SANTA CLARA (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks are stumbling into the playoffs instead of peaking as usual at this time of year.
With three losses in the past five games, the Seahawks (9-5-1) head into Sunday’s season finale at San Francisco (2-13) needing a win and some help in order to secure a first-round bye .
Coach Pete Carroll’s teams usually are at their best down the stretch, winning five straight to end 2012, nine of 11 in 2013, six in a row in 2014 and six of seven last year to surge into the postseason.
“When you lose, you can’t look at what people are writing, you just have to believe in your teammates and believe in the organization and the coaches,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “I think everyone in this organization believes that we can win a Super Bowl and believes that we can win the playoff games. That’s all that really matters. It doesn’t really matter about everything else.”
The 49ers can only wish to have problems like the Seahawks. San Francisco snapped a franchise-record 13-game losing streak by winning 22-21 last week in Los Angeles, and need another win Sunday to avoid tying the franchise record for losses in a season reached in 1978, ‘79 and 2004.
Instead of gearing up for the playoffs, the 49ers are headed into another offseason of uncertainty with questions about the job security of general manager Trent Baalke and coach Chip Kelly, and a roster overhaul expected as the Niners look to rebound.
“You know there’s going to be some kind of change,” Niners left tackle Joe Staley said. “That’s how it is. All you can concern yourself with is doing your job and holding up your end of the bargain.”
Here are some other things to watch:
RUSTY RIVALRY: What was one of the NFL’s most-heated rivalries just a few years ago when Jim Harbaugh had the 49ers going to three straight NFC title games and the Seahawks were also at the top of the league has lost its luster. The Niners have just 15 wins the past three seasons and have had few games with any meaning.
“I think you do miss that,” Bennett said. “That game was built around the same type of team. A running quarterback, a great defense and it was just a fun game to play in because you had to match the intensity of the other team.”
RUNNING RAWLS: Seattle expects running back Thomas Rawls to play after he left last Saturday’s game with a bruised shoulder and did not return in the second half. After two lackluster weeks on the ground, Seattle would like to get back to the run game it had for most of November and the early part of December when the Seahawks were averaging more than 140 yards per game during that stretch.
Seattle was held to 72 yards rushing two weeks ago by Los Angeles and had just 78 yards last week against Arizona.
KAP’S FINALE: After restructuring his contract earlier this season, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick can opt to become a free agent after the season. That would make Sunday his final game with San Francisco, capping a career that began with a Super Bowl trip his first season as a starter in 2012. After going to the NFC title game the following year and losing to Seattle, Kaepernick’s career plummeted.
He was benched last year and started this year as a backup, getting more notice for his national anthem protest than his play on the field.
“My focus once again is this week and making sure that I’m doing everything I can to prepare and to try to help my teammates prepare this week to get a win, and I think that’s where this whole team’s focus is,” Kaepernick said.
WAGNER’S RECORD: Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner has already set a franchise record for tackles in a single-season with 155. He also leads Sean Lee of Dallas by 10 for the NFL lead in tackles going into the season finale. Wagner said one of his goals before the season was to lead the league in tackles.
“I thought I was around the ball a lot, now I feel like I’m around the ball even more,” Wagner said.
CENTURY MARK: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin needs eight catches to become the first Seattle player to have 100 catches in a single season. Baldwin is coming off the best game of his career with 13 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown last week against Arizona. Baldwin was targeted 19 times in the game, the second most of any player in a game this season.
Baldwin needs three receptions to better Bobby Engram’s franchise mark of 94 catches set in 2007.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report
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