8:30 PM ET, September 15, 2013
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
A primetime matchup between two of the NFL's top young quarterbacks only adds to the attention.
Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are both looking to build on the best statistical performances of their respective careers Sunday night, when the 49ers visit the Seahawks in a meeting of bitter NFC West rivals.
San Francisco has won two straight division titles since Seattle claimed one of its own despite a 7-9 record in 2010. The 49ers edged the Seahawks to last year's crown by one-half game en route to their first Super Bowl in 18 years.
Still, Smith isn't prepared to put any importance on a September meeting between rivals expected to spend much of the season battling for NFC West supremacy.
"Uh, what about it? Just another game," said the Pro Bowl linebacker, who set a 49ers record with 19 1/2 sacks last season.
The Seahawks would seem to disagree after 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh took shots at them during the summer for having five players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs dating back to 2011.
"You always want to be above reproach, especially when you're good, because you don't want people to come back and say, 'They're winning because they're cheating,'" Harbaugh said then.
Harbaugh allegedly further stoked the flames last year, honking his horn at the Seahawks' bus after his team won 13-6 at home in Week 7.
Despite Harbaugh's denials, Seattle is still insulted.
"Of course we'd take it that way," safety Earl Thomas said. "When you carry yourself like a champion on and off the field, good stuff is going to happen for you. ... I don't think our coach (Pete Carroll) would do that."
For Kaepernick, there's a simple solution come Sunday.
"You go out and make plays, the chirping stops," he said.
Kaepernick did plenty of that last week, completing 27 of 39 passes for a career-high 412 yards with three touchdowns to lead San Francisco to a 34-28 season-opening win over Green Bay in a rematch of last season's divisional playoff.
He wasn't nearly that effective in a 42-13 loss at CenturyLink Field in Week 16 last year, going 19 of 36 for 244 yards with one TD and one interception.
Wilson, meanwhile, had a career-high four TD passes in that meeting.
His start to 2013 was a bit shaky before eventually leading the Seahawks to a 12-7 win at Carolina last Sunday. Wilson was 1-for-5 passing before hitting 24 of his next 28 to finish with a career-best 320 yards, 43 coming on a go-ahead scoring toss to Jermaine Kearse midway through the fourth quarter.
"We just didn't get it done the way we like. I contributed to that so I've got to make sure I help out and do the right things to make sure we get on track with what is really important to us," Carroll said.
One area in need of improvement is the running game, which produced just 70 yards on 26 carries against the Panthers. Marshawn Lynch was held to 43 on 17 rushes.
Lynch, though, has 321 yards on 66 attempts and three touchdowns -- one receiving -- over the past three meetings with San Francisco.
Disrupting Kaepernick and the 49ers' offense could be made easier with Cliff Avril expected back from a hamstring injury. The Seahawks, who signed the former Detroit defensive end to a two-year, $15 million contract, gave up 134 rushing yards and registered only one sack last week.
Seattle finished last season tied for 18th with 36 sacks, but eight came against the Packers in Week 3.
Avril's 39 1/2 over his first five seasons led the Lions, and he got 20 1/2 over the past two.
Brandon Browner, suspended four games in December due to PEDs, is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. One of his three INTs last year came at San Francisco, but Walter Thurmond is likely to make a second straight start if Browner can't go.
Fellow cornerback Richard Sherman picked off Kaepernick in Week 16 and now will have to account for Anquan Boldin, Kaepernick's favorite target last weekend. The veteran wide receiver grabbed 13 passes for 208 yards and a score in his Niners debut, and credits the performance to his rapport with the signal caller.
"The more we play together the better we'll be," Boldin said. "The great thing me and Kap have is communication. We've been able to communicate throughout the entire camp on every play."
Smith could play a major role if he can pressure Wilson. He sacked him once in two meetings last year, but had 1 1/2 versus Green Bay.
Despite Smith's feelings on the game's importance, a victory Sunday will provide an early edge in the division before the Week 14 rematch in San Francisco.
"They think they're the best, we think we're the best," 49ers running back Frank Gore said.
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|Avg Points Allowed||28.5||5.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||SF|
|Rush Yds Allowed||SF|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Seattle leads 14-11|
|Dec 23, 2012||SF 13, @SEA 42|
|Oct 18, 2012||SF 13, SEA 6|
|Dec 24, 2011||SF 19, @SEA 17|
|Sep 11, 2011||SF 33, SEA 17|
|Dec 12, 2010||SF 40, SEA 21|
|Sep 12, 2010||SF 6, @SEA 31|
|Dec 6, 2009||SF 17, @SEA 20|
|Sep 20, 2009||SF 23, SEA 10|
|Oct 26, 2008||SF 13, SEA 34|
|Sep 14, 2008||SF 33, @SEA 30|
|Nov 12, 2007||SF 0, @SEA 24|
|Sep 30, 2007||SF 3, SEA 23|
|Dec 14, 2006||SF 24, @SEA 14|
|Nov 19, 2006||SF 20, SEA 14|
|Dec 11, 2005||SF 3, @SEA 41|
|Nov 20, 2005||SF 25, SEA 27|
|Nov 7, 2004||SF 27, SEA 42|
|Sep 26, 2004||SF 0, @SEA 34|
|Dec 27, 2003||SF 17, SEA 24|
|Oct 12, 2003||SF 19, @SEA 20|
|Dec 1, 2002||SF 31, SEA 24|
|Oct 14, 2002||SF 28, @SEA 21|
Colin Kaepernick's Total QBR was 14.0 on Sunday night, the lowest Total QBR in any start of his career. It was also the lowest Total QBR in Week 2 (min. 15 action plays). Both of Kaepernick's worst games in terms of Total QBR have come at Seattle, where opposing quarterbacks have been limited to a 33.1 Total QBR since the start of last season, 2nd-lowest among NFL teams at home.[+]
Lowest Total QBR Allowed at Home, Last 2 Seasons
The 49ers/Seahawks game is the 6th since the merger and first since 1992 with a 5-0 halftime score.
Colin Kaepernick did not complete a pass thrown 15-plus yards downfield Sunday for the first time in 12 career starts (including the postseason). Last week against Green Bay, Kaepernick had a career-high eight completions on throws of 15-plus yards.[+]
Colin Kaepernick on Throws of 15+ Yards, This Season
Pete Carroll has won 2 straight games against Jim Harbaugh after going 1-5 in their 1st 6 meetings -- including college
The Seahawks' secondary took away Colin Kaepernick's two favorite targets from Week 1, limiting Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis to only nine combined targets. Last week against the Packers, Boldin alone accounted for an NFL-high 17 targets and 13 receptions. - Boldin's first target of the game Sunday came at 8:30 of the second quarter. Boldin's second target and first reception wouldn't come until 9:45 of the fourth quarter.[+]
Marshawn Lynch: 2nd career game with Rush TD and Rec TD... Both have come with the Seahawks against the 49ers...
Russell Wilson was 4-5 for 80 yards and drew a 40 yard pass interference penalty against four or fewer pass rushers in the second half Sunday night. In the first half, he was 0-7 with an interception against the 49ers standard pass rush.
The Seahawks sacked or put Colin Kaepernick under duress on 13 of his 35 dropbacks (37.1 percent) and he was 1-7 for 14 yards on those plays. The last time they pressured a quarterback that much was Week 12 in 2009 against the Rams.
Total QBR grades quarterbacks on a 0-100 scale with 50 being average. By this metric, Colin Kepernick has had just two "below average" starts in his NFL career and both have come at Seattle.[+]
Lowest QBR in a Start
ESPN Stats & Information