Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football
Game Preview for 49rs vs Seahawks
(Sports Network) - After sleepwalking through the last six weeks, the San Francisco 49ers would be well-advised to arise from their slumber on Monday night, when they face the NFC West-rival Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field.
Despite a current six-game losing streak that has seen the Niners play some of the worst football witnessed in the NFL in 2007, Mike Nolan's underachieving team still has much to play for as the second half of the season begins.
Due to the perpetually horrid state of the NFC West, San Francisco enters Monday's game a manageable two games behind the 4-4 Seahawks in the division race. Should the 49ers escape Seattle with a win for the second straight year, San Francisco will cut that margin to one game, and will have a chance to get some momentum rolling in a scheduled home date with dismal St. Louis during Week 11.
Though when you've played as poorly as San Francisco has this season, expecting that type of success could be a case of putting the cart well before the horse.
And, lest we forget, the NFC West still very much belongs to the Seahawks, who are in the driver's seat for a fourth consecutive division title.
Mike Holmgren's squad has hardly been dominant of late, with a 33-30 overtime setback in Cleveland last Sunday sending them to a third loss in their last four games.
But dominance has hardly been a prerequisite for winning the West, a division Seattle has claimed with a 9-7 record in two of the last three years.
And, in keeping with that tradition, Seattle is currently the NFL's only team with sole possession of first place in their division despite a .500 mark.
The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers, 9-8, breaking a deadlock in the series with a 23-3 win at Monster Park in Week 4. San Francisco swept last year's home-and-home, winning 20-14 winners at Monster Park in Week 11, and 24-14 at Qwest Field in a Thursday night game to open Week 15. The Seahawks had won the previous six meetings, sweeping home-and-homes in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
Holmgren is 12-5 versus San Francisco, where he served as an assistant from 1986 through 1991. Holmgren was 5-1 against the Niners during his tenure as head coach with Green Bay (1993-98), including a 3-1 record in the playoffs. The 49ers' Nolan is 2-3 against both Holmgren and the Seahawks as a head coach.
WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL
If the 49ers wish to pull out of their current morass, they must get some traction from an offense that has been woefully inept in 2007. The Niners entered Week 10 ranked last in the league in total offense (224.2 yards per game) and passing offense (132.8 yards per game), and have averaged just 11.2 points per game during their six-game skid. First-year offensive coordinator Jim Hostler has been saddled with much of the criticism for the failings of the unit, with quarterback Alex Smith (800 passing yards, 2 TD, 4 INT), running back Frank Gore (435 rushing yards, 3 TD, 15 receptions), and a banged-up offensive line sharing in it as well. Gore is expected to return Monday after being forced to miss the Week 9 loss to Atlanta with an ankle injury, but former starting linemen Jonas Jennings (ankle) and guard Justin Smiley (shoulder) were placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week. Smith's favorite target this season has been Arnaz Battle (28 receptions, 2 TD), and tight end Vernon Davis (25 receptions, 1 TD) has become more involved recently. Smith's only multi-touchdown performance in a road game came in Week 15 of last season in Seattle, when he completed 14-of-25 passes for 162 yards and two scores in an upset win.
