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Grant Cohn: 49ers have home field and motivation — will it be enough?


The Seahawks have one less day of rest than the 49ers and one less day to prepare. They played Monday night. Plus they fly on Saturday. All of this will have an impact.

The 49ers are desperate. Don't underestimate desperation.

If the 49ers lose this game, there is a good chance they will fall behind the Cowboys or the Eagles in the wild-card race at least for one week, maybe permanently.

But even if the Seahawks lose, they easily can lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC with wins against bad teams down the stretch. They already clinched a playoff spot. The 49ers haven't clinched anything. The Seahawks have less to play for than the Niners.

The 49ers typically play well at Candlestick against the Seahawks. The Seahawks haven't beaten the 49ers at Candlestick since 2008. History is on the 49ers' side.

Last season at the Stick, Frank Gore ran right up the gut of the Seahawks' defense for 131 yards. The Seahawks put eight and sometimes nine defenders right in front of the 49ers' offensive line to stop Gore, but they couldn't stop him. Mike Iupati, in particular, had a great game. He bulldozed defenders, especially in the second half. It was the best game of his career.

Most of Gore's big runs came on "wham" and "trap" plays. The Seahawks have an aggressive, fast defensive line that wants to charge into the offensive backfield. They're great at doing this in Seattle on fast fake turf and with that loud home crowd.

But the 49ers use this aggression against Seattle in San Francisco. Think of the trap play. You've heard of the trap play. An over-aggressive defensive lineman rushes into the 49ers' backfield looking to hit Gore. The Niners' offensive lineman let him do it. As the unsuspecting lineman chargers full speed ahead, an offensive lineman decks the defender from the defender's blindside. Big hole for Frank Gore. Thank you very much.

The wham play is similar, except the fullback or the tight end cracks the defender with the blindside block.

The 49ers are not so good at whamming and trapping in Seattle, but they are terrific at home. And this is a big advantage for the 49ers.

Iupati is the 49ers' No.1 trapper and puller. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Iupati probably won't play on Sunday. He sprained his knee a few weeks ago against the Saints. This may have repercussions for the 49ers. We'll see.

If Gore can run like Frank Gore instead of the Gore imposter who's shown up lately, Colin Kaepernick could have a big day. He's been shaky, but a running game the Seahawks must respect will open up the passing lanes for him. This is the basis of the 49ers' game plan and it just might work.

The 49ers' defense is one of the best. it may stop or, at least, slow down running back Marshawn Lynch. If this happens, the 49ers are in good shape.

I see all this and I'm sharing it with you. I admit the 49ers could win this game. I still don't think they will.

Here are some numbers to think about.

The 49ers are giving up two touchdowns per game at home this season, and the Seahawks are scoring more than two touchdowns per game on the road. The Seahawks are going to score at least two touchdowns against the Niners on Sunday.

Advantage Seahawks.

On the other hand, the Seahawks' defense is giving up fewer than two touchdowns per game. Kaepernick never has led a single touchdown drive against the Seahawks' starting defense – I bet you didn't know that. He led one TD drive against their backups in garbage time last season.

All of a sudden, Kaepernick is going to lead two or three TD drives against the Seahawks on Sunday?

I don't think so.

Advantage Seahawks.

I can't help believing Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than Kaepernick, Lynch is a stronger runner than Gore and the Niners' offensive line is compromised by injury.

The Seahawks will score two touchdowns, the 49ers will score one and the final score will be Seahawks 20, 49ers 19.

<i>Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the "Inside the 49ers" blog for the Press Democrat's website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.</i>