NFC Playoffs Q&A: Seattle homing in

The reason the Seahawks aren't panicked is the style of their offense. Carroll wants a conservative offense that doesn't commit turnovers. He feels that the defense and running game can win as long as the offense doesn't make game-changing mistakes.

3. What's San Francisco's recent history at CenturyLink? The 49ers lost a Week 16 game last year (42-13) and lost in Week 2 this season (29-3). Kaepernick was 32-of-64 for 371 yards and 4 interceptions in those two games.

"We are a different team than the first time we met them up there," Kaepernick said of the Week 2 loss. The Niners are different. Crabtree was on injured reserve in Week 2.

But the Seahawks also are different. They didn't have their full complement of pass-rushers. Chris Clemons was inactive, recovering from ACL surgery, and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin was suspended. Starting cornerback Brandon Browner also was inactive.

Still, the 49ers come into this trip with great confidence. They have won eight in a row, including two road games in the playoffs.

4. What will the Seahawks do to contain Kaepernick? Kaepernick's running ability is among the scariest things in football, but the Seahawks know his tendencies. Kaepernick prefers running to his left. In his regular-season career, he has rushed for 539 yards along the left sideline compared with 274 to the right.

In the wild-card win over Green Bay, Kaepernick almost single-handedly beat the Packers by rushing to the left. First, the Packers' linebackers didn't have the speed to catch him. Second, the Packers didn't know his tendencies.

The Seahawks' defense has fast linebackers who will work with Seattle's strong secondary to minimize the damage Kaepernick can cause on the ground. Unlike last year, when the 49ers generously used the read-option for Kaepernick, Harbaugh has tried to use him more out of the pocket. If receivers are covered, Kaepernick will run -- mostly to his left.

Stopping Kaepernick in the passing game will be tougher, mainly because he has Crabtree. In Week 2, Kaepernick had only Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore to complement  Anquan Boldin. Both are no longer with the team. The Seahawks used man coverage to limit Boldin to one catch for 7 yards. Vernon Davis had three catches for 20 yards.

5. Will Harbaugh work an officiating angle for this game? No doubt. He always brings up complaints about how defensive backs get too aggressive with his pass-catchers. The Seahawks are the most aggressive defense in football. In Green Bay, Harbaugh complained about the Packers' defenders grabbing his receivers, forcing Kaepernick to run more than he wanted.

To Harbaugh's chagrin, officials have let the players play in the first eight playoff games. The Seahawks play an aggressive man-to-man defense that can draw flags, but, so far, referees have called interference only six times in the first two rounds of the playoffs. There have been only two illegal contact calls. But expect a few more flags because both teams will do a lot of extra things after plays. As mentioned, they don't like each other.

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