SEATTLE — As much as they despise each other in growing the most heated rivalry in the NFL right now, the Seahawks and 49ers remain almost mirror images.
Their quarterbacks are plastered all over magazine covers, their defenses are elite, and their coaches are viewed as annoying by those outside their fan base. Even as their teams have evolved and personnel changed, the principles at the foundation of both franchises remain starkly the same.
"It's very similar scheme-wise and very similar in the way they put the teams together and the types of players," Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. "They just want hard-nosed, tough players that are going to fight every day."
Week 2 may seem too early for this much hype and anticipation, but the Seahawks and 49ers understand the importance of Sunday night's NFC West showdown. The winner gets a leg up in both the divisional and the conference race.
Toss in the nasty history between coaches Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh's, the constant comparisons between quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, and the debate about which team has the more fearsome defense and it's no surprise a West Coast rivalry is getting so much national attention.
The 49ers have a bad taste from last December. Seattle scored on its second offensive play, got a 90-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown from Richard Sherman and routed the Niners 42-13.
"We're going up there to try to prove that's not who we are," Kaepernick said.
Here are five keys to watch to the game:
STOP THE BIG PLAYS: Limiting explosive plays is one of the tenets in Seattle's defense. Last season, the Seahawks tied for sixth in the NFL allowing 50 plays of 20 or more yards. The longest play allowed in Week 1 against Carolina was a 27-yard pass, the only play longer than 16 yards. Conversely, the 49ers' offense started the season with nine plays of more than 20 yards, most of them connections between Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis. Boldin quickly became Kaepernick's favorite target with 13 catches for 208 yards, including receptions of 43, 30, and 22 yards three times.