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Four things to watch for in 49ers-Seahawks game on Prime Video

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Thursday’s game at Lumen Field could determine the first division winner of the 2022 NFL season.

The 49ers will clinch the NFC West with a win, which would be quite the achievement considering the injury issues the team has had to face this season. Quarterback injuries alone have been a season-long saga, with Jimmy Garoppolo replacing an injured Trey Lance in Week 2, and Brock Purdy stepping in for the injured Garoppolo two weeks ago.

The 49ers’ opponent, the Seahawks, need a win to keep their dwindling division-title hopes alive. A loss won’t knock them out of the wild-card hunt, but it would put them a game and a half behind the 7-5-1 Giants for the seventh (and final) playoff slot in the NFC.

Despite all their setbacks, the 49ers are hot, owners of the league’s longest current win streak at six straight. Following a 6-3 start, the Seahawks have won only once since Week 9. That was when Seattle had a two-game lead in the NFC West. Now the Seahawks are down two games to their Thursday night opponent, with time to earn a home playoff game quickly slipping away.

Here are four things to watch for when the Seahawks host the 49ers on Thursday on Prime Video:

  1. Will Brock Purdy play? Or will the 49ers start a fourth QB this season? It would be a shame if the out-of-nowhere legend Purdy can’t go in this one, but he suffered an oblique injury in Sunday’s thrilling win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, which certainly can affect a QB’s performance. There’s still hope Purdy can go in this one, as the injury doesn’t appear serious and he’s listed as questionable, but Thursday is a short turnaround. If he can’t go in this one, the 49ers will turn to their fourth starting QB of the season and third in the past three weeks. Josh Johnson, who was signed off the practice squad last week, would get the start against the Seahawks, a team he last faced in 2010. Johnson replaced Purdy in Sunday’s laugher, getting his feet wet in the offense. And Johnson performed admirably in a pinch-hit start for the Ravens one year ago this week, completing 28 of 40 passes for 304 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in Baltimore’s Week 15 loss to the Bengals. So if there’s a man capable of filling in for the other fill-in, it’s the well-traveled Johnson. The 36-year-old has made a career out of being a hired gun for situations just such as these.
  2. Seahawks really could use a healthy Kenneth Walker to boost their sagging run game. It took a few weeks this season to get the Seahawks’ run game going, but when they did it was really humming. Between Weeks 3-9, Seattle averaged 156 rushing yards per game. That overlapped with Walker’s breakout to where he was considered an AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite once the Jets’ Breece Hall went down for the season. But Walker suffered an ankle injury against the Rams in Week 13 and missed Sunday’s game. The Seahawks weren’t the same offense without him. His absence put too much pressure on quarterback Geno Smith needing to have a perfect game, which he did not in the loss to Carolina. Against the Panthers, Seahawks RBs Travis Homer and Tony Jones ran for only 28 yards on 10 carries. That simply won’t work against this 49ers defense. Most teams haven’t run the ball successfully against San Francisco this season, allowing more than 4.2 yards per carry in only two games — and they were the 49ers’ two biggest losses (Atlanta and Kansas City). Lucky for Seattle, Walker should return Thursday — he’s off the injury report — while fellow back DeeJay Dallas (ankle) is questionable.
  3. Expect the 49ers to run the ball until Seahawks prove they can stop it. One way or another, the 49ers will be handing the ball off frequently Thursday, barring some bizarre early (and big) deficit. Why? Well, for one, there’s the somewhat murky QB situation. But the 49ers also do it well and the Seahawks don’t stop it especially well. It was a big problem early this season, especially when the Niners hectored them with 189 yards on 45 carries. Even with Deebo Samuel out for a few weeks, the 49ers are well-stocked with running options. Christian McCaffrey tenderized the Bucs for 119 rushing yards on only 14 carries Sunday, and then Jordan Mason came in to inflict a bit more punishment. McCaffrey has a knee injury he’s managing — he was a full participant Wednesday — but he looked special Sunday. For good measure, both Purdy and Johnson have shown they can scramble a tad, too. The Seahawks have been slaughtered by the run more often than not this season, outside of a brief improvement in Weeks 7-8. And it might be a tougher chore if defensive linemen Al Woods and Shelby Harris can’t go — especially Woods. In the first half against Carolina with Woods on the field, the Panthers ran 22 times for 78 yards; in the second half, with Woods out, Carolina ran it 24 times for 145 yards.
  4. Geno Smith could use a big showing in this one. By nearly every measure, Smith has had a pretty phenomenal season for the Seahawks, keeping them in the playoff race when few expected him to be able. Smith has had multiple TD passes in 11 of 13 games and has already surpassed his career high in passing yards despite twice starting 16 games in seasons. The pressure to replace Russell Wilson was daunting, but Smith clearly has outplayed the level Wilson was at most of last season — and certainly well past the Broncos’ version of Wilson this season. But Smith also has had to carry an outsized portion of the burden lately as the run game has sagged, and his play has leveled off with that. He’s had only eight interceptions and two lost fumbles this season but half of those have come in the past three games. Smith has been more good than bad over that span, but it’s clear he could use a little help in this crucial game. His toughest start came against the 49ers in Week 2. Despite completing 24 of 30 passes, Smith only threw for 197 yards with one completion longer than 17.

Image & Story Credit: nfl.com

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