SANTA CLARA – On the 49ers’ Thanksgiving menu: a win in Seattle.
If they reach their goal, the 49ers may well celebrate by eating turkey legs on NBC’s postgame set on the Seahawks’ midfield logo, a reversal of what went down at Levi’s Stadium on Thanksgiving Night 2014.
Call it the Thanksgiving Revenge Tour. Or don’t. The 49ers (7-3) have bigger goals than a late-night turkey dinner and a nine-year grudge.
First place in the NFC West is at stake, although the 49ers own a one-game lead because the Seahawks (6-4) lost 17-16 Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams (4-5).
A bigger-picture view of the playoff race has the 49ers back in hot pursuit of the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles, who take an 8-1 record into tonight’s Super Bowl rematch at Kansas City (7-2). The Eagles’ ensuing game: a Dec. 3 visit by the 49ers, in an NFC Championship Game rematch.
After that, the 49ers host the Seahawks on Dec. 10 with a shot at clinching the division title, if they win their next two games and the Seahawks lose next Thursday, Nov. 30 in Dallas.
TOP 5 STORYLINES
1. QUARTERBACK MATCHUP
The Seahawks went 0-3 last season against the 49ers with NFL Comeback Player of the Year Geno Smith, and Sunday saw Smith’s throwing elbow injured on a hit from Rams menace Aaron Donald. Coach Pete Carroll told Seattle radio Monday he expects Smith to play through a bruised triceps. Whether it’s Smith or backup Drew Lock, the 49ers will have the edge, because Brock Purdy is not only coming off a perfect passer rating of 158.3 but he has thrown six touchdown passes and committed no turnovers in their past two wins to get back on the playoff track.
2. SECONDARY SHIFT
Losing an All-Pro can be a crushing blow, and the 49ers have lost safety Talanoa Hufanga to a season-ending knee injury. His replacement is rookie Ji’Ayir Brown, who made a fourth-down interception in the end zone in the final minutes after two pass breakups (and after a 41-yard completion on him). Brown aside, the 49ers will need their starting cornerbacks, as well as safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. to be ready to run with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Brown and all defensive backs will get tested, which is why the 49ers have invested so heavily in a pass rush that has sprung to life since Chase Young’s trade, with big-time plays coming from starting linemen Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave and Clelin Ferrell.
3. KITTLE POWER
Tight end George Kittle absolutely adores the noise-rattling atmosphere that awaits in Seattle, and why not? He has scored two touchdowns in each of the 49ers’ past two visits and totaled 13 catches for 274 yards in those combined. Kittle on Sunday again showed what a valuable, trusted target he is for Purdy (eight catches, 89 yards, touchdown). He is averaging 108 yards over the past four games.
4. OFFENSIVE LINE SETUP
It seems unlikely that the 49ers would bring left guard Aaron Banks (toe) back from a two-game hiatus to play on artificial turf. Replacement starter Jon Feliciano has played fine in his place. The 49ers’ linemen – and all offensive players – must be totally focused to combat the crowd noise which typically prompts a silent snap count.
5. RUN DEFENSE
Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III sustained an oblique injury Sunday, which could mean a bigger dose of rookie Zach Charbonnet (no touchdowns in 53 carries). The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in a franchise-record 37 straight games, the NFL’s longest streak since the New Orleans Saints’ 50-game stretch from 2017-20. The 49ers had a 36-game streak end … in Seattle, by Marshawn Lynch in a 2011 game the 49ers won 19-17.
Brock Purdy, four days after sustaining a rib fracture in his victorious starting debut against the Bucs, was nearly scratched before kickoff. But, with the help of a pain-killing injection, Purdy played and the 49ers prevailed with a 21-13, division-clinching win on Thursday, Dec. 15. Purdy threw for 215 yards and had two touchdown passes to Kittle, the latter of which put them ahead 21-3 in the third quarter. Christian McCaffrey ran for 108 yards and a score. The Seahawks’ Lockett and Metcalf each had seven receptions but no touchdowns.
The Seahawks lead 30-20, including a 17-9 advantage at home. The 49ers lost eight straight visits, including the NFC Championship Game in January 2014, before a 26-21 victory in the 2019 regular-season finale clinched the division and the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
The 49ers have lost their two previous Thanksgiving appearances: 16-6 at Baltimore in 2011, and, 19-3 to Seattle in 2014 at Levi’s Stadium.
The Seahawks are 2-2 on Thanksgiving, their most recent game being that 2014 win over the 49ers.
“Very excited about Thursday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks. Short week. Shoutout to the Rams – good job guys, good job Mike LaFleur. All that means is Seattle’s going to be a little angry and it’s going to be a great game up there. It’s one of my favorite atmospheres and places to play. They absolutely hate us and what a great fan base to absolutely hate us. It’s really fun. It’s going to be an exciting game, a physical game, and we have to go up there and get a win.” – Kittle
“It’s McCaffrey, really. He’s the middle of the running game. They’re still running him late in the game and he had like 10 carries in the fourth quarter. He seems to be the centerpiece of it. But they’re really highlighted with their other guys. Purdy was 21-for-25 yesterday, and had a big game last week, too, so he’s back on track. He does make plays now. He makes throws and things happen where you go, ‘How in the heck did that happen?’ ” – Seahawks coach Carroll on the 49ers offense via Seattle sports radio 710-AM
Temperatures are to drop from the 40s to the high 30s, according to the National Weather Service, with no rain expected. It was 39 degrees at kickoff in last December’s game at Lumen Field.
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The 49ers opened as 7-point favorites with an over/under set at 43 points, according to ActionNetwork.com. It’s the third straight year the 49ers are favored entering Seattle, and they’ve never been as big a favorite since the Seahawks were realigned into the NFC West in 2002, which is when their current stadium opened downtown. The only time the 49ers have been favored more in Seattle was the series opener in 1976, when they won 37-21 to cover a 10.5-point spread.
“Anything that you start out with numbers like that, that’s all just set-ups,” Kyle Shanahan said, “so I don’t think about that all. I don’t care what the situation is, who’s playing, what the teams are like. You go up to Seattle, it’s as hard as it gets.
“It’s one of the toughest places to play in the NFL, if not the toughest,” Shanahan added. “They have a certain style there and the way they play that is harder to deal with on the road because of how loud it is and the snap-count disadvantage.”
Prediction: 49ers 27, Seahawks 17