When the NFL schedule came out in May, this three-game period looked as if it would be the defining stretch of the 49ers’ schedule.
The 49ers completed what appeared on paper to be the most difficult part: Victories on the road over Seattle and Philadelphia.
After their impressive 42-19 win against the Eagles, the 49ers are back home to face the Seahawks in Week 14 at Levi’s Stadium.
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“We have to make sure we’re dialed and focused,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said. “Philly is done and over with. We’re not talking about Philly from here on out. And we’re onto Seattle.”
The 49ers can clinch a spot in the playoffs with a victory on Sunday along with a loss from either Green Bay or Minnesota.
But the sights are set a lot higher than just making the postseason. A victory will go a long way toward winning the NFC West for the second consecutive season, and the 49ers are in the thick of the race for home-field advantage on the NFC side of the bracket, too.
Here are five 49ers to watch when they face the Seahawks:
San Francisco 49ers
5, K Jake Moody
The selection of kicker Jake Moody with the No. 99 overall selection signaled the end of veteran Robbie Gould’s time with the 49ers.
The 49ers were determined to move on from Gould, who was so reliable during his six seasons with the organization. The club would be turning to a younger, less-expensive kicker with a more powerful leg.
The 49ers were never tempted to reconsider their decision. And it was clear Gould would likely not return under any circumstances.
Now, that is official.
On Thursday, Gould, 41, announced his retirement from the NFL, as he remained unsigned deep into the regular season.
Moody was the subject of a lot of conversation when his first NFL miss came in Week 6 at Cleveland. His second miss of the game came from 41 yards out in the closing seconds and prevented the 49ers from pulling out the victory over the Browns.
All in all, Moody has been very good in his first NFL season. He is 17 of 20 on field goal attempts, including two of three from behind 50 yards. And he is 43 of 43 on extra points.
The 49ers expect a game against Seattle that’s closer than their recent 31-13 victory. Could it come down to a kick?
4, WR Brandon Aiyuk
With all the talk earlier this season about running back Christian McCaffrey’s NFL-record-tying touchdown streak, there is now another one going on.
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has a career-best streak of four consecutive games with a touchdown reception. If he can get into the end zone on a pass play on Sunday, it will be the longest such streak from a 49ers wide receiver since Hall of Famer Terrell Owens in 2001.
Aiyuk is having a great season — though his playmaking ability still seems to slide slightly under the radar on a team that also features McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.
With five games to play, Aiyuk needs just 73 yards receiving to go over the 1,000-yard mark in back-to-back seasons. The 49ers have not had a player register 1,000 yards receiving in consecutive seasons since Anquan Boldin (2013 and ’14).
3, LB Dre Greenlaw
The 49ers feed off the passion, energy and aggression of linebacker Dre Greenlaw.
The 49ers do not want him to change his style. But in the team’s Week 13 game, his actions hurt the team.
He was called for unnecessary roughness, drawing a 15-yard penalty. Then, he was disqualified from the game moments later when he took a swipe at a Philadelphia Eagles staff member who put his hands on Greenlaw during a sideline altercation.
“(He’s) an enforcer,” Warner said of Greenlaw, “a tone-setter out there, delivering those hits and flying to the football every single play. You need that.”
Of course, any time Greenlaw plays against the Seahawks it brings back memories of his most memorable play. In the final week of the 2019 season, Greenlaw stopped Seattle tight end Jacob Hollister on fourth down at the goal line in the closing seconds to win the NFC West and secure home-field advantage in the playoffs.
2, QB Brock Purdy
Quarterback Brock Purdy has faced the Seahawks more in his one full year as the 49ers’ starter than any other team.
The Seahawks head coach is Pete Carroll, who rose through the coaching ranks from his work with defensive backs and as a defensive coordinator. But he has not been able to come up with any answers for Purdy, yet.
It should be noted, however, that Purdy’s numbers against Seattle are slightly lower than what he’s accomplished against the rest of the NFL.
In three starts against Seattle, Purdy is 56 of 86 (65 percent) for 758 yards with six touchdowns, one interceptions and a passer rating of 111.5. The Seahawks sacked him three times for minus-15 yards in those three games.
As the 49ers enter Week 14, Purdy is considered a top contender for NFL Most Valuable Player.
Obviously, Purdy is one of the big stories of the NFL season. Through 12 games, he leads the NFL with a 70.2 completion percentage. He also tops the league in yards per pass attempt (9.6), passer rating (116.1) and QBR (75.6).
1, CB Charvarius Ward
The 49ers demonstrated a new level of faith in cornerback Charvarius Ward when his primary assignment two weeks ago was to shadow Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf.
Previously, Ward would play the left side. Whichever receiver lined up on that side, that’s who Ward would cover.
Now, it looks as if it might become the norm for Ward to mirror the opposition’s top receiver.
“I think his level of confidence is there,” 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said. “I think he's playing with great technique, eyes in the right spot. I think he's just really locked in and focused.”
When the teams met on Thanksgiving, Metcalf had just one reception on six targets for 14 yards while matched in man coverage against Ward. Metcalf dropped one pass and Ward broke up two Geno Smith attempts.
Metcalf is the Seahawks’ top offensive weapon. He has 49 catches for 812 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games.
After Ward held him down two weeks ago, Metcalf is undoubtedly focused on giving his team the best chance of winning on Sunday by getting the upper hand this time around.