Happy Thanksgiving from San Jose. I hope you are enjoying those people and environments for which you are thankful today.
The Seahawks have awakened to another sunny Bay Area day, hours before the 5:30 p.m. kickoff against the 49ers up the freeway from here at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
Here's my gameday preview box that appears in today's News Tribune:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-4) at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (7-4)
5:30 p.m. Thursday, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
TV: Channel 5 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
The series: Seattle leads the series 16-15. That includes the last meeting, the Seahawks’ win in the final seconds of January’s NFC championship game at CenturyLink Field. Seattle, though, hasn’t won on the 49ers’ home field since Oct. 26, 2008. San Francisco has won the last five home games in the series.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Russell Wilson’s Thanksgiving at the Improv: This alley fight between the NFL’s No. 1 and No. 2 defenses isn’t likely to have a ton of scoring. The offensive line continues to struggle in pass protection. This means this one may be like many Seahawks games this season: determined by how freely and lethally Wilson runs around outside to avoid sacks and scramble for big plays that are becoming his norm.
Zest from a battered “Beast”: The Seahawks aren’t saying so, but Marshawn Lynch may not be at his usual full, brutish effectiveness because of his increasingly sore back and just three days to rest it since Seattle’s win over Arizona. But as coach Pete Carroll says, “He won’t want to miss this.” And in three previous career Thursday games with just three days’ rest, Lynch has averaged 114 yards rushing and has scored three touchdowns. That includes 103 yards two years ago on a Thursday night at San Francisco.
Rely on a leftist bent: 49ers’ starting right tackle Anthony Davis is out because of a concussion. That means former Miami starter Jonathan Martin is likely to start again on the right end of the line. And that means left end Michael Bennett and weak-side linebacker Bruce Irvin are likely to come flying in off Seattle’s defensive left edge. The more disruptive those two can be against Martin, the better the Seahawks’ quest to corral quarterback Colin Kaepernick – and their chances to win.
The pick: Seahawks, 17-16. With 10 healthy starters – including revived NFC defensive player of the week Kam Chancellor and MLB Bobby Wagner – this is the most Seattle’s defense, and team, has looked like 2013 since early September.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
3 Russell Wilson QB 5-11 206 third
With Lynch (bad back) on only 3 days’ rest + O-line protection issues, RW needs to do it all. Again.
61 Lemuel Jeanpierre C 6-3 301 fifth
Poised to make 1st start of the season, filling-in for Unger. Could fix O-line communication issues.
31 Kam Chancellor SS 6-3 232 fifth
Reborn last week. Was flying, thudding self after months of pain. This will show if he’s fully back.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
7 Colin Kaepernick QB 6-4 230 fourth
If he is anywhere as brilliant as he was last time these teams met, Seattle’s got issues.
50 Chris Borland ILB 5-11 248 rookie
Marshawn Lynch, SEA’s offense is coming right at the replacement for injured Patrick Willis.
71 Jonathan Martin RT 6-5 312 third
Fill-in RT making seventh start for SF. SEA’s defense likely to target him in pass rush.
HERE -- and who -- is why the Seahawks appear to be entering this game with an emotional edge they haven't had since the Sept. 4 opener against Green Bay -- which was the last complete game they've played:
Kam Chancellor has the intensity of a white-hot flame on game days. But he usually keeps that burning inside, fueling him alone.
Last weekend, for the first time this year, every Seahawk shared that internal heat. They used it to singe first-place Arizona.
Four days later the Super Bowl champions (7-4) prepare to kick off here against the 49ers (7-4) with a huge chance to turn what’s been an uneven season into a roll. And the Seahawks are still feeling Chancellor’s passion.
Seattle’s defensive players had what outside linebacker K.J. Wright on Tuesday termed “an argument” on the field last week during practice. No-nonsense safety Earl Thomas berated some teammates for chewing sunflower seeds and not being focused enough during drills. High-volume bickering and bellowing followed.
The defense simmered for days. Then minutes before the Seahawks ran onto CenturyLink Field to play the Cardinals Sunday, defensive end Michael Bennett asked Chancellor to address the team in the locker room. Bennett and quarterback Russell Wilson usually do that before kickoffs. But Bennett sensed the thudding strong safety, finally healthy after 21/2 months of playing through pain, was the man for this job on this day after all the tumult of Seattle’s week and season.
Chancellor didn’t just speak to his teammates. He went man to man around the room. He looked into each of their eyes. He roared at them. That fire from within came out in a torrent of motivation and demand for brotherhood.
“Yeah, my first time right before a game,” Chancellor said Tuesday, chuckling that word of his talk got out. “Mike B. asked me to do it. I said everything that I’ve felt and always wanted to say. And I just said it from my heart.
“It was about trusting one another.”
Chancellor’s pregame scorcher of a speech did more than inspire his teammates to throttle formerly 9-1 Arizona to its season lows of 204 yards and three points. Chancellor did more than inspire himself to share with key middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (back after missing five games with turf toe) the team lead with eight tackles. Chancellor moved better than he had all season on bone spurs in his ankles and a sore groin. On Wednesday the NFL named him the NFC’s defensive player of the week.
His speech before he did all that transformed teammates.
“That’s probably one of the best ones I’ve ever heard in my life,” Wright said.
“I just felt it. Usually guys talk and it’s just talk. I actually felt him. He just spoke from the heart.
“We needed that. With the little thing, the little argument we had, we needed that just to get over whatever that was we were going through.
“That’s why we voted him captain.”
From an emotional standpoint, this short week helps the Seahawks. They arrived here Wednesday evening for this key NFC West showdown only three days removed from Chancellor’s revival session, instead of the normal six days between games. To hear them tell it, that makes the Seahawks more equipped mentally and emotionally than they were a week ago to contain Colin Kaepernick, gang up on Frank Gore and shackle San Francisco.
Team leader Doug Baldwin says Chancellor’s speech and this new sense of trust and togetherness may be turning around Seattle’s up-and-down season in time for this push toward the playoffs.
“I think so,” Baldwin said. “Everybody who plays in the NFL is talented, athletically, is gifted physically. However, the subtle difference between what’s good, what’s great and what’s legendary is the mental side of it and also the emotional side of it. You have to play this game with emotion and play this game with love and trust and commitment to each other.
“That’s probably the hardest thing for anyone to stop, when you have a collective that loves each other, that is connected to each other, that is trusts each other, and is coming at you.”
The Seahawks, for the first time in their adventurous season, are coming at the 49ers while feeling “right” again.
“I would say (that) for our whole unit,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “I think there have been good games by individual guys and outings by the team, but I think that (last weekend) felt maybe the most connected we’ve had been defensively this year, yes.”
Baldwin said: “We are all playing collectively. Together.
“It was a feeling that was missing. And we are getting it back.”
The rest of that story is here.