49ers’ Sherman re­turns as Sea­hawks surge on

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Sports - BY TIM BOOTH

The de­ci­sion to part with Richard Sherman – along with sev­eral other im­pact veterans – was sup­posed to be part of the cu­mu­la­tive rea­son the Seat­tle Sea­hawks would fi­nally take a step back. This was go­ing to be the re­build sea­son, even if no one with the Sea­hawks ever wanted to use that word.

Sherman will see his for­mer team up close Sun­day when the San Fran­cisco 49ers face the Sea­hawks. He will find a Seat­tle team that’s not back­slid­ing. In­stead, Seat­tle (6-5) has won two straight and has a di­rect path to an NFC play­off berth in a sea­son no one re­ally ex­pected the Sea­hawks to be in the con­ver­sa­tion at the begin­ning of De­cem­ber.

The play­ers who stepped in for the likes of Sherman and other veterans who de­parted af­ter last sea­son have brought a youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance. That has cre­ated a fun en­vi­ron­ment in Seat­tle only am­pli­fied by the Sea­hawks’ suc­cess.

“This game is too crazy to not have fun and it’s def­i­nitely a point of em­pha­sis for me, just for the guys that came in and were step­ping into a lot of key po­si­tions, to not worry about who they were re­plac­ing or who you were com­ing be­hind, “Seat­tle star line­backer Bobby Wag­ner said.

Fun has come around spar­ingly in San Fran­cisco this sea­son. The 49ers (2-9) were sup­posed to be in Seat­tle’s po­si­tion of com­pet­ing for a play­off spot. But in­juries – namely the loss of QB Jimmy Garop­polo – de­railed those hopes early in the sea­son.

“I do think we’re go­ing through this for a rea­son. I do think it can make us bet­ter,” 49ers coach Kyle Shana­han said. “A lot of guys have got­ten to play a lot that nor­mally wouldn’t be able to play, and I hope that helps us find some things out about peo­ple this year and helps us build this team bet­ter next year.”

Here’s what else to watch as the Sea­hawks and 49ers meet for the first of two games in 14 days: Man in the mid­dle: The 49ers handed Fred Warner big re­spon­si­bil­ity when they in­serted him at mid­dle line­backer and made him the de­fen­sive play caller as a rookie.

Warner has been one of the bright spots with his abil­ity to get the de­fense in the right calls and thrive against both the run and pass. He will have a tough test this week against Wil­son. Turnover tri­als: San Fran­cisco is last in the NFL with just five take­aways. The Niners have just two in­ter­cep­tions and haven’t forced a turnover in the last three games.

House of hor­rors: Play­ing in Seat­tle has led only to dis­ap­point­ment for the 49ers in re­cent years. The Niners have lost their past seven trips, in­clud­ing the 2013 NFC ti­tle game, get­ting outscored by more than 15 points per game. San Fran­cisco’s last win here came in 2011 with Alex Smith at quar­ter­back.

PAUL KITAGAKI JR. pkita­[email protected]

San Fran­cisco 49ers cor­ner­back Richard Sherman re­turns to Seat­tle this week, where he went to two Su­per Bowls, win­ning one. Sherman, who the Sea­hawks cut in March, said last week that Seat­tle should have one more than one cham­pi­onship and was bro­ken up too soon.

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