49ers Gear Up for Playoff Run


The calendar says December, but it might as well be January.

The playoffs are fast approaching and the final two regular season games figure to have a postseason feel to them. It starts with the upcoming primetime matchup at Seattle, as the 49ers will travel to the hostile confines of CenturyLink Field for a Week 16 Sunday Night Football contest.

While the 49ers secured a playoff berth with last week's 41-34 road win at New England, they still have plenty to play for. With a win, San Francisco would claim the NFC West crown for the second straight season. With a win and a Green Bay loss or tie, the 49ers would lock up a first-round bye.

It's a far cry from the end-of-season scenarios Vernon Davis experienced before the Jim Harbaugh era.
Together with other core players like Frank Gore, Joe Staley and Delanie Walker, Davis said he's honored to be part of the group that helped turned the tide of the organization.

"We started from zero and just kept building," Davis said. "We built something pretty unique. We built an empire and that's what it's about. In order to win championship games, you have to have a championship team. That's what we have around here."

The 49ers have showed a penchant for earning big-time victories under the lights this year. In all, San Francisco is 5-0 in primetime games this season.

"In December you want to be the hot team," Gore said. "We know that if we get the win, we can win the division. They've been playing great. I think they've gotten better as a team each week since they played us."

Perhaps that's an understatement.

Behind the leadership of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks have outscored their opponents 108-17 in the past two weeks. Wilson ran for three touchdowns in the Week 15 50-17 win over Buffalo in Toronto, bringing Seattle's record to 9-5 on the year, good for second place in the division.

Whenever these two teams meet, it's always a physical battle. The 49ers aren't expecting anything less when they face Seattle and the 12th man on Sunday.

"We played a good team last week, now we're playing another good team," Gore said. "We'll be ready on Sunday."

Given the stakes of the upcoming NFC West showdown and the reputation of Seattle's raucous crowd, the 49ers are expecting another deafening stadium experience in Week 16.

Whenever the lights go on and the nation is watching, there's always an extra element of energy involved in the game. Despite being NFL players, playing at night often conjures up memories from their high school football days.

"Friday night lights – when I feel like that, I feel like the other team's in trouble," Anthony Dixon said. "I remember in the high school days, most of all of us were unstoppable. … I love that feeling."

The 49ers claimed a hard-fought 13-6 win against the Seahawks in Week 7 at Candlestick Park in a Thursday night matchup, but there have been a few big changes to San Francisco's offense since. Namely, Colin Kaepernick has taken over as the starting quarterback, leading the 49ers to a 4-1 record in his five NFL starts, including impressive road wins at New England and New Orleans.

As he gets comfortable with the second-year quarterback, Davis said he's been impressed with Kaepernick's poise and leadership abilities, especially in last week's tough road environment.

"He had this will-to-win attitude," Davis said. "His demeanor was just on another level. His mind was clear, he was ready to win, he was talking, he was getting guys in the huddle, telling them to run back and get lined up. He was just a complete champion in that game. That's what we expect him to be."

However, there was one aspect of the game which didn't go in Kaepernick's favor on Sunday. He and center Jonathan Goodwin had trouble on several exchanges during the rain-soaked contest, before Kaepernick added a glove to his left hand made adjustments to his hand placement to shore up the problems.

Kaepernick came to Goodwin's defense on Tuesday, as the veteran linemen fielded questions from reporters.

Walking by the media mob in the 49ers locker room, Kaepernick said loudly, "Don't ask Goody about it, it was my fault."

To which Goodwin responded, "50-50."

It's just the type of camaraderie that makes the 49ers eager to see Kaepernick develop as a leader and quarterback at the NFL level.

"It's nice to see that because what it tells me is that his future is really bright," Davis said. "All he has to do is keep his cool, stay focused and don't let the distractions bring him down."

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