SANTA CLARA Cornerback Carlos Rogers called it "a punch in the face."
The 49ers had lost big games, some in heart-wrenching fashion, during the Jim Harbaugh era. But a team that prides itself on its blue-collar grit never had been roughed up and pushed around as it was during last season's 42-13 drubbing in Seattle.
The Seahawks' physical dominance was especially apparent when it came to the 49ers' pass catchers.
Tight end Vernon Davis was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first quarter after a thumping hit by safety Kam Chancellor. Wide receiver Mario Manningham was knocked out for the season with an ACL injury, from which he's still recovering.
This time, however, the 49ers will have some extra muscle in the form of Anquan Boldin, who ran over and through Packers defenders last week and had the second-most prolific outing of his 11-year career.
He is perhaps the most compelling player in today's game because he'll be matched against a Seahawks secondary that not only is the most physical and suffocating in the NFL but handled him quite well in their most recent encounter.
Boldin's most important reception in last week's win over the Packers offered a glimpse of his value to the 49ers. The fourth-and-2 play late in the fourth quarter was designed to be a quick hitter from Colin Kaepernick to Boldin in the flat. He was covered, however, and they had to improvise.
As the quarterback pump-faked and drifted toward the sideline, Boldin shoved cornerback Tramon Williams to create separation. Gain of 15 yards. First down, 49ers. Game in hand.
The play was vintage Boldin. He was calm and clutch but also showed how savvy, tough and most of all strong he is.
"We found that out during training camp," 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox said. "He's strong, talented, and he knows how to use his body perfectly."
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas also cited Boldin's brawn when asked the difference between him and the 49ers' top receiver last year, Michael Crabtree, who is out for the first half of the season with an Achilles' injury.
"Crabtree he's more elusive, and Boldin is not that fast, but he's very physical," Thomas said. "He has the ability to push little (cornerbacks) around and kind of get open. That's a big pickup for them."
In two games against Seattle last year, 49ers wide receivers had 14 catches and zero touchdowns. Boldin had 13 catches in last week's game against the Packers.
No one expects him to duplicate the 208 yards he had against Green Bay, however.
The Packers' defense keyed on the run, playing a loose zone with two inexperienced safeties. The Seahawks prefer stifling, man-to-man coverage and have perhaps the best safety duo in the game in Chancellor and Thomas. One of the team's big cornerbacks, Brandon Browner, is doubtful for the game with a hamstring injury and will be a game-time decision.
That may mean Boldin will be matched often with the other starting cornerback, Richard Sherman, whose physical style is accompanied by 60 minutes of chatter.
Sherman was one of the standouts in last year's blowout win over the 49ers. He returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for a touchdown and had an end-zone interception of Kaepernick as the 49ers tried to get back into the game.
Boldin has played against Sherman and the Seahawks' current secondary only once, when he was with the Ravens. Baltimore lost that game, and Boldin was held to a season-low 22 yards on two catches. He was targeted nine times in the game, seven when he was shadowed by Sherman. One pass that went his way was deflected and intercepted.
How will Boldin and his fellow receivers deal with all the grabbing, close coverage and trash talk today?
Boldin merely shrugged his shoulders.
"Just coming out and matching their intensity," he said. "Being physical yourself."
Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.