Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs. Seahawks: 5 Week 13 storylines to watch for San Francisco

Dec 2, 2018 at 8:27 AM


The San Francisco 49ers will look to end a long losing streak in Seattle when they visit the Seahawks in Week 13. Let's look at some key storylines to watch during this NFC West bout.


The last time the San Francisco 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field was back on Dec. 24, 2011. Judging by the odds makers, that elongated losing streak isn't about to change when the Niners visit Seattle in Week 13.

According to Odds Shark, head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad enters this contest as 10-point underdogs. And while the Seahawks are no longer the dominant force they once were not long ago, at 6-5, they're still clinging to a shot at making they playoffs. Meanwhile, the 2-9 49ers are still trying to regroup after an embarrassing road loss to the not-so-great Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week ago.

Let's look at what will be some key storylines for San Francisco from this contest.

Richard Sherman Returns to Seattle


When the schedule makers set this Week 13 bout to a prime-time contest, they probably envisioned a desperate fight between two good teams and a prime-time feature with former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman returning to the spot where he tormented Niners fans for years.

It's no longer a prime-time contest, the game having been flexed out of Sunday Night Football. But that doesn't change the significance of the event after Seattle parted ways with Sherman during the offseason.

"You just expect after you've done so much for a franchise that they wouldn't cut you while your hurt," Sherman said of his Seattle tenure, via NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. "It's more of a respect thing than anything. But they did, so you got to roll with the business."

Sherman, who has yet to record an interception with the 49ers and is coming off his worst game of the season last week in Tampa Bay, will look to find some success against his former teammate, quarterback Russell Wilson.

Oh, and Sherman's reception in Seattle will be something to watch too.

Defending Russell Wilson


Speaking of Wilson, the Niners defense will certainly have its hands full with the Seahawks quarterback.

Wilson is besting his numbers from a year ago, currently completing 66.7 percent of his passes and posting a 112.0 passer rating. Yet Seattle's offensive line, despite parting ways with former O-line coach Tom Cable, still ranks 29th in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders.

Still, Wilson remains the master at evading pressure, getting out of the pocket and capitalizing on broken plays. This could be especially problematic for San Francisco's secondary, particularly cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who is prone to giving up big plays each and every week. It's also compounded by what's still a woeful 49ers pass rush, which only recorded one sack on Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston in Week 12.

Winston took advantage of some big plays too.

Nick Mullens in a Hostile Environment


Quarterback Nick Mullens didn't look sharp at all in his first-ever NFL road contest, going 18-of-22 for 221 yards with a touchdown against two interceptions, posting a passer rating of 62.1 in the process against Tampa Bay.

Raymond James Stadium wasn't exactly rocking either, many of the stands were empty and crowd noise was at a minimum.

That won't be the case at CenturyLink Field, unfortunately. Sherman's return all but guarantees a sold-out stadium. And unlike the Buccaneers, Seattle boasts a halfway decent pass defense, allowing a total of 2,622 passing yards on the season, which is good for 13th overall entering Week 13.

"I've played in a lot of the most prominent stadiums in the country as far as college football goes," Mullens said earlier this week. "So yeah, obviously it has the reputation that it has in CenturyLink, and it's going to be cool to play there. But, we're excited and ready to attack the opportunity and really just focus on us and how we execute."

Shanahan indicated he plans on sticking with Mullens for the time being. A poor performance against the Seahawks could change things, however.

An Emerging Dante Pettis


After an injury-prone, underachieving start to his rookie year, wide receiver Dante Pettis came on in Week 12 with four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.

Pettis, San Francisco's second-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, should get more looks against the Seahawks, particularly with fellow wideouts Pierre Garçon (knee) and Marquise Goodwin (personal) all but ruled out for the game.

Now fully healthy, Pettis' route-running efforts were on full display last week, albeit against a bad Buccaneers secondary:


Having played his college ball at the nearby University of Washington, it'll be interesting to see what added motivation Pettis has over the course of this contest.

Running Back Matt Breida a Game Changer


As broken down over at Niner Noise earlier, running back Matt Breida should be a key X-factor for the 49ers in Seattle.

The skinny is this: Breida is good at running the football, while the Seahawks aren't good at preventing running backs from doing so. Breida is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, which is tied for second best in the NFL right now. And it's even more impressive considering he's dealt with more than a handful of injuries, including an ankle injury, which landed him on the team's injury report this week.

Breida and the Niners ground game has a juicy opportunity this week. Heading into Week 13, no other team is allowing more yards per carry than Seattle -- 5.3, which ranks dead worst in the NFL. And while the Seahawks defense is about middle of the pack, overall, Shanahan putting a lot of emphasis on Breida and the running game should be a top offensive priority.

It also helps Breida could rush for 100-plus yards for the third week in a row. If he does, the Niners stand an outside chance at pulling off an improbable upset.

The 49ers and Seahawks kick off Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4:25 p.m. ET from CenturyLink Field.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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