The story for the Seahawks defense heading into Monday night is injuries, with the status of luminaries such as defensive end Patrick Kerney (oblique), linebacker Leroy Hill (hamstring), and tackle Rocky Bernard (groin) uncertain for the primetime affair. All three members of the NFL's 17th-ranked defense are regarded as questionable for Sunday, though the low quality of the San Francisco offense could lead the Hawks to keep them out with an eye toward greater future challenges. The absence of all three players could be felt on the back end, where the Seattle secondary has allowed an NFL-low five touchdown passes through its first eight games. Cornerback Marcus Trufant (44 tackles, 3 INT) and safety Deon Grant (39 tackles, 2 INT) have been the group's biggest playmakers. The front seven has been led by pass rushers Julian Peterson (47 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 INT) and Daryl Tapp (23 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 INT), along with middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (58 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT). Tatupu was part of a run-stopping group that allowed four ground touchdowns to Cleveland's Jamal Lewis last Sunday.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Seattle has not managed to avoid the injury bug on offense either, where top wideout Deion Branch (22 receptions, 1 TD) could miss his fourth straight game with a foot injury and running back Shaun Alexander (492 rushing yards, 2 TD, 12 receptions) is questionable with a knee problem. Branch's absence has been mitigated by the fine play of wideouts Bobby Engram (48 receptions, 3 TD), D.J. Hackett (7 receptions, 1 TD), and Nate Burleson (24 receptions, 3 TD), and Morris (129 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 1 TD) thoroughly outplayed the declining Alexander after replacing him last week. Morris carried nine times for 55 yards in the loss, also catching a couple of passes totaling 43 yards out of the backfield. Still pulling the trigger for Seattle is Matt Hasselbeck (2023 passing yards, 13 TD, 7 INT), who carries a solid 2007 passer rating of 88.7 into Monday's game. Hasselbeck, who is 7-2 against San Francisco lifetime, has gone over 300 passing yards in two of his last three games. A hot-and-cold Seahawks line has surrendered 15 sacks of the veteran on the year.
The 49ers are counting on stronger defensive play in the second half out of a unit with several new faces trying to build some chemistry. Free agent secondary pickups Nate Clements (41 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and Michael Lewis (50 tackles, 1 INT), free agent linebacker Tully Banta-Cain (16 tackles, 1.5 sacks), and rookie inside linebacker Patrick Willis (83 tackles, 1 sack) have been key cogs on a group that ranks a disappointing 20th in the league overall (336.5 yards per game). A greater amount of pressure from outside linebackers Banta-Cain and Parys Haralson (19 tackles) will be a must on Monday night for a unit that has generated just 13 sacks through its first eight games. Willis, fellow linebacker Derek Smith (57 tackles, 1 sack), and defensive linemen Marques Douglas (44 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Bryant Young (19 tackles, 4 sacks) have been the most notable playmakers for a front seven that ranks just 24th in the NFL against the run (127.2 yards per game).
The Seahawks have several intriguing fantasy possibilities for Monday night, including Hasselbeck and Engram, who have both put up big numbers the past few weeks. Monitor the status of Alexander up until game time, and if it looks like he'll be out, consider starting Morris. Given the state of the San Francisco offense, going with the Seattle "D" is also a good call.
The 49ers don't have a fantasy player to be recommended without qualification, though the tight end Davis has become a greater part of the offense in recent weeks and Gore is bound to break out of his slump when healthy.
The 49ers were picked by many to win the NFC West in 2007, and some time soon, you can expect them to start displaying the promise that led to that prediction. Whether it will be too late to get anything accomplished is the question, however. The 49ers will have a golden opportunity to change the course of their season with a Monday night win over a struggling Seattle team. Something has been missing with the Seahawks for much of the year, and it is unlikely that they are healthy enough to dominate the 49ers as they did back in Week 4. Look for them to win this one due in large part to the 12th man and some continued San Francisco offensive mistakes, but also expect the outcome to be in doubt in the fourth quarter.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 16, 49ers 13
Re: Monday Night Football
San Francisco (2-6 SU and ATS) at Seattle (4-4 SU, 3-5 ATS)
The wide-open and mediocre NFC West takes center stage from the Pacific Northwest tonight when the slumping 49ers visit the Seahawks at Qwest Field.
Despite losing three of their last four and sitting at .500 for the season, the Seahawks still lead the division by a half game over Arizona and two games over the Niners. Seattle blew a 12-point lead last week in Cleveland, falling 33-30 as a one-point underdog. The straight-up winner is 7-1 ATS in Seattle’s games this year.
The Niners are on a six-game slide (1-5 ATS) after opening the season with two straight wins. Tonight marks their third road game in the last four weeks, including last Sunday’s 20-16 loss at Atlanta as a 3½-point underdog.
The last time the Seahawks were in front of the home fans, they blew out the Rams 33-6 on Oct. 21 as nine-point favorites. Seattle averages 23.5 points and 349.2 yards per game at home, while allowing just 15.3 points and limiting teams to just 87 yards on the ground.
