The last time the 49ers and Seahawks met, San Francisco’s most effective offensive weapon was its quarterback. Or more specifically, its quarterback’s legs.
Colin Kaepernick ran 11 times for 130 yards in the NFC Championship Game, some on scrambles from the pocket but others on designed runs meant to take advantage of Seattle’s man-to-man style of defense. The 49ers sent their receivers deep downfield not as targets in the passing game but to take the Seahawks’ defensive backs with them.
Safety Kam Chancellor said that was the only time he’s seen that strategy used.
“I’ve seen it a lot in the NFC Championship, but that’s about it,” Chancellor said in a conference call. “That’s just something we have to prepare for and expect it.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll called it “an interesting innovation that we obviously have taken into account. It’s a nice part of their offense.”
Kaepernick’s 336 rushing yards this season rank him 41st in the NFL, and his 4.5 yards per carry leads the 49ers. Still, that’s nearly half the total of Seahawks counterpart Russell Wilson, whose 644 rushing yards rank first among quarterbacks and 15th among all rushers.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch ranks fifth in the league with 852 rushing yards and has a league-high nine rushing touchdowns.
“He can pull the ball at any time and become a runner himself,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Wilson. “So it’s defending Lynch and his great running style, and when Wilson has the ball in his hand, he’s like defending Barry Sanders with his quickness and speed and elusiveness.”
Carroll was asked if he saw a Sanders-like ability in his quarterback.
“No,” he said. “I know Vic coached against Barry, too, back in the day, and I don’t know if there’s ever been a player that’s made a defensive coach or coordinator cringe more and tense up more when you watched him play because he could score from anywhere on the field. I think he’s really one of the great open-field guys who’s ever played this game. So I don’t know if Russell’s ready for that.”
Justin Smith’s back – Defensive end Justin Smith showed up on the injury report for the first time this year with a back issue, but Fangio said the 14-year veteran will play Thursday.
“That would be news to me if he didn’t,” Fangio said.
In fact, Fangio said he didn’t even know Smith had an issue with his back. Smith, who at 35 is older than every 49er save kicker Phil Dawson, misses at least one practice a week and didn’t take part in Tuesday’s session. The injury report has listed his absences as “not injury related.”
Tuesday night lights – The 49ers changed their practice routine by holding the session at Levi’s Stadium in the twilight hours instead of earlier in the day on their practice fields.
“We had a little walk-through in there (Monday) as well with the lights,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “The day starts a little bit later for these night games.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.