Rivalry resumes with Seahawks, 49ers fighting for survival

Nov 26, 2014, 9:55 AM | Updated: 10:53 am
After playing for the NFC title last year, the Seahawks and 49ers are trying to keep their playoff ...
After playing for the NFC title last year, the Seahawks and 49ers are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. (AP)
(AP)

It won’t be the division lead that’s on the line when the NFL’s best rivalry resumes on Thursday night in Santa Clara, Calif.

It’s actually something much more important than that.

The Seahawks and 49ers enter this game with identical records of 7-4, hip deep in a playoff chase where it may very well take 11 wins to get in.

That means the two teams that played for the conference championship last season are just trying to keep pace this year, and on Thursday the rest of the country will try to digest a holiday meal while watching two heavyweight defenses take turns slugging each other in the stomach to see who doubles over first.

Yep. It’s going to be that kind of game. It always is. At least when these two teams play in California. Neither team has reached 20 points in Seattle’s past two games at San Francisco, the 49ers winning 13-6 on a Thursday night game in 2012 and then 19-17 last December.

In fact, the home team has won 10 of the past 11 meetings between these teams, including the playoffs. The only exception was on Christmas Eve in 2011 when the 49ers held on to beat the Seahawks, a game that was punctuated by the 49ers’ offensive coordinator shouting “Merry Christmas” after leaving the coaches’ box on his way down to the field. Twice.

A lot of time has been spent in Seattle this week debating the merits of the league-mandated media availability.

You don’t have to read a single quote from either side to understand the importance of this game. Do you really need Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to say this is a championship week? Or 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to tell you he’s not worried about anything cornerback Richard Sherman did or said after last season’s NFC Championship Game?

All you need to know is that Seattle has allowed the fewest yards in the league, San Francisco has given up the second-fewest and that kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. The loser of this game will be 7-5 and standing third in the division with four games to play.

Neither team is where it hoped to be at this point of the season. Not the Seahawks, whose pass rush has waned on defense and whose offense has lacked that finishing touch when it gets close to the opponent’s end zone. Not the 49ers, who’ve allowed almost as many points (225) as they’ve scored (228) and just last week needed a fourth-quarter touchdown drive to beat a Washington team whose quarterback, Robert Griffin III, played so poorly his coach benched him this week.

But on Thursday night, with the rest of the country watching, these two teams that are so similarly coached by two men who are so very different will play in a game that may end up deciding the trajectory of each of their seasons.

It’s not the division lead that’s up for grabs in this game, but more like postseason survival.

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Rivalry resumes with Seahawks, 49ers fighting for survival