SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Donte Whitner realizes how different the San Francisco 49ers are now from the team that got whipped at Seattle in Week 2.
He's still plenty bothered by that 29-3 loss to the rival Seahawks, and ready to play them again Sunday at Candlestick Park and boost San Francisco's position in the playoff picture.
"They embarrassed us last time we were there," Whitner said. "We feel like we'll be ready for the test, and it's going to be a really, really big game and we're looking forward to it."
The reigning NFC champion Niners (8-4) need every win at this stage — and a victory against first-place Seattle could put them right back in the division title picture, too.
"As much as we want to play these guys and seek revenge, we have to keep our composure and approach the next game like it's the same one we approached last week," tight end Vernon Davis said. "We have to approach it like that."
Considering the Seahawks have outscored the 49ers 71-16 in the last two meetings — both wins by Seattle at home — San Francisco's players feel they have something to prove against their biggest NFC nemesis.
Whitner called for the defense to continue making key stands and he expects his unit to help decide how the season turns out. The offense is determined to keep doing its part now that things are clicking again for Colin Kaepernick and Co.
A 23-13 victory against St. Louis on Sunday gave San Francisco consecutive wins in commanding fashion following a two-game skid, and the offense is on a roll at the perfect time: With the December stretch run ahead, a time coach Jim Harbaugh insists is built only for the tough.
"I guess we will find out," defensive tackle Justin Smith said. "We've got Seattle coming in here and they are sitting on top of the division. We are going to be ready for those guys and give them what we've got."
The Seahawks solidified their position among the league's elite on Monday night, manhandling the New Orleans Saints 34-7 to become the first team to clinch a spot in the NFL playoffs. They improved to 11-1 and have a two-game lead in the race for home-field advantage in the NFC.