The immovable object vs. the unstoppable force.
Two high-powered, efficient units will decide this afternoon’s game at CenturyLink Field between NFC West rivals Seattle and San Francisco.
The 49ers have the league’s best run defense and haven’t given up a rushing touchdown all season.
But Seattle’s run offense, led by Marshawn Lynch, has been on a second-half tear. Lynch has rushed for 748 yards in the past seven games, the most of any running back in the NFL. And he’s in the midst of a 10-game scoring streak.
San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith understands his team will have its hands full trying to keep Lynch from tearing off chunks of yardage.
“He’s one of the top backs in the league,” Smith said. “I mean, the way he runs, the plays he makes. I’d put him definitely at one, or two or three for sure. He’s a top back in the NFL.
“The way he runs, the way he can make one, two, three or four guys miss, I mean it’s amazing. And the power he has with his size, he’s got the speed – everything. He’s the total package. So that’s who we have to focus on, and that’s who we have to stop. It’s not going to be easy.”
San Francisco’s defense has reached historic territory. Dating as far back as 1932, the fewest rushing touchdowns allowed during an entire season is two – by the 1934 Detroit Lions, the 1968 Dallas Cowboys and the 1971 Minnesota Vikings. So the Niners already can lay claim to a league record for 14 games.
“That’s a pretty cool number,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “I was around a team years ago that got through something like that. That’s something to protect. That’s something to fight for when you get the chance.
“So we’re going to throw it inside the 5-yard line every time we get down there,” Carroll joked.
San Francisco last gave up a rushing touchdown in the second-to-last game of the 2010 season, a 1-yard Steven Jackson run in a 25-17 loss to St. Louis in December.
The Niners also are in the midst of a 36-game stretch of not allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Lynch has rushed for 100 yards in five of his last seven games. But he totaled just 33 yards on 13 carries in the first game this year between the two teams, a 33-17 Seattle loss.
“We’ve already played against them once this year, so we know they’ve got a real good group over there,” Lynch said. “But it’s not going to make me prepare any different than if we were fixing to face our own defense. I prepare the same way.”
Seattle fullback Michael Robinson, who faces his former team for the fourth time since he’s been in Seattle, is aware of San Francisco’s effectiveness stopping the run, and echoes his running mate’s comments.
“They’ve done some remarkable things this season,” Robinson said. “I think they’re a great defense, a great team. But like I said before, we get paid, too. We game plan, too. And we’re not the same team we were the first week of the season, just like they aren’t. So it should be a great matchup, and a great test for us.”
Robinson said it would be nice to get a rushing touchdown against the Niners, but the more important goal is a win to remain in the playoff hunt.
“From a running back group, we just take it one play at a time,” Robinson said. “If the opportunity presents itself, obviously we want to go for it. If it doesn’t, as long as we win, it doesn’t matter to me if we have running touchdown or not.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437
SAN FRANCISCO (11-3) AT SEATTLE (7-7)
1:15 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Seahawks lead 13-12, including a 33-17 loss to the Niners at Candlestick Park on Sept. 11 – the first game of the regular season. Seattle has won six of the past eight contests against San Francisco at CenturyLink Field.
What to watch: Seahawks leading receiver Doug Baldwin (ankle) did not practice for two straight days this week and is a game-time decision, although coach Pete Carroll said that he thought Baldwin would be ready to play. Cornerback Kennard Cox (hamstring), linebacker Malcolm Smith (concussion) and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (concussion) are doubtful. With Cox likely out, recently added cornerback Phillip Adams could be pressed into duty to fill in on special teams today. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral), offensive guard Robert Gallery (pelvis) and linebacker David Hawthorne (knee) all were full participants in practice Friday and are probable for today’s game. For San Francisco, receiver Braylon Edwards (knee), running back Bruce Miller (knee), linebacker Patrick Willis (hamstring) and receiver Ted Ginn (ankle) did not practice; all are questionable for the game.
THE pick: Seahawks, 20-19.
81Golden Tate WR 5-10202second
The former Notre Dame player is the Seahawks’ most explosive playmaker on the perimeter.
72Robert Gallery OL 6-7325eighth
Gallery has Seattle’s toughest blocking assignment, stopping San Francisco DL Justin Smith.
31Kam Chancellor SS 6-3232second
He faces the hardest matchup in the secondary, dealing with athletic tight end Vernon Davis.
50K.J. Wright LB 6-4246first
The rookie out of Mississippi State has played better of late but must make sure to set the edge of the defense against the Niners’ potent run game.
21Frank Gore RB 5-9217seventh
Quarterback Alex Smith has played better, but Gore still is the engine that drives this team offensively.
85Vernon Davis TE 6-3250sixth
He’s a tough matchup in the red zone and is second on the team in receptions (55) and first in touchdown catches (six).
94Justin Smith DE 6-428511th
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh calls Smith the most valuable player of the team.
38Dashon Goldson FS 6-2200fifth
The ex-UW player is having a breakout season, with six INTs and 61 tackles.
Eric D. Williams, staff writer