A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 23:
Turnovers. “It’s all about the ball.” This isn’t just one of Pete Carroll’s cornerstone credos – something that just happens to be plastered throughout the team’s meeting rooms – it also will be a key to any upset hopes the Seahawks have in their Christmas Eve matchup with the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
The 49ers are 11-3 in large part because they have forced 35 turnovers and are plus-25 in the take-away/give-away ratio, both league bests.
“I think it’s a product of hustle. It’s product of players’ ability. It’s a product of scheme. All those things,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Much like Seattle. You watch them on tape and you can continually see their defense, their guys, in the right places with the right leverage. And therefore make the interception, make the tip, the deflection; make the hit that causes the fumble.
“So a lot of things contribute to it.”
Are the Seahawks intimidated? Hardly. “Obviously that plays a big part in winning games,” quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said of the 49ers’ positively impressive numbers in the pivotal categories. “We’re going to try to keep from turning the ball over and see where it gets us.
“We like our chances.”
That’s because, as Harbaugh mentioned, the Seahawks have done a turnaround in their own turnover ratio. They’re plus-8 during their three-game winning streak, after being minus-5 at midseason. They’ve done that by forcing turnovers (10 in the past three games) and not turning the ball over as much (two in the past three games).
“(We’re) taking care of the football,” Carroll said. “We never stop talking about turnovers. We were doing that at the start. It’s just our whole style has kind of transformed somewhat.”
As a result, the Seahawks also rank in the Top 5 in the league in take-away/give-away ratio and turnovers:
Team Net difference
ON THE FIELD
The players held their walk-through this morning in the indoor practice facility.
And there was a holiday flair to the day, as Carroll brought in a gospel choir to sing at the team’s morning meeting and assistant equipment manager Derin Lazuta went through his duties during the walk-through dressed in a red-and-green elf suit.
Marshawn Lynch. No back in the league has more rushing yards (748) than the Seahawks’ Skittle-back over the past seven games, and no player in franchise history has scored touchdowns in more consecutive games (10).
But no one needs to remind Justin Smith of all the things Lynch has been able to accomplish this season. The 49ers Pro Bowl defensive lineman already is sold on Lynch.
“The way Marshawn is running after he gets the first and second contacts, this guy is not going down,” Smith said this week. “That’s how he’s run for his whole career, but it really looks like the last five or six games this guy is turning it up a notch.
“I think he’s one of the top backs in the league. With the way he runs and the plays he makes, I’d put him definitely at No. 1, 2 or 3, for sure. He’s a top back in the NFL. The way he runs and the way he can make one, two, three or four guys miss is amazing. Then the power that he has with his size and he’s got speed, everything. He’s the total package.
“So that’s who we’ve got to focus on and that’s who we’ve got to stop. It’s not going to be easy.”
Leading receiver Doug Baldwin is listed as questionable for the game and has not practiced since turning an ankle in Wednesday’s practice. But Carroll remains hopeful that Baldwin will be able to play.
Here’s the official end-of-the-week status report:
CB Kennard Cox (hamstring)
LB Malcolm Smith (concussion)
DT Clinton McDonald (concussion)
WR Doug Baldwin (ankle)
OG Robert Gallery (pelvis)
QB Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral)
MLB David Hawthorne (knee)
For the 49ers:
WR Braylon Edwards (knee)
RB Bruce Miller (knee)
LB Patrick Willis (hamstring)
WR Ted Ginn (ankle)
Willis was limited in practice today, but practiced Thursday for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the Dec. 4 game against the Rams and is expecting to play. But Ginn did not practice today, and the returner who ran back a kickoff and punt for TDs against the Seahawks in the season opener is not expected to play.
STAT DU JOUR
Carroll balked this week when asked about the team’s “inability” to own the NFC West, his started priority goal when hired as coach 23 months ago. Yes, the 49ers are 11-3 and have wrapped up the division title this season. But if the Seahawks can get past the 49ers on Saturday and the Cardinals in Arizona next week, and the 49ers beat the Rams in their finale, they will finish with the best division record of the four teams:
Team Projected division record
Christmas Eve, and a ho-ho-ho of a matchup between the Seahawks and 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
The players and coaches will be off on Christmas Day, before everyone returns on Monday to start preparing for the regular-season finale against the Cardinals in Arizona.
YOU DON’T SAY
“Some things have to happen for us to get to the playoffs. If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m just proud to see the turnaround that we had, especially with all these guys and pieces that we’ve had.” – Lynch on the Seahawks going 5-1 to start the second half of the season after a 2-6 first half