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49ers, Seahawks have short wait for rematch

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SANTA CLARA — The Seahawks beat the 49ers by 27 points in Seattle just 12 days ago. They will play each other again this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

What has changed?

Since their last meeting, the 49ers have defeated a playoff-contending team for the first time this season. That’s one change. They beat the Denver Broncos 20-14 last Sunday.

The Seahawks also defeated a playoff-contending team rcently. They beat the Minnesota Vikings 21-7 last Monday night, and have won four games in a row and eight of their past 11. Their offense ranks first in rushing yards, and their defense ranks sixth in fewest points allowed.

“Nothing is different,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “There are no secrets. We both know each other’s scheme, so both teams know what to expect. I think that makes it a little bit more fun.”

In other words, the 49ers and Seahawks have books on each other, and the books are current. The latest editions.

This week, rookie strong safety Marcell Harris explained the book on the Seahawks offense: “Having played against them and obviously watching film of them, they don’t do a lot of different things. They’re going to run the ball as much as they need to open up their pass game. That’s what we key on.”

The Seahawks ran for 168 yards when they beat the 49ers. Then, last Monday, the Seahawks ran for 214 yards when they beat the Vikings. The 49ers clearly know they’ll have to stop the Seahawks’ running game.

“They had a lot of success getting our edges,” rookie middle linebacker Fred Warner said. “(Chris) Carson is their workhorse. He’s physical and can hit the edge. (Rashaad) Penny is probably one of their most explosive backs. He’s trying to hit the edge as well and has reversed field multiple times throughout the season. (Mike) Davis, he’s a reliable guy in (pass) protection and running the ball downhill, but also another bounce runner (to the edge).”

Carson, Penny and Davis combined have rushed for 1,625 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Each is a threat to the 49ers defense. But, the Seahawks’ most dangerous rusher may be their quarterback, Russell Wilson, who rushed for 61 yards last Monday against the Vikings and averages a whopping 5.9 yards per carry this season.

“When he drops back to pass, the play breaks down and he extends plays,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh explained. “That’s when Russell is his most dangerous. He can always tuck it and run, which he does. You’ve got to get great pocket push and have great lane discipline in your pass rush, and you have to have extension and lockout. If you let (the Seahawks’ offensive linemen) into your body and they can tug and hold you, (Wilson) is going to escape.”

That’s the book on Wilson.

Here’s the book on the 49ers: stop their tight end, George Kittle. “He lit it up against Denver, so if we didn’t know, we sure do now,” Pete Carroll said on a conference call.

Kittle caught seven passes for 210 yards and one touchdown against the Broncos. He is the engine of the 49ers offense. He has 102 targets this season, and no other 49ers player has more than 51.

“George is playing as good as any tight end in football,” Carroll said. “He is a really good mover. He’s quick. We have all seen him catch and run with the ball and be difficult to tackle in the open field. I think (Shanahan) has recognized the versatility Kittle has, and has utilized it really well. When you look at the highlights of last week’s game, the variety of places he caught the football and the styles of routes was totally split across the board.”

Kittle has chemistry with 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, whose quarterback rating is 115 when he targets the 49ers’ terrific tight end.

Mullens has started only five games in his career — the book on him is short. But he played the Seahawks on Dec. 2, so they know Mullens better than any team.

“He was really good against us,” Carroll said. “He hung in the pocket well, completed a bunch of passes, was real accurate with the football, handled the stuff we threw at him. Last two weeks, he has thrown for almost 800 yards. He has been on fire.”

Mullens threw 48 passes for 414 yards against the Seahawks. They got quite a look at what he can do.

What does Mullens think their book on him contains?

“Just (that I’m) a quick decision-maker,” Mullens said. “I’m going to distribute the ball. That’s what I pride myself in. I don’t know how they see me, but it’s how I see myself. I assume they’re game-planning for that.”

No secret. No surprise.

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