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NaVorro Bowman Breaks Down New-look 49ers-Seahawks Rivalry

NaVorro Bowman's upcoming return to Seattle brings on new meaning.

The 2015 version saw the San Francisco 49ers linebacker kneel at the very spot his career changed due to the gruesome injury that he suffered in the 2013 NFC Championship game.

A lot has changed in the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry since that moment.

San Francisco has not made the postseason since Bowman's devastating knee injury. Seattle won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season and has made consecutive playoff appearances the next two years.

The first 49ers-Seahawks game of 2016, however, still brings on added importance to Bowman, even if it's not quite the same as previous playoff clashes.

"It's always a big game when we play those guys because it counts as two games," the seventh-year pro said on Thursday. "We play them twice, they're in our division and it could help us get on to the playoffs. It's always going to be a great game between the Seahawks and us."

San Francisco is looking for its first win in the Pacific Northwest since they picked up a 19-17 road win on Dec. 24, 2011. The 49ers have dropped five consecutive games at Century Link Field and have an all-time record of 7-12 in Seattle.

"They do a great job of getting loud for their team," said Bowman, who leads the 49ers with 20 tackles. "That makes the game hard for us. When they come here, our fans get rowdy, too. I don't think it's too personal where you dislike each other or the organization. I just think it has become part of the (intensity of the) game."

So has the recent losing streak been a topic of discussion in the 49ers locker room this week?

"No," Bowman said. "We've had two different coaches since that time. Not a topic. This group of people that work for the 49ers, we're trying to win this year. We're not really thinking about what's happened in the past because it's a new era for us."

The new era includes first-year 49ers head coach Chip Kelly and his staff. As for the players, many stalwarts of the 49ers-Seahawks battles have moved on. This includes Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. The man known best as "Beast Mode" retired following the 2015 regular season.

Bowman said he won't miss having to bring down the hard-charging runner in the open field. Bowman recorded seven-plus tackles in his last seven appearances against the Seahawks, many of which featured No. 24 as the focal point of Seattle's offense.

"If the challenge presented itself on Sunday, I would definitely take it," the linebacker said with a grin. "Hats off to him, man, I hope he's enjoying retirement."

Seattle's current running game features a two-man attack with Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls.  The duo has combined for 151 yards on the ground and no touchdowns so far this year. The latter of the two is questionable to play this week due to the leg injury he sustained in a Week 2 road loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Seahawks offense is now built around the play-making ability of quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been hampered with a high-ankle sprain. Wilson has thrown for 512 yards with one touchdown pass this season. He's only rushed the ball nine times for 30 yards.

Still, Wilson has not been defeated by the 49ers at home. This fact can't sit well with a player like Bowman.

"A guy who is as dangerous as him, I don't care if he's wobbly or gimpy at all, I'm still going to play him like he's healthy because he's that good with his feet," Bowman said. "If we stay in front of the ball and stop No. 3, we should have a good chance."

A victory on Sunday would put San Francisco atop the NFC West with two divisional wins.

The importance of games like Sunday has been the real talking point this week for locker-room leaders like Bowman.

"For us to beat one team in our division and have a chance to do it this week wouldn't be a bad start for us and for the young guys understanding how the NFL really works," the linebacker said.

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