49ers to host NFC West rival Seahawks in Wild Card round

The San Francisco 49ers will host NFC West rival Seattle on Saturday in the Wild Card opener after beating the Seahawks twice in the regular season.

Seahawk’s quarterback Geno Smith is set for his first playoff start in his 10th season in the NFL.

The Niners have had the advantage so far this year against the Seahawks, winning 27-7 at home in Week 2 and then going to Seattle for a 21-13 victory on Dec. 15 in rookie quarterback Brock Purdy’s first road start.

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The constant has been the defense led by edge rusher Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner that limited Seattle to one TD drive on 20 offensive possessions.

“For the most part we were just behind the sticks a lot,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “We were behind the chains and we were in second-and-longs and third-and-longs and that’s not a recipe for winning football for us.”

The Seahawks have had good success over the years against the Niners with coach Kyle Shanahan in charge, winning eight of the 12 games. But San Francisco took the most important one so far in a Week 17 showdown in 2019 that decided the NFC West title.

“Sometimes they get us and sometimes we get them,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I say that about the chess match thing because I have so much respect for what Kyle does, their whole style of play and all that they have developed over the years. It’s going to be a good challenge.”

SEAHAWKS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Kenneth Walker III. If Seattle’s going to have offensive success and be able to sustain drives, keep the 49ers offense on the sideline and take some stress off quarterback Geno Smith, then Walker needs to have a big game. He closed the regular season with a flourish, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of the final three games. Walker had a season-high 29 carries in the win over the Rams last week. Walker had just four carries when the teams met in Week 2 and was still nursing an ankle injury when he rushed 12 times for 47 yards in Week 15.

49ERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Brock Purdy will be the lowest draft pick to start a playoff game at QB as a rookie after being drafted with the 262nd and final pick in April. Purdy finished the season as the second rookie with at least six straight games with multiple TD passes and the third rookie QB to win first his five starts. Purdy’s 119 passer rating in his first five starts is the second best for any QB in the Super Bowl era in his first five starts, trailing only Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (131.4).