San Francisco has dropped three consecutive road games SU and ATS since a 17-16 win at St. Louis in Week 2.
The 49ers put up just 13 points and 224.2 total yards per game. The big problem has been in the passing game, as QBs Alex Smith and Trent Dilfer have combined for more INTs (5) than TDs (9) this season. As a team, the 49ers average just 132.8 passing yards a game.
Seattle scored an easy 23-3 win in San Francisco on Sept. 30, getting the cash as a one-point chalk. The Seahawks are 7-2 SU in the last nine meetings, but just 5-4 ATS. The Niners won last year’s clash in Seattle 24-14 as 10-point underdogs.
Seattle is 11-5 SU and 11-4-1 ATS at home on Monday nights. Meanwhile, San Francisco is 14-4 ATS in its last 18 appearances on Monday night. However, both teams have struggled in Week 10 of the season with identical 2-6 ATS marks the last eight years.
The under has been the play in the last three matchups between these two and six of the last nine. The under is also 7-1 in the Niners’ last eight against division opponents and 6-2 in the Seahawks’ last eight as a favorite.
ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER
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What bettors need to know about the Monday nighter
MNF feature’s disappointing duo
Seattle, with its 4-4 record, is leading the NFC West in spite of itself, while San Francisco is on a six-game losing streak. Together they are two of the league’s most disappointing clubs this season.
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren says even though his team looks to be on its way to a fourth-straight NFC West title, he is not happy with the current situation. Seattle has lost three of its last four.
"No, I am not comfortable," he told The Associated Press. "Now that it's an eight-game season, if there wasn't a sense of urgency before – which there should be all the time – there certainly is now."
The 49ers, meanwhile, were many people’s pick to challenge the Seahawks for the division title this season. Instead, they have lost every game after winning their first two, and have the lowest ranked offense in the league (224.2 total yards per game).
Remarkably, they could still win the division.
"Yeah, maybe we just all ought to shut up and play," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said when asked about the state of his team and the division.
San Francisco has won, and covered, in two of its last three games against the Seahawks.
Hawks playing to their strengths
With its running game averaging just 95.1 yards per game, Seattle is likely to use a pass-first offense on Monday. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-3 win over San Francisco in September, which seems to have made Holmgren rethink his game plan this week.
"That might be the way we have to go now, play to our strengths just a little bit, how we're going right now," Holmgren told AP. "And instead of striving for balance, maybe we have to tip the scales just a little bit to be at our most productive, we'll see."
Hasselbeck has been particularly impressive in his last three games, throwing for six TDs and three interceptions. He’s topped the 300-yard mark in two of his last three contests, picking up the slack for Seattle’s lackluster running game.
“We have tried any number of things that I don't want to talk about necessarily," Holmgren said of his rush offense in the Seattle Times. "We've met for endless hours. And it's not happening. That part is not happening."
The Seahawks’ inability to get things going on the ground has a lot to do with a series of injuries for running back Shaun Alexander. The former MVP has rushed for just 492 on 149 carries this season. In 2005, his last injury-free year, he ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Alexander missed most of last week’s practices because of a knee problem, but is expected to play Monday.
Alex Smith can’t forge success
This season has not gone well for San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith. He has completed less than 50 percent of his throws and is the lowest-rated passer in the league. He has just two TD passes in six starts and the 49ers’ pass offense is last in the NFL with 132.8 yards per game with him at the helm.
Nolan didn’t pull any punches when he spoke of Smith, but did blame some of the QB’s problems on a persistent injury.
"Coming into the season I thought he was ahead of where he has been right now. I thought he would do a better job up to this point," he told AP. "His accuracy has been a little off. I think that's somewhat due to the soreness he has in the shoulder.
"But at the same time if you can play, you know the quarterbacks are expected to perform at a high level."
The 49ers haven’t scored more than 20 points in a game since a 20-7 win over Arizona on opening day. Smith insists he is still improving, even if his numbers say otherwise.
"I think as far as my progression, I look from my rookie year to last year, and last year to even this year – as far as how I feel, how comfortable I am back there, my decision making, my ability to play this game in this league – I do feel like I have made strides every year. And I can see it every week."
