Recent 49ers wins over the Redskins and Rams are nice. But consider them mere appetizers to the main course that arrives at Candlestick Park on Sunday.
While the 49ers have run away with the division in recent years, they enter the next game looking up at their opponent, arch-nemesis Seattle. Not only have the Seahawks knocked the 49ers from their NFC West perch, they did so partly by beating the 49ers at their own game – physical, blue-collar football – earlier this year in Seattle.
The statistics in the 29-3 loss were humbling:
• A career-low 20.1 passer rating for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
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• Sixteen rushing yards on nine carries for running back Frank Gore.
• Two rushing touchdowns and a season-high 172 ground yards allowed by the defense.
The 49ers’ goal this week, however, is to resist fueling the rematch with any more hype than it will have on its own.
“Yes, it’s here,” tight end Vernon Davis said after Sunday’s win over the Rams. “We look forward to the rematch, but we just can’t get overwhelmed with it. As much as we want to beat Seattle, we can’t get overwhelmed. We have to keep our composure and go into it just like we go into every other week.”
Coach Jim Harbaugh is bringing in extra brain power – his dad – this week to help solve Seattle. But even noted film maven Jack Harbaugh didn’t dedicate his Monday to figuring out the Seahawks.
“He’s playing with the grandkids this morning,” Jim Harbaugh said during his Monday news conference. “But he’s coming in (Monday night) . He’s going to watch film (Monday night).”
Harbaugh noted that the 49ers (8-4), who currently have the sixth and final seed in the NFC playoff chase, control their postseason destiny. They have a one-game lead over the Eagles and Cardinals, both 7-5.
But winning the division for the third consecutive season seems like a long shot. Seattle has three-game lead over San Francisco with four games remaining.
But Sunday’s contest still has plenty of importance, largely because it will serve as a pre-playoff test for the 49ers.
They have beaten just one opponent, Arizona, with a winning record. Their four losses, meanwhile, have come against four playoff contenders – Seattle, Indianapolis, Carolina and New Orleans.
Safety Donte Whitner said the 49ers are eager to prove themselves.
“They embarrassed us last time we were there,” he said. “The quarterback likes to run around and make plays with his feet. They have one of the best running backs in the National Football League (Marshawn Lynch from Cal). But we feel like we’ll be ready for the test, and it’s going to be a really, really big game, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Notes – Left tackle Joe Staley had an MRI on his right knee on Monday. Staley suffered a sprained MCL in the first quarter against the Rams that is expected to keep him out at least for the Seahawks game.
• Another injured offensive lineman, guard Mike Iupati, had his own exam on Monday to determine how his knee is healing. Iupati indicated last week that he is close to returning to action.
• Joe Looney received good grades from the coaches for his debut at right guard on Sunday against the Rams. “Joe Looney did a good job,” Harbaugh said. “You know, he was confident. He went right at guys. I thought he played really well.”