When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m., Candlestick Park
Record: 2-2 in the preseason; 6-10 last season, when they won five of their last nine games.
Where they rank: No. 24 on offense in 2010 (19th rushing, 18th passing); No. 13 on defense (6th rushing, 24th passing)
Series: Seahawks lead 13-11, as the teams split the series last season with the Seahawks winning the opener in Seattle 31-6 and the 49ers winning 40-21 in Week 14 in San Francisco.
Star power: Patrick Willis. What hasn’t the multitalented linebacker done since the 49ers selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft? He has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons, and led the team in tackles each season – averaging almost 150. He also led the NFL in tackles in 2009 (152) and 2007 (174). But this season, the 49ers also will look to Willis to pressure the opposing QB more often. He had six of his career 15 sacks last season.
Unsung hero: Vernon Davis. Unsung? The Pro Bowl tight end? Well, not exactly, but the freakishly talented Davis should be able to produce even more if Michael Crabtree and just-added Braylon Edwards can stretch the field from their wide receiver spots. And that’s saying something after Davis became the first tight end in franchise history to lead the team in receptions, receiving yards and TD catches in back-to-back seasons. He caught 78 passes and scored 13 touchdowns in 2009, but those totals dipped to 56 and seven last season.
On the spot: Alex Smith. Here’s been here before, and so have we. Since being the first pick overall in the NFL Draft in 2005, Smith has had six coordinators and two significant shoulder injuries. But he’s back, on a one-year contract. Smith has not had a 16-start season since 2006 and started 10 games in each of the past two seasons. Last season, he lost the starting job to Troy Smith and also separated his left shoulder in the seventh game. Smith is 3-5 in eight starts against the Seahawks, but he had a three-TD game against them in San Francisco last season.
Burning question: Can Jim Harbaugh succeed where Dennis Erickson (9-23 in 2003-04), Mike Nolan (18-37 in 2005-08) and Mike Singletary (19-22 in 2008-10) did not? That definitely is the 49ers’ plan, after they lured Harbaugh from Stanford. That definitely is Harbaugh’s plan. “I mean, without excuse, without hesitation, losing is not an option and that’s what we aim to do,” the former NFL QB said at his introductory news conference on Jan. 7.
Number to know: The 49ers are 9-3 in the NFC West the past two seasons.
Familiar faces: S Dashon Goldson played at the University of Washington. Offensive assistant coach Bobby Engram played for the Seahawks (2002-08) and was voted to the 35th Anniversary team. Offensive line coach Mike Solari coached for the Seahawks (2008-09). Secondary coach Ed Donatell coached at the University of Washington (1981-82). Tight ends coach Reggie Davis played for the Huskies (1994-98). Special assistant to the head coach Bill Nayes worked for the Seahawks (1999-2006), as did national scout Matt Malaspina (2000-04). Senior personnel advisor John Becker was the Seahawks offensive coordinator (1989-91).
The last word: “With everyone knowing the lockout was coming, this wasn’t the year to start being a head coach in the NFL. Jim Harbaugh is going to be a good coach in the NFL, but it’s going to be a rocky start for him.” – Former Raiders coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden, to the San Jose Mercury News