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December 13, 2014 at 8:05 PM

Seahawks-49ers: Keys to the Game/Things to Watch

Time to get to some keys to Sunday’s game, as well as some additional things to watch

First, here are the keys to the game that will run in the Sunday paper.

Next, here are three more things to watch from beat writers Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.

First, from Jenks:

1, Bobby Wagner’s speed. One of the most obvious aspects from the last meeting between San Francisco and Seattle was the return of Wagner’s speed. He is so fast and in tune with the defense that he can make up for the mistakes or misplays of his teammates, and that was highly noticeable in the way he tracked down 49ers running back Frank Gore. It will be an important factor again this time around.

2, Richard Sherman vs. Colin Kaepernick. Sherman picked off Kaepernick twice last time around, waved goodbye to the crowd, put his lips to his mouth and silenced them and laughed at the 49ers sideline after his second interception. And that doesn’t include any of his comments about Kaepernick or San Francisco fans in his press conference after the game. Sherman vs. Kaepernick is one of the most fun dynamics of this rivalry, and it is fair to say at this point that Sherman has clearly got the best of that personal rivalry.

3, What will the Seahawks do at nickel corner? Jeremy Lane had the starting nickel corner job to start the season, but when he missed the last few games with an injury, cornerback Byron Maxwell slid inside to fill his shoes. Maxwell excelled in the role, with Sherman and Tharold Simon outside. But Lane is expected back this week, and it will be interesting to see if Lane, Maxwell or a combination of the two takes that job over.

And from Condotta:

1. Special teams. Jon Ryan, one of Seattle’s steadiest players for years, has had a couple of off games, dropping snaps each of the last two weeks. As Pete Carroll said, those are sort of one-in-a-decade plays. But Ryan is a big part of Seattle’s special teams and these are games coming up in which every yard may matter. The return games were also erratic last week, in part due to the decision to let punts drop due to the wind. One of the few roster intrigues of this game is whether Bryan Walters will be eligible and again return punts or if Doug Baldwin continues to handle that job.

2. The defensive line rotation. When the Seahawks beat the 49ers on Thanksgiving night, they got some significant snaps out of Demarcus Dobbs. Dobbs played 11 snaps (out of 58) rotating in for Michael Bennett. But Dobbs is now hurt, which prompted Seattle this week to sign David King, who is being groomed to be a five-technique tackle, the spot where Bennett lines up most often. Travian Robertson, who plays primarily nose tackle, has also been on the roster for a few weeks, playing only against Arizona. But given the way that the 49ers play, maybe the Seahawks would call on him some, as well.

3.Will the Seahawks again try to throw the ball downfield more? Seattle threw the ball more vertically in the half last week than in a while, and it paid off with some pretty significant gains and Russell Wilson’s second-highest-yardage total of the season (263). The Seahawks said Philadelphia’s scheme was the biggest reason the Seahawks decided to go down field more and not to necessarily expect that to happen every week now. But given that rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood are getting ┬ámore experience, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the vertical game becomes a little bigger part of the offense going forward.

 

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