Published September 13, 2013
| Sports Network
Colin Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin put on quite the show to lead San Francisco to a Week 1 victory last weekend.
It wasn't as pretty for Seattle, but Russell Wilson and company still got the job done in their opener.
The two NFC West rivals clash on Sunday night at CenturyLink Field looking for big 2-0 starts.
The 49ers and Seahawks were two of the three NFC West teams to win their openers, joining the St. Louis Rams. With the former clubs expected to duel for the NFC West crown, this matchup in Seattle will put one in the driver's seat early on.
"It's football, it's competition, it's winning," said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who became the only coach in franchise history to win opening-day games in each of his first three seasons. "There's good football teams that we're playing right out of the blocks here. Seattle's an outstanding football team and will be a great test for our team. We know the challenge that's ahead of us."
San Francisco won two straight and six of its first eight en route to winning the NFC West last year and earning a first-round bye before marching all the way to the Super Bowl.
Seattle, meanwhile, won five straight down the stretch and bested Washington in the first round of the playoffs before losing by two points to Atlanta in the divisional round.
Always a tough team to play at home, the Seahawks know the advantages of finishing as one of the top seeds ahead of the playoffs and are looking to knock off the defending NFC champion Niners to make a statement.
"We have a lot of unselfish guys on this team that have the bigger picture in mind," said Seattle wide receiver Sidney Rice following a Week 1 win over Carolina. "It starts one game at a time. This is the first one and we'll put it behind us (Monday) after we watch film and then move on to the 49ers."
What the Seahawks will see as they prepare for this weekend is a clinic put on by Kaepernick and Boldin in a 34-28 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Making his first opening day start, Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns, building quick chemistry with Boldin, who was making his San Francisco debut. The wideout hauled in 10 passes for 208 yards with a score.
After torching the Packers on the ground in the postseason last year, Kaepernick did it with his arm last Sunday.
"He did exactly what we know he is capable of doing," Boldin said of Kaepernick. "He did exactly what he needed to do. I keep telling people how good of a quarterback he is, everybody looks at how athletic he is and that he's a 'running quarterback' but he is a quarterback first. Being able to run is just a bonus for him."
Seattle needed a late touchdown pass from Wilson to secure a 12-7 win over the Panthers. The quarterback came through, finding Jermaine Kearse for a 43-yard score 4:47 into the fourth quarter and the defense took over from there.
The Seahawks picked up the first road-opening win since 2006 and have not won two in a row to begin a season since opening that campaign 3-0.
Sunday's victory was one that head coach Peter Carroll took pride in.
"The thing I love about it was our guys hung tough and we made the plays when we really needed them," he said. "We finished the game with the ball in our hands, which we always like and we came out of our first game on the road with a win, which is so hard. It's so difficult. I thought they played really well."
The Seahawks have won nine of their last 10 home openers, with the lone loss in that span coming versus the 49es in 2008.
The all-time series between these rivals is tied at 14-14, with the Niners winning four of the last five meetings. That includes a 42-13 loss at Seattle on Dec. 23, when Marshawn Lynch ran for 111 yards and a score, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin caught two of Wilson's four touchdown throws. Lynch also caught a TD pass.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Both Wilson and Kaepernick can make plays with their feet, but neither did much on the ground in Week 1.
Kaepernick was credited with 22 rushing yards on seven carries, instead completing 27 of his 39 pass attempts. Since 1960, only he and Joe Montana have thrown for at least 400 yards with three TD passes and no interceptions in a single game in franchise history.
That's solid company for the third-year pro, who is 6-0 in the regular and postseason when logging a passer rating over 100.0.
"It's a judgment call on his part," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick deciding to pass or keep it himself. "He has to make a split-second decision before he gets to the line of scrimmage on what his best percentage is, running himself or making the throw. I've always said this, Colin Kaepernick throws as good or better than anybody I've ever seen on the run, and that's a real strength of his."
One of Wilson's strengths is his ability to stay cool down the stretch. He engineered his sixth career fourth-quarter comeback last weekend and is 8-1 with an NFL-best 119.6 passer rating since Week 9 of last season.
"I don't know how much (better Wilson has gotten), but he's more in command of everything we're doing -- in every phase. We don't have to hold anything back. We can use everything we can think of and he can handle it," said Carroll.
Wilson threw for over 300 yards with just the one TD throw to Kearse as the Seahawks struggled to get anything going on the ground. Lynch ran for just 43 yards on 17 carries.
"We did not feel good about the way we ran the football at all," Carroll said on Sunday. "We need to go back and take a look and see what happened."
Seattle will need a better effort in this game but goes against a tough defensive unit for San Francisco, led by star linebackers in Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and pass-rusher Aldon Smith.
Bowman had a team-high eight tackles versus the Packers and forced a fumble, while Smith was credited with 1 1/2 sacks. That moved him into a tie with Minnesota's Jared Allen for the most in the league since the start of the 2011 season with 35 sacks.
Rookie safety Eric Reid had a good debut with the Niners as the 2013 first- round pick logged six tackles with an interception.
Seattle did not come away with an interception last weekend, but did force two fumbles. One was recovered by safety Earl Thomas.
The Seahawks have two solid corners in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, but the latter was not able to suit up due to a hamstring injury. He is questionable for this weekend as are fellow Week 1 inactives and defensive ends Chris Clemons (knee) and Cliff Avril (hamstring).
Seattle could use the help in the secondary after Boldin set a 49ers franchise record for opening day with 208 receiving yards. Kaepernick also shook off rumors of his communication problems with Vernon Davis by hitting the tight end six times for 98 yards with two touchdowns.
The Seahawks were able to limit Carolina quarterback Cam Newton to just 125 yards passing and 38 yards rushing and doesn't get a break this Sunday in Kaepernick. However, the front seven faces one of the top offensive lines in football, a unit that got praise from Harbaugh after the Green Bay win.
"The pass protection today was outstanding," noted Harbaugh. "You don't throw for 400-plus yards without great effort by the offensive line. Every time that Kap dropped back he had time to survey and see the field, and he was really seeing things well out there."
San Francisco's secondary should zero in on Baldwin, Wilson's top target last weekend with seven catches for 91 yards.
"He has great quickness," Carroll said of the wideout. "That's what he brings. He has this ability to change directions that makes him extremely quick and that suddenness is what gets him open but then it goes to the savvy that he has and the time he's spent working with Russell."
The 49ers looked the part of Super Bowl contender through much of last season and stayed true to that form in Week 1 of this year. But the squad has had its troubles in Seattle and the 'Hawks hope to take advantage.
It will be a cat and mouse game between the defense and Kaepernick. He certainly showed last weekend that you can't just play him to run. Seattle will need to get aggressive in coverage and prevent a lot of room from opening up in front of the San Francisco signal-caller.
With a trip to the East Coast out of the way, the Seahawks should be much more comfortable at CenturyLink Field, but the Niners' offense has its own high- level of contentment going on.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: 49ers 24, Seahawks 17