SANTA CLARA (AP) — The dynamic of the Seahawks-49ers rivalry has changed dramatically in a matter of months.
No more Jim Harbaugh trying to outdo old nemesis Pete Carroll, and neither team sitting atop the NFC West standings this time.
“I’m not looking at it any differently,” Carroll said. “He’s a terrific coach and it was a lot of fun playing against him.”
Jim Tomsula is now coaching the Niners with Harbaugh long gone and leading Michigan. Both teams are 2-4 and determined to get back in the NFC West race. Richard Sherman doesn’t have an interception, while Colin Kaepernick has thrown his share in a rough start.
Tight end Jimmy Graham joined Seattle, too.
“Record-wise, people wouldn’t say it’s the same game, because usually we come to this game and we’re both 4-2 or 5-1 or maybe 6-0 at this point,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said. “We’re not usually where our records are. I still think the talent level is the same.”
Seattle, then the defending Super Bowl champion, whipped San Francisco 19-3 at Levi’s Stadium, then eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention less than three weeks later with a 17-7 win in Seattle.
The Seahawks have won three in a row in the rivalry.
Sherman will hardly miss his former Stanford coach, Harbaugh, or departed wideout Michael Crabtree — now with the Oakland Raiders.
“I’m not going to miss either, because I think I’m still playing,” Sherman said. “When you’re playing this game, you try not to worry about other people as much as you worry about what you can do and what your team does. I think at the end of the day we go out there and control what we can control. So I don’t think I think about either of those guys very much.”
Seattle’s chance at a third straight trip to the Super Bowl is in jeopardy. Since 1990, only 14 of 168 teams to start the season 2-4 have reached the playoffs, and none has reached the Super Bowl, according to STATS.
Here are some things to watch for as the 49ers host the Seahawks on a Thursday night for the second straight year:
TURKEY TALK: Seahawks cornerback Sherman chomped on a turkey leg while cradling the game ball in his right hand in a Thanksgiving night celebration on the 49ers’ home field 11 months ago.
San Francisco CEO Jed York even apologized for his team’s poor play on Twitter.
“Yeah, I don’t really pay much attention to the pompanstance around it,” Tomsula said, then quickly caught himself. “Here I am making up vocabulary again, the Pittsburghese coming out.”
BOWMAN COMEBACK: Linebacker NaVorro Bowman hasn’t faced the Seahawks since going down with a devastating left knee injury in the NFC championship game in January 2014. He not only needed surgery but missed all of 2014.
Bowman had 15 tackles last week playing 77 snaps, prompting Tomsula to say the Niners need to get him some breaks.
“It looks like he’s the leader out there,” Carroll said. “He’s as tough as you can get, instinctive, and he looks like he’s back playing football the way he’s always played. It’s a great tribute to him battling to get back. It was a real difficult injury and I felt terrible about him getting hurt, but thrilled to see him back out there battling.”
MOBILE WILSON: The 49ers’ defense has been tested by strong-armed quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, and mobile ones like Aaron Rodgers. Next up: do-it-all Russell Wilson.
“A good thing about our schedule is we faced a bunch of big-armed quarterbacks, and we’ve actually faced a couple quarterbacks that can scramble as well,” cornerback Kenneth Acker said. “You know at any point, Russell Wilson can break out of the pocket and a receiver’s going to go deep, you know that every play could be that big play.”
WAGNER RETURNS: Seattle will have starting middle linebacker Bobby Wagner back after he missed Sunday’s loss to Carolina with a pectoral injury. Wagner was hurt the prior week against Cincinnati trying to make a tackle in the first quarter on Marvin Jones, initially thinking it was just a cramp.
“I’m excited to get this team going in the right direction,” Wagner said.
FIX THE FOURTH: Over the past three games, the Seahawks are being outscored 40-3 in the fourth quarter and overtime. After matching a franchise record with a 17-point fourth quarter collapse in a loss to Cincinnati — and vowing it wouldn’t happen again — the Seahawks blew a 23-14 lead in the final 12 minutes against Carolina.
Seattle is being outscored 55-27 in the fourth period this season — a big change from a year ago when the Seahawks were plus-55 in point differential in the final quarter.