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September 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Five questions, five answers: 49ers


Time for our weekly look at the opponent, asking five questions and getting five answers from Eric Branch, who covers the 49ers for the San Francisco Chronicle. You can follow Branch on Twitter at @Eric_Branch.

Q1: In Seattle, this is being perceived as one of the biggest regular-season games the Seahawks have played, and the continuation of what is now their biggest rivalry. Is this game getting similar attention in San Francisco?

A: My sense? Not quite. The 49ers have played their share of enormous regular-season games over the years, so the buildup to this contest, in Week 2, doesn’t rank up there historically. Still, I do sense the fan base is very eager for their heroes to atone for what happened on Dec. 23, 2012.

Q2: Do you think the 49er players also consider this their biggest rivalry at the moment?

A: Absolutely. A year ago, a strong case could have been made for the Giants, who they played three times in the span of 11 months from 2011-12. New York, course, beat the 49ers in the 2011 NFC Championship Game and followed up with a 26-13 win at Candlestick in October. But I’m certain that this – Seahawks 42, 49ers 13 – vaulted Seattle to Public Enemy No. 1 status. Before that beatdown in Seattle, the 49ers hadn’t been popped in the mouth by the Seahawks since Jim Harbaugh arrived (3-0). But that game left no doubt the Seahawks posed a serious threat to their supremacy.

Q3: Is Colin Kaepernick (above in an AP photo) any different in his second year now as the starter?

A: I think the biggest differences are A) he has a better command of the offense and B) he’s become a more polished passer, in terms of his touch and accuracy. I think the 49ers now have full confidence in his ability to be a pocket passer for four quarters and aggressively attack a secondary, if necessary. That was obvious in Week 1 when he had nine completions of at least 20 yards and joined Joe Montana as the second 49ers quarterback since 1960 with 400 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against Green Bay. He only had 22 rushing yards.

Q4: How are the 49ers dealing with the loss of receiver Michael Crabtree — didn’t appear to hurt the passing game much in the win over Green Bay.

A: Is Crabtree gone? Oh, right, that guy’s name is Anquan Boldin. I think Boldin will minimize the loss of Crabtree because they are very similar receivers: Possession guys with sticky hands who have Kaepernick’s complete trust. There are differences – Crabtree is more elusive and Boldin is more physical. I’m sure the 49ers are eager to see Bodin and Crabtree on the field together this season, assuming Crabtree can return from his torn Achilles at something approximating his 2012 form.

Q5: How is San Francisco’s secondary coming along after losing safety Dashon Goldson to free agency?

A: At this point, the biggest question is Nnamdi Asomugha, who won the No. 3 cornerback job over unheralded Tramaine Brock in training camp. In Week 1, Asomugha had a real mixed-bag performance. He had two nice pass breakups, but also had an unsightly missed tackle and curiously played waaaaaaay off near the goal line and Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson caught a too-easy TD in front of him. As far as Goldson’s vacated spot, their first-round pick, Eric Reid, had a strong debut against the Packers. He is fast and possesses Goldson’s physicality, but, at this point, hasn’t shared his penchant for illegal hits. Reid is also very smart (4.6 GPA in high school), but, still, he’s a rookie and there could be a few growing pains.


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