Patrick Willis today said he's looking forward to playing a more traditional brand of defense on Sunday. The Seahawks are likely to oblige.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has surpassed 100 rushing yards the last three times he's faced the 49ers, most recently a 111-yard, one-touchdown effort in December at CenturyLink Field. Lynch also had a receiving touchdown in that game.
The defensive front Lynch faces Sunday, however, will be a bit different than the one he saw in December. For one, Justin Smith will be in the lineup at defensive end. He missed last year's game in Seattle after partially tearing his triceps tendon in a game in New England.
"It was a big factor," Willis said of Smith's absence. "To me, he's one of the best defensive players in this game and shows it week in and week out. And anytime he's not out there, we miss him. There's no question about that."
The 49ers also will have a different lineup at nose tackle. Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois now play for the Eagles and Colts respectively. They have been replaced by Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey. Williams is expected to start Sunday, although Dorsey likely will be platooned into the game.
Willis said that Williams was similar in style to Aubrayo Franklin, who played in front of Willis from 2007-2010. In two of those seasons, Willis led the NFL in tackles. Franklin is now with the Colts.
"In just being able to move, real low center of gravity, real strong at the point," Willis said of the similarities between Williams and Franklin. "I'm really excited to see him work - him and Glenn both. They've worked hard all offseason. Just seeing how they've improved from Day 1 until now. I'm excited. I'm excited to be running some base."
The team's base defense was almost non-existent in Sunday's opener against the Packers. Green Bay used three or four wide receivers on 57 of the 62 plays they ran against the 49ers, forcing San Francisco into its nickel or dime defense for the vast majority of the game.
Williams has played in only five games over his career and has yet to start one. That's likely to change Sunday as the Seahawks and Lynch try to establish their rushing attack early.
"It's going to be fun," said Williams. "It's going to be one of those surreal moments. When you're a kid and looking at games and stuff like that, and (now) you realize that you're finally out there."
Willis admitted his right hand, which he broke at the end of July, wasn't as strong as he would have liked against the Packers. But it beat not playing. And it certainly was better than playing with a plaster club. Willis wrapped the hand in tape but wore only a glove for protection.
"Anytime you can have your fingers, that's a good thing," he said.
-- Matt Barrows