SANTA CLARA – Name it and Arik Armstead has already experienced most of what he’ll face Sunday night in Seattle. The crowd noise. The Marshawn Lynch runs. The Russell Wilson escapes.
Armstead is in his fifth and best season as a 49ers defensive lineman. This Sunday night’s visit, he’d like to experience his first win in Seattle, one that would give the 49ers (12-3) the NFC playoffs’ No. 1 seed and their first NFC West title since 2012.
“Seattle is loud and crazy and I love playing up there,” Armstead said. “It’s a big game, a hyped-up crowd and what you live for – to play in games like this.”
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 16: San Francisco 49ers’ Arik Armstead (91) uses his phone to calculate how much Isiah Stafford, 10, from Oakland, from the Fam 1st Family Foundation, had spent for the “Defensive Line Holiday Blitz” at the Shoe Palace in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. The 49ers and Visa provided a holiday shopping experience at the Shoe Palace, which included a Shoe Palace discount. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Armstead, a Pro Bowl snub and alternate, had 1 1/2 sacks the last time the 49ers played the Seahawks, a Nov. 11 overtime battle that Seattle won 27-24.
All due respect to the trumpeted return of Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, Armstead and the 49ers’ primary concern in this rematch is sacking, pressuring and simply defending Russell Wilson.
“Everybody knows the challenge he brings, from a mobility and passing standpoint,” Armstead said.
SANTA CLARA, CA – NOVEMBER 24: San Francisco 49ers’ Arik Armstead (91) gets up after sacking Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) in the second quarter of their game at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
After racking up a career-high 10 sacks through November, Armstead is in the midst of a four-game drought, a stretch in which every game has come down to the final seconds.
Sacks never define a defender’s worth, and Armstead is a consistent factor, including against the run. He and rookie star Nick Bosa each have played 716 snaps (75 percent)
while DeForest Buckner leads linemen with 748; that trio was rotated out more in Saturday night’s win over the Los Angeles Rams, so look for a fresher line Sunday night.
Armstead is one of only three 49ers defenders who faced Lynch when he took his last snaps for Seattle in 2015. Armstead said of Lynch’s surprise encore: “Marshawn’s a great back and everyone is eager to see what he can do after his break. We’ll go in with the same mentality.”
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 21: San Francisco 49ers’ Fred Warner (54) intercepts the ball against Los Angeles Rams’ Malcolm Brown (34) in the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
WARNER ON LYNCH
Linebacker Fred Warner echoed Armstead’s stance, saying the 49ers must stop the run and force Wilson into third-and-long situations. Lynch was on the Raiders’ injured reserve list by the time the 49ers got to play him last season, to which Warner called an “unfortunate” circumstance because “to be the best you want to beat the best.”
That prompted a reporter to ask Warner if he recalled Lynch’s “Beast Quake” touchdown run in the 2010 Seahawks’ playoff opener. Mind you, Warner was in eighth grade back then, but he respectfully responded: “Dude is a beast, to say the least.”
Warner, 23, is well aware the Seahawks could mix Lynch, 33, with Travis Homer or Robert Turbin to fill in after Sunday’s season-ending injuries to Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise. Said Warner: “We’ve got to make sure we’re prepared for whoever carries the rock, and that we’re assignment sound.”
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TOMLINSON ON SEATTLE
Left guard Laken Tomlinson is no stranger to Seattle’s deafening stadium. He played there as a 2015 Detroit Lions rookie, he made his 49ers starting debut there in 2017 and he remained winless in Seattle when the 49ers fell last year 43-16. CenturyLink Field was also the sight of Tomlinson’s only career playoff game, a 26-6 wild-card loss on the 2016 Lions.
“They have a reputation for being very loud, and that’s their home-field advantage,” Tomlinson said. “Our job is to eliminate that advantage and do what we do.”
Tomlinson is the only 49er on offense or defense to have played 100 percent of his unit’s snaps. When the 49ers fell to the Seahawks last month, offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey were out with leg injuries, and, although they’re primed for Sunday’s rematch, the line is still adjusting without center Weston Richburg.
Ben Garland will make his third straight start, and it’s unclear yet if Mike Person will return to right guard after a neck injury kept him out last game, prompting Daniel Brunskill’s first start there. “Communication is the key,” Tomlinson said. “Ben has been doing a phenomenal job of it and directing everyone.”
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Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is battling a shoulder issue and would have been limited had the 49ers practiced Wednesday, according to the team’s injury report.
Defensive end Dee Ford (hamstring) remains out while others limited are safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (knee), and Person (neck). Cornerback Tarvarius Moore (concussion) and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor (elbow) are cleared for full participation.
Seahawks who would have been out had there been a Wednesday practice: left tackle Duane Brown (knee, biceps), safety Quandre Diggs (ankle), center Joey Hunt (fibula), guard Mike Iupati (neck), and wide receiver Malik Turner (concussion).
Seahawks limited by injury are defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (core), cornerback Shaquill Griffin (hamstring), and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring).