Originally published December 23, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Page modified December 23, 2011 at 8:39 PM

Keys to the game: Seahawks vs. 49ers

Three keys to Seahawks victory 1Get an early lead. That doesn't happen often against San Francisco. The 49ers have allowed just 29 points...

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Three keys to Seahawks victory

1. Get an early lead. That doesn't happen often against San Francisco. The 49ers have allowed just 29 points in the first quarter this year and have faced a halftime deficit just three times. The 49ers' conservative play-calling is a reason why they've committed so few turnovers, but it's also why it's hard for them to make up ground in games like their Thanksgiving loss to Baltimore. If the Seahawks can get a lead, that will force the 49ers to decide whether they're going to open up and take some chances.

2. Keep an eye on Alex Smith. Yes, Frank Gore is a longtime Seahawks nemesis, with two 200-yard rushing performances against them in his career. But Smith could pose an especially damaging nuisance. He's fairly mobile, and Chicago's Caleb Hanie showed that Seattle can be bothered by a quarterback who can move. Smith had seven rushes for 22 yards in Week 1 against the Seahawks, who never did sack him.

3. Don't get all hormonal. Points are going to be at a premium in this game, so coach Pete Carroll is advised to not get all headstrong on fourth down. Take points when you can get them, and punt when it's necessary. The 49ers don't take chances. They play the odds and bet on their defense, which is exactly what the Seahawks should do in this game. Don't get reckless. Don't take chances. The Seahawks can't waste scoring opportunities.

Three keys to 49ers victory

1. Direct a weapons-grade pass rush at Tarvaris Jackson. The 49ers' defensive front seven is among the best in the league. Defensive lineman Justin Smith is a tireless worker, first-round pick Aldon Smith is the league's most productive rookie pass rusher since Jevon Kearse, and San Francisco sacked Jackson three times in the first half alone in the season opener. The Seahawks' chances at success can be squished if San Francisco's defensive line can manhandle Seattle up front.

2. Look for tight end Vernon Davis. He had 72 yards receiving last week, his second most in any game this season. He's as fast as any tight end in the league, and someone Seattle is going to have to make special considerations for given its linebackers include rookie K.J. Wright and David Hawthorne, whose speed has been affected by a sore knee. Davis had a team-high 47 yards receiving in the Week 1 meeting. He could play an even bigger factor in this game.

3. Own the turnover advantage. The biggest reason the 49ers are 11-3 is that they have the most takeaways in the league (35) while committing the fewest turnovers (10). Seattle is 0-4 this season when it commits more turnovers than its opponent and 5-1 when it finishes with more takeaways than turnovers. The 49ers haven't lost a fumble in their last six games and haven't committed any turnovers in their last three. If they keep that up, it's hard to see Seattle winning.

Matchup microscope

DL Justin Smith vs. Seahawks offensive line. Smith will line up at tackle one play, at end the next. He's powerful and one of the league's most dogged workers, someone who can blow up a play by bullying his blocker into the backfield. With three starters on injured reserve, the Seahawks have to be attuned to exactly where Smith is and keep him from single-handedly disrupting their offense.

Series history

The 49ers won the season opener 33-17 after Ted Ginn Jr. scored two special-teams touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game. The 49ers have swept the season series with the Seahawks just twice since Seattle joined the NFC West — 2002, Seattle's first year in the division, and 2006. San Francisco has failed to score a touchdown in four of its past seven road games at Seattle.

Danny O'Neil

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