49ers Analysis

Five 49ers to watch in Thanksgiving Day clash vs. Seahawks

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Programming note: Watch "49ers Pregame Live," with Carlos Ramirez, Donte Whitner and Rod Brooks, at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area for a complete preview of the Thanksgiving showdown with the Seahawks, and come back for "49ers Postgame Live" immediately following the game.

SEATTLE — Before the 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks three times last season, including once in the postseason, the team from the Pacific Northwest had dominated the recent series.

Now, the balance of power in the division has shifted.

The 49ers have won 10 consecutive games against division opponents to surpass the Seahawks’ run of dominance within the NFC West from 2004 to 2006.

The 49ers (7-3) take a one-game lead in the division over the Seahawks (6-4) entering their Thanksgiving Day prime-time matchup.

Seattle has been a difficult place for the 49ers to play. The Seahawks have won 12 of their previous 14 home games against San Francisco.

One of those 49ers' victories came a year ago, when the 49ers clinched the division on a Thursday night in quarterback Brock Purdy’s second NFL start.

Although the Seahawks have not taken the next step to firmly establish themselves as a playoff team, the 49ers figure to be in a battle to leave Seattle with a win.

Here are five key players for the 49ers, as they continue to jockey for their spot at the NFC playoff table:

5, DT Arik Armstead

Now that defensive tackle Arik Armstead is surrounded on the 49ers’ defensive line by such players as Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave and Chase Young, it can be easy to overlook him.

But Armstead made sure his presence was felt in the 49ers’ Week 11 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had one of the best games of his nine-year career with one sack, one quarterback hit and 10 hurries for 12 total pressures, according to PFF.

“His one-on-ones, we always talk about you’ve got to win those, collapse the pocket inside and try to make the quarterback unable to follow through with his throws,” said 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, checking off the list of what Armstead did as a pass-rusher against Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield.

“Arik played a great game and we're looking for him to do it again this week.”

Armstead will play a major role on base downs, as the 49ers will focus on shutting down the holes for Seattle rookie running back Zach Charbonnet with their top ground-gainer, Kenneth Walker, expected to be out with an oblique injury. Charbonnet has 261 on 53 carries this season, as he has gradually been worked into the mix a little more.

If the 49ers shut down the run and make the Seahawks’ offense one-dimensional, the defensive line should feast.

4, WR Deebo Samuel

The 49ers’ offense is complete when wide receiver Deebo Samuel is on the field — whether he’s producing big numbers or not.

And, for the most part, Samuel has not taken off with the ball in his hands. He had six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown in the Week 3 win over the New York Giants.

He has not even reached half of the yardage of his best game in any other game this season.

The Seahawks have some talented young cornerbacks, Riq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon, and Samuel never backs down from a challenge.

With wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle stringing together some highly productive games, this could be the night Samuel provides a little gravy on top for the 49ers’ offense.

3, CB Deommodore Lenoir

Nobody on the 49ers’ defense has a more difficult assignment on a weekly basis than cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who starts on the outside and moves inside to nickel back in passing situations.

Lenoir took over the nickel back role after the bye week. Up to that point, Isaiah Oliver lined up against the slot receiver and surrendered 33 receptions on 36 targets for 256 yards and three touchdowns, according to PFF.

On base downs, Lenoir will see plenty of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. When he moves to nickel back, he’ll go up against rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has 18 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown when working out of the slot.

Metcalf and Lockett are the main courses for the Seahawks offense with 646 and 545 yards receiving, respectively.

What makes it so difficult for Lenoir is he has to contend with the side dishes, as well, covering the slot receiver and being sound with his tackling near the line of scrimmage.

2, QB Brock Purdy

Quarterback Brock Purdy entered the bye week on a mini-slump. He came back after the break with two of his better games. He went a combined 40 of 51 for 629 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions against Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.

Purdy was recognized as NFC Offensive Player of the Week after becoming just the 23rd player in NFL history to achieve a perfect passer rating with 25 or more pass attempts.

At some point the NFL is going to catch up to him, right?

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Yeah, maybe not.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll and his defensive staff, led by coordinator Clint Hurtt, have already seen Purdy twice. They will be the first team to see him three times.

Purdy had a big day in the playoffs against the Seahawks, throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-23 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

So far, anyone who has tried to discredit Purdy has pie on their faces. On Thanksgiving, he’ll be looking to serve up another slice of humble pie to his critics.

1, S Ji’Ayir Brown

All eyes will be on 49ers rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown, who makes his first start Thursday night with All-Pro Talanoa Hufanga out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

This is why the 49ers traded up in the 2023 NFL Draft to select Brown with the No. 87 overall pick. They needed depth, and now that depth will be tested.

Brown entered Sunday’s game in the second half and played 36 snaps. He appeared to be responsible for a 41-yard completion to Tampa Bay’s Rakim Jarrett.

But Brown bounced back to thwart two fourth-quarter scoring chances for the Buccaneers. He broke up a fourth-down pass for Mike Evans in the end zone. Then, he sealed the game with an interception in the end zone.

“I liked how poised I was at the catch point,” Brown said. “I showed a lot of good things. There were a couple things I didn’t like. Me, personally, I thought I could be better with my eyes.

“Just experience, speed of the game, plays that I could’ve made. I feel like I left some plays out there. If I would have been in the right spot with my eyes, I could’ve made those plays.”

Brown said he focused on preparation and attention to detail this week, as he fully realizes Seattle quarterback Geno Smith will try to beat the stuffing out of him.

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