win over the Cardinals but ultimately played through the pain. He has yet to practice this week, and Kyle Shanahan said the decision on Kittle playing Monday night will be made at the end of the week. It’s now the end of the week, and that decision should be announced Saturday or Sunday.

Taylor Wirth

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