Seattle’s game-time decisions
The Seahawks have six starters listed at questionable ahead of Monday’s matchup, and most of them will be game-time decisions. The list includes running back Shaun Alexander, who sprained his knee last week, and wide receiver Deion Branch who has a sprained foot.
Branch missed the past three games with that injury, but insists he will not rush his return.
"I'm not going to risk further injuring myself just because it's Monday night," Branch told the Seattle Post Intelligencer. "If it's ready to go, I'm going to play. If it's not ready to go, then I may not play."
Also listed as questionable are tight end Marcus Pollard (knee), defensive end Patrick Kerney (oblique), defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (groin) and linebacker Niko Koutouvides.
Asked what he needs to see from the injured in the build-up to the game, Holmgren said, "Just that they can run without hurting, that they can do what they have to do in the game. Branch, as an example, his game is quickness and speed, and he's got to be able to do that.
"Otherwise, I'd be doing him a disservice, and really the team. As much as I want him back, I have to be smart with him."
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Seahawks pass rushers can't wait to see 49ers again
SEATTLE -- No wonder Darryl Tapp has become a buzzsaw for the Seahawks defense. He spends plenty of time with one.
Each work day since Seattle's speedy, second-year pass rusher broke his right hand Oct. 21 while getting four sacks against St. Louis, trainers plaster a huge, club-like cast onto Tapp's right hand so he can practice. After each workout, trainers take a power saw to Tapp's hand to cut off the cast.
It's a scene out of shop class, screeching cuts echoing down the hallway to the locker room, compelling anyone in the vicinity to gawk.
Isn't it scary to have a spinning steel blade carving toward your hand?
''It was the first time,'' Tapp said, giggling as usual. ''They were like, 'We're not going to cut you.' I was like, 'Yeah, riiiiiight.'
''But I'm used to it now.''
Alex Smith doesn't need to hear that. The struggling 49ers quarterback has to face Tapp and the Seahawks' schizophrenic pass rush Monday night when San Francisco (2-6), losers of six consecutive games, plays at NFC West-leading Seattle (4-4).
The last time Smith faced the Seahawks, the NFL's lowest-rated passer had his throwing shoulder separated when defensive tackle Rocky Bernard slammed him on a sack. He missed two games. Seattle had six sacks that day, three by Julian Peterson, in a 23-3 romp in Week 4.
Those hitsexemplify how Seattle's defense has been just as skittish as its far more criticized offense.
In its four wins, Seattle has 20 sacks. It also knocked Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia out of a game.
In its four losses, Seattle has just three sacks - including none last week of Cleveland's Derek Anderson, who isn't exactly catlike in his ability to escape pursuers. Without pressure, Seattle's secondary has given up big plays, especially many on third down.
''We have to put pressure on the quarterback some way,'' Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. ''If we can't do it one-on-one, one guy beating another guy, then we have to do it with blitzes or whatever.''
They did it all ways to Smith and backup Trent Dilfer Sept. 30. Then again, so has most of the league.
The 49ers are last in the league in total offense (224.3 yards per game) and passing offense (132.8 yards). Smith has completed less than 50 percent of his throws, has just two touchdown passes in six starts and is the lowest-rated passer in the NFL.
Now he is without starting left tackle Jonas Jennings and starting right guard Justin Smiley. Both went on injured reserve last week and will be out the remainder of the season. Adam Snyder will again start for Jennings, and fellow 2005 draft pick David Baas will replace Smiley.
Think Tapp, who wears a smaller cast in games , Bernard, Peterson, and another blitzer or two, might target the fill-ins?
''It sets the tone. We are going to apply the same kind of pressure and enthusiasm,'' said Peterson.
San Francisco coach Mike Nolan thinks Smith, who was 17-for-38 passing with two sacks and three more interceptions in 20-16 loss at Atlanta last week, should be handling the 49ers' injury situation better.
''It should not affect him as much as it has,'' said Nolan, who missed two practices late in the week but rejoined the 49ers Saturday and expects to coach Monday.
