NFC Playoffs Q&A: Seattle homing in

6. How important is Percy Harvin to the Seahawks' offense? It was apparent Saturday how much the Seahawks need him. Surprisingly, he is more valuable to the running game than to the passing game. Harvin opened a second-quarter scoring drive with a 9-yard gain on a fly sweep, a college play in which he runs from the slot, takes a reverse and runs to the right side.

On the next play, Saints linebackers started sensing that Harvin might get a sweep and cheated over to his side. Wilson handed off to Marshawn Lynch, who took advantage of a vacant gap and ran 15 yards for a touchdown to give the Seahawks a 13-0 lead.

The Saints felt that Harvin was important. Defenders hit him on most plays whether he touched the ball or not.

"His speed is unbelievable, you notice that," Wilson said. "They were trying to find ways to stop him, and they were struggling with that." Harvin lasted only 19 plays. He had that 9-yard run and 3 catches for 21 yards. After two concussion tests in the first half, doctors wouldn't let him return to the field.

7. Why is this a tough matchup for the Seahawks? The one style of offense that gives the Seahawks problems is a run-oriented attack that uses two- and three-TE sets. That's the 49ers' style. Passing teams struggle in CenturyLink.

On Saturday, Saints coach Sean Payton totally readjusted his offense to give the Seahawks' defense trouble, and it worked to a certain degree. Payton ran out of formations with extra blockers. The idea is to keep the game close until the fourth quarter. Although the Saints trailed 16-0 going into the fourth quarter, they got a touchdown and a two-point conversion to make it a one-possession game.

The 49ers use two- and three-TE formations with the idea of being physical and keeping the score low. Expect them to work most of the game out of those formations. In the regular season, the 49ers averaged only 12.8 plays a game out of three-receiver sets. They averaged 27.8 plays a game with two or more tight ends and 15.8 out of two-back sets. Potentially down two fullbacks with injuries, the 49ers probably will use more tight ends.

8. Which wide receiver could be the key? Boldin might be the toughest matchup for Seattle. Crabtree and Davis might be more athletically talented than Boldin, who is a possession receiver who works well out of the slot. But the Seahawks have three Pro Bowl players in their secondary who could minimize Crabtree's and Davis' effectiveness.

Boldin has savvy, and he's hot. He caught eight passes for 136 yards in Sunday's win over the Carolina Panthers. He's also having fun. Kaepernick's postgame news conference Sunday featured Boldin asking the first question: "Colin, why didn't you throw the ball to Anquan earlier?"

The Boldin trade from Baltimore has worked out extremely well. Boldin caught 85 passes for 1,179 yards in the regular season. He has 11 catches for 174 yards in two playoff games on a team that ranked 30th in passing yards. Not bad.

9. What's the injury situation? Harvin's concussion is the situation to follow. His injury is too early to call. Carroll said last week that linebacker K.J. Wright might be available. He's coming off foot surgery, but Malcolm Smith has played well for him at outside linebacker. Backup defensive tackle Jordan Hill missed the Saints game with a groin injury. Other than Harvin, the Seahawks didn't suffer any injuries in Saturday's victory.

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