SEATTLE - A few years ago, Kyle Shanahan celebrated his first division title as San Francisco’s coach in the visiting locker room at Seattle after a Sunday night game on the final day of the season that was nearly decided on the final snap.
Shanahan and the 49ers can repeat what they accomplished in 2019 and wrap up another NFC West title on Thursday night in Seattle against the Seahawks, but with far less stress this time.
San Francisco (9-4) is the hottest team in the NFL, having won six straight, the longest active streak in the league. The 49ers have won each of their past four games by double digits, including last week’s 35-7 thumping of Tampa Bay.
Since their last loss at Kansas City in Week 7, the 49ers have not allowed an opponent to score more than 16 points, and a win on Thursday would be the earliest in the season they have clinched a division title since 2011.
"If we win the game and just do our job and just look at it like it’s another game and do our thing then we’ll be just fine," 49ers QB Brock Purdy said. "Kyle (Shanahan) has made some points like where we’re at in terms of the standings and whatnot, but it’s not something that we talk about all the time."
Still, there’s some uncertainty for the 49ers, starting with Purdy. The third starting QB for San Francisco this season suffered an oblique strain in the win over Tampa Bay, playing through the injury for a significant chunk of the game. Purdy was listed as questionable, although it seems likely he will try to play.
Purdy threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns in his first action against Miami, and threw for 185 yards and two TDs last week against the Bucs.
"He is the same dude every day and he’s the same guy on the field, whether he is making a good play or bad play, he’s believes in himself and he’s going to keep slinging it and ripping what he sees," Shanahan said.
A month ago, Seattle (7-6) appeared to be on track to win the division. But a significant defensive regression and some offensive struggles have left the Seahawks losers in three of their past four games.
Seattle’s backslide has revolved around the run game. The Seahawks haven’t been able to run the ball effectively, putting more stress on Geno Smith and the passing game. And Seattle has been woefully inadequate at stopping the run, giving up more than 200 yards rushing in losses to Las Vegas and last week to Carolina.
"These guys happen to be in first place in the division and they’re playing great. If you’re going to have a good year, you have to win games like this," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "You have to win them. You have to find your way through the great challenges."
RUN TO DAYLIGHT
The Niners are coming off their most productive running game of the season with 209 yards on the ground against Tampa Bay. Now they get a chance to go up against a Seattle defense allowing the second most yards on the ground this season at 160.5 per game. San Francisco had 189 yards on the ground in the first meeting but is still expecting a tough matchup.
"No matter what the numbers say, no matter what’s been going on, our matchup with these guys, it’s always a little bit different," tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "They’re going to bring it. They’re going to be a talented group."
The Seahawks haven’t seen a running back rush for more than 37 yards in a game in more than a month, and Seattle has failed to rush for 100 yards as a team in five of the past six games.
Getting healthy would help. Rookie Kenneth Walker III is expected to play after missing last week with an ankle injury.
BIG PLAY DRE
San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw is garnering attention for routinely making big plays. After recording 15 tackles and an interception last week against Tampa Bay, teammate Fred Warner and former teammate-turned-analyst Richard Sherman advocated for Greenlaw to get Pro Bowl consideration. Greenlaw has 102 tackles on the season and has takeaways in three straight weeks.
"Dre is playing with very high confidence, he’s playing fast, physical and I love the enthusiasm that he’s playing with out there, because he’s making a ton of plays, which creates that enthusiasm," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said.
Seattle WR Tyler Lockett has a touchdown catch in a franchise-record six straight games. He can become the first NFL player with a TD catch in seven straight since Davante Adams in 2020. In the past 10 seasons, only three players — Adams, Antonio Brown and Allen Hurns — have had a streak of at least seven straight with a TD catch.
The passing game may be the one area Seattle can exploit against the 49ers, assuming Smith gets enough time to throw.