The team didn't specify why Nolan was absent, but his father, former 49ers coach Dick Nolan, is known to be in declining health with Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer.
''There's really no reason that Alex should feel less confident or less comfortable in the pocket, for example, than he has in the past,'' Nolan said. ''Some of the throws that he threw the other day in the game I know that he'd like to have back because he really didn't have any pressure and he kind of hurried it out there.''
Frank Gore, whose breakout 2006 included 1,695 yards rushing and a trip to the Pro Bowl, was supposed to offset whatever lapses Smith might have in his third season. Gore hasn't gained 100 yards in a game this season and is questionable for Monday night with a sore ankle that caused him to miss last week's game.
''A lot of expectations coming into this year, a lot of goals, so (we're) frustrated in that sense,'' Smith said. ''But at the same time (we're) still in it, two games back, playing Seattle on Monday Night. That in itself, the goals are still there, still intact.''
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49ers at Seahawks
The second meeting between the 49ers and Seahawks was supposed to be a possible showdown for the lead in the NFC West. Instead, it’s business as usual in the division. Only this time both clubs are coming off of losses.
Case in point, most sportsbooks have listed Seattle (4-4 straight up, 3-5 against the spread) as a 10-point home favorite with the total holding strong at 39. You can be adventurous and take the ‘Niners on the money line to win outright at plus 400 (risk $100 to win $400).
Incidentally, this is the largest spread between the two teams since their Dec. 2006 meeting and the fifth time in 11 games where the ‘Hawks have been listed as double-digit favorites.
San Francisco (2-6 SU, 2-6 ATS) enters this matchup after falling to the Falcons as a 3 ½-point road ‘dog, 20-16. Michael Robinson rushed 17 times for 67 yards, while Maurice Hicks carried the ball seven times for 49 yards and one touchdown.
The Seahawks arguably had the most heartbreaking defeat in Week 9. Mike Holmgren’s squad broke out to a 21-9 lead after the first half last week against the Browns. Seattle found a way to lose, however, as a 1 ½-point road ‘dog in overtime, 33-30.
One way to look at why Seattle didn’t come away with a win was how Matt Hasselbeck performed in the second half. The Seahawks’ gunslinger completed 30 of 47 passes for 318 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, he could only connect on 15 of 26 passes for 146 yards in the third and fourth quarters. This change in production was glaringly clear when the ‘Hawks had two drives stall within the Cleveland 10-yard line…having to settle for two Josh Brown field goals.
Hasselbeck will be under center for Seattle in spite of having a strained oblique muscle. Shaun Alexander (knee) hasn’t practiced at all this week and is listed as “questionable.” Deion Branch (foot) is also not at full strength, missing both practices to be listed as “questionable.” The injury bug doesn’t stop there for the ‘Hawks. Niko Koutouvides (hamstring) and Patrick Kerney (oblique) are both posted as “questionable” after sitting out Thursday’s practice, possibly hampering the effectiveness of Seattle’s pass rush.
San Fran could be helped by the Seahawks injuries on this Monday. “The 49ers know how to slow the game down enough to keep it close,” says VegasInsider.com expert handicapper Jason Johnson. “That is the main reason they’ve been able to win two of the past three games against Seattle SU and ATS.”
The ‘Niners are ranking in the bottom third of the NFL in points allowed (23.3), passing yards (209.3) and rushing yards (127.3) this year. Which would be par for the course when they’ve played Seattle: they’ve given up 300, 371 and 303 yards up in the past three matches against the Seahawks.
San Francisco will have a chance in this game if it can get the offense running. That is easier said than done with Frank Gore (ankle) entering this tilt as “questionable.” Compounding matters is the play of Alex Smith. The former No. 1 overall pick did just that last week at Atlanta, completing 17 of 38 passes for 149 yards and three interceptions.
Don’t think that Seattle is guaranteed to roll just because it is favored at home. In the past six meetings, the home team has gone 2-4 SU and 3-3 ATS.
The Seahawks have seen the ‘under’ go 9-4 in their last 13 matches. San Francisco is another team that sees the total stay low, posting a 5-3 record this season in favor of the ‘under.’
