By Janie McCauley Associated Press
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers are ready for some serious chatter coming from that brash, big-talking Seattle secondary.
And 49ers fullback Bruce Miller insists cornerback Richard Sherman and the playoff-bound Seahawks (11-1) have more than earned the right to speak up on the field.
“So far they have a reason to,” Miller said Tuesday. “They’ve played great on defense and we’ll just have to take care of that in between whistles.”
The way emotions tend to run higher than usual in this heated NFC West game, Miller, tight end Vernon Davis and their teammates are guarding against getting so hyped up it hurts the cause. Head coach Jim Harbaugh also appreciates the energy and physical play by his guys, along with proper celebration on big plays — such as wideout Anquan Boldin flexing his muscles and cheering when he makes a clutch reception.
“It might be the most intense game this season. I think so,” Davis said. “Because those guys, they don’t like us and we don’t like them.”
Not to mention the Seahawks defeated San Francisco 29-3 in Week 2 at Seattle and have outscored the 49ers 71-16 over the past two matchups.
“They embarrassed us last time we were there,” safety Donte Whitner said. “We feel like we’ll be ready for the test, and it’s going to be a really, really big game and we’re looking forward to it.”
“Any time you play a team and you lose, the next time you face them is definitely a statement game,” Davis said. “Not just for us, but for anybody. So we have to go into this game playing hard, playing fast, and initially we have to make some noise right away. That’s going to be the challenge for us. We have to go in and play this game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
That means avoiding mistakes such as the nine penalties for 85 lost yards San Francisco committed in beating St. Louis on Sunday.
The reigning NFC champion Niners (8-4) still have plenty of work to do this month to secure their own playoff positioning, and a win against Seattle would help make a statement that San Francisco is still in the mix to chase another Super Bowl berth.
“You definitely want to come out and play well, at home, and show everybody what we can do against a really good team,” Miller said. “Right now, our goal is to finish out the year and keep winning games and get to the postseason. Nothing extra on this one because it’s Seattle. It’s just the next game.”
“As much as we want to play these guys and seek revenge, we have to keep our composure and approach the next game like it’s the same one we approached last week,” Davis said. “We have to approach it like that.”
The Niners believe things will be different from that Week 2 mismatch on Sept. 15.
“We’ve changed and I’m sure they’ve changed in some ways,” Harbaugh said. “Not prepared to say in what ways.”
One way is clear for the 49ers.
The passing game is making significant strides, and it helps that quarterback Colin Kaepernick has his receiving corps healthy and intact at last. First Mario Manningham returned from a serious knee injury that prematurely ended his 2012 season and made him a Super Bowl spectator, then Michael Crabtree made his season debut Sunday six months after surgery for a torn right Achilles tendon.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco’s top wide receiver last season, had a pair of catches with a 60-yarder against the Rams. Boldin had nine catches, while Davis caught a 17-yard touchdown pass for No. 50 of his career.
Boldin, Crabtree and Kaepernick believe they have more big games ahead.
“I don’t think we’re playing at our top level,” Boldin said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet. We have some things we have to clean up.”
Enough of the 49ers caught glimpses of Seattle’s 34-7 Monday night rout of New Orleans to know a tall task awaits them this weekend. At 5-1 on the road, the Seahawks have already matched the franchise record also done in 1984 and 2005 and now will look to better that mark.
The crowd noise at Candlestick Park might not be on the same meter as Seattle’s record-setting 12th man, yet San Francisco’s players are counting on that home-field advantage in what might be the final meaningful NFL game during the stadium’s farewell season. Arizona visits for a Monday night game Dec. 23, but the Niners are unlikely to host a playoff game as they have in each of the past two Januarys.
“You just have to just keep your composure and know what we’re trying to get done, and that’s win football games,” Miller said. “We’re not trying to win tough-guy battles in between the whistles. We’re trying to win ‘em during the play.”
At this stage of the season, players come to expect plenty of trash-talking and hard hits in all phases.
“Yeah, you’ll see pretty much anything,” Davis said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
Left tackle Joe Staley, who was undergoing treatment on his injured right knee, declined to provide an update on his status. “I’m not talking about it,” he said.
… Davis still has “just a few abrasions left” after a painful, prolonged tackle in the crotch area from St. Louis S T.J. McDonald. No apology yet from McDonald — not that Davis expects such a gesture. “He’s a young guy,” Davis said. “It’s all good. It’s one of the them things, man.”