SEATTLE (AP) — Chip Kelly and Pete Carroll overlapped for only one season as college coaches in the Pac-10. They’ve met only once since both found their way to the NFL.
If all goes to plan in both Seattle and San Francisco, the pair will get quite familiar over the next few seasons, beginning Sunday when the Seahawks host the 49ers. While the relationship between Carroll and former San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh was more contentious, his dealings with Kelly have been mostly congenial.
When Kelly was the coach at Oregon, one of the first places he visited to see how other teams run in-season practices was Seattle.
“It was his request to come here, then I was grilling him,” Carroll said.
Kelly recalled this week also visiting then-49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and taking a trip to Air Force, but the Seahawks were his first stop.
“I spent all my time trying to take as much information as I could in on all three of those visits, and I was fortunate because of, whether it was Jim or Pete or Troy Calhoun at Air Force, that they allowed me to do it,” Kelly said. “Not a lot of people would allow people to come in, especially in-season, but it was good experience for me.”
San Francisco has surprised with its performance through the first two weeks, opening with an impressive 28-0 shutout of the Rams, before losing 46-27 at Carolina in a game that was 34-27 midway through the fourth quarter before the Panthers pulled away.
Seattle is showing signs of major offensive issues after managing 15 points through two games , including three points last week against a Los Angeles team the 49ers routed in Week 1.
The offensive line has been unable to fully protect quarterback Russell Wilson or get the run game started. It hasn’t helped that Wilson has played with a sprained right ankle suffered early in the second half of the opener against Miami.
“We feel like we’re really close,” Carroll said. “We feel like we can see the execution, we can see the potential to make the ball move up and down the field like we want to.”
Here’s what else to watch as Seattle goes for its fifth straight regular-season win against San Francisco:
THE INFIRMARY: Seattle came out of last week’s loss to Los Angeles beaten up. Wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett suffered minor knee injuries, while running back Thomas Rawls has a muscle strain in his lower left leg. All three are expected to play, but none will be at 100 percent. Coupled with Wilson’s sprained ankle and a number of Seattle’s offensive stars will be playing at less than full health.
GROUNDED: After rushing for 150 yards and three TDs in that opening win over Los Angeles, the 49ers’ running game couldn’t get off the ground in Carolina. San Francisco was held to 65 yards on 25 carries against a defense keyed to stop the run.
“We need to get into the pass game a little bit more and maybe a little bit earlier just to kind of loosen them up a little bit,” Kelly said. “The two of them have to go hand in hand.”
TURNING IT OVER: A big positive for the 49ers early this season has been their ability to take away the ball after ranking second worst in the league a year ago with 12 takeaways. The defense has six takeaways already this season with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Coordinator Jim O’Neill has stressed taking chances on defense — even if it can lead to the occasional big play.
“We don’t want to be that team that never makes any plays,” O’Neill said. “We want our guys to go try to make some plays. That’s what this whole league is about, is making football plays.”
AIR DEFENSE: San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert has thrown a touchdown pass in 12 straight games . That streak will be tested by the Seahawks, who are giving up just 184 yards per game through the air and have allowed one touchdown in two games. Gabbert was solid in his one start against Seattle last season, throwing for 264 yards and a TD and didn’t commit a turnover.
HOME-ROAD DISPARITY: The 49ers have had two different types of defenses the past two years depending on whether they are at home or on the road. San Francisco has given up 15.8 points per game at home, compared to 33.1 per game on the road. That discrepancy was glaring the first two weeks as the 49ers shut out the Rams in the opener and then lost to the Panthers last week.