Mike Nolan’s 49ers are 5-15 SU and 9-11 ATS when playing on the road. Seattle is 9-4 SU and 7-5-1 ATS at Qwest Field in the regular season and playoffs since the beginning of last season.
Kick-off is set for 8:30 pm EST with ESPN providing television coverage.
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Rough weather expected to dampen 49ers-Seahawks game
It’s raining today in Seattle and forecasts call for periods of showers to continue this evening. Heavy wind gusts during the day should taper off to a 10- to 20-mph breeze this evening, says a National Weather Service forecast. The wind will move from the southwest around to the east, the report says.
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Windy, rainy 49ers-Seahawks game last year one very few involved will forget
November 12, 2007
SEATTLE (AP) -The night started with rivers of rain cascading through the stands and the Qwest Field turf bubbling with water as drains backed up, and ended with more than 1 million people in the Seattle area dark, cold and without power.
In the time between, San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith played the best 15 minutes of his young career and the 49ers pulled off a stunning victory over the Seahawks.
That Thursday night last December won't be forgotten for many involved.
``I'll remember that one,'' Seahawks' coach Mike Holmgren said this week. ``When I write my book in a few years, there will be a little paragraph on that one.''
For everything that happened, on and off the field that night, a chapter would probably be more appropriate.
San Francisco's 24-14 win in Seattle last December was notable on many levels. The 49ers got their first win over their divisional rivals in Seattle since Terrell Owens yanked a pen from his sock in 2002, taking end zone celebrations to a new extreme.
The victory was due to Smith's sudden reversal of an awful first three quarters, playing nearly flawlessly in the fourth quarter and leading the 49ers to 21 points, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another.
But it was the powerful storm that most remember. And as if fans need a reminder, forecasters are saying Monday night's game between the teams is expected to be played in a steady rain. Winds during the day Monday gusted upward of 68 mph in some parts of Western Washington.
The windstorm last year was the worst in more than a decade. Neighborhoods flooded under pelting rain. Trees and branches littered roadways, often bringing down power lines with them.
About 30 minutes before kickoff, a power surge briefly knocked out power to the large video screens at both ends of the stadium and to many of the electronic advertisements inside. The game was nearly delayed when storm drains outside the stadium backed up and the rain started to collect underneath the stadium's synthetic turf, causing pockets to bubble.
But the deluge of rain in the afternoon was only the precursor. Damaging winds of nearly 70 mph that hit later that night - after the game, while fans were driving home - that crippled much of Western Washington. Fans and players alike later told tales of dodging falling tree branches or drooping power lines, only to arrive at a home most likely without power.
``Fortunately, I had a generator,'' Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson said.
It was the capper to a weird year of weather for the Seahawks three primetime home games. Earlier in the season, a consistent rain pelted a Monday night game against Oakland, only to be topped by a snowstorm that blanketed the area on another Monday night against Green Bay.
Those storms were more of a nuisance. Fans leaving after the game against Green Bay spent upward of 6 hours on the highways just to travel 30 miles.
The December blast caused serious damage. Power was knocked out to 1.5 million utility customers, some who didn't get their power back until after Christmas, nearly two weeks later. Fourteen deaths were attributed to the storm in Washington state, with several people being struck by falling trees or succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to heat their homes.
Even the Seahawks were affected, aside from the loss. The team's headquarters in suburban Kirkland didn't get power back until the following Wednesday, running off generators in the interim.
``We had it all last year. I don't think it can be any worse than it was last year,'' Holmgren said. ``You know, the lights went off in Seattle for 10 days, two weeks, after that (game). That was as bad as it can get.''
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Alexander, Branch both out for Seahawks
Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander will miss Monday's contest against San Francisco with a left knee injury.
Alexander hurt the knee during last Sunday's 33-30 overtime loss to Cleveland.
The former league MVP has amassed 492 yards on the ground with two touchdowns this season.
Meanwhile, Seattle wide receiver Deion Branch will miss a third consecutive game because of an injured foot. Branch has 22 receptions for 343 yards and one TD this season.