The San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks have only been division-mates for the past eight years, yet for some odd reason, whenever anything seminal has happened to the red and gold of late, Seattle has been directly involved.
It came on October 26, 2008 against the Seahawks.
Seattle was a decrepit outfit back then, decimated by injuries—much as they are now—and off to a 1-5 start. The 49ers were no great team themselves at 2-5, but they had just fired the man everyone thought was the problem, coach Mike Nolan, and the Seahawks at Candlestick seemed like the perfect foils to get the Singletary Era off to a rousing start.
Well, "Coach Sing" made the day memorable all right, but mostly for his antics on the sideline and in the postgame presser.
The game itself was a dog, and the Seahawks breezed to a 34-13 rout.
That afternoon gave us the "I want winners!" speech, and just might have accidentally kick-started tight end Vernon Davis' own fascinating journey into the land of maturity. But at the time it was just another loss by another in-over-his-head interim coach and no one thought much of it.
Go back a bit further—to September 30, 2007.
This was the day that Alex Smith—young starting quarterback with potential, turned into Alex Smith—galactic bust.
Oddly enough, it wasn't because of what Smith did, really. He came into the game against the Seahawks having led the team to a 2-1 start, even though he hadn't started the season all that well statistically.
Very early in the game though, his throwing shoulder was crushed beneath the 300 pound body of Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard and it looked to be completely separated from its joint.
Nolan insisted that the injury wasn't as bad as it looked and after three weeks of rest, Smith was basically bullied back onto the field, his manhood on the line as his coach questioned his toughness in front of the team.
Smith winced his way through three poor performances, including a disastrous game on Nov. 12, where he and the team managed only six first downs and were 1-of-12 on third down conversions in a 24-0 beat-down at, wouldn't you know it, Seattle.
He was shelved for good after that. His shoulder was operated on by Dr. James Andrews and Smith was placed on injured reserve.
The surgery didn't quite take and Smith required a second operation, which ended his 2008 season before it started and raised legitimate concerns that his career, such as whether or not he would play again.
Go back further still, to November 19, 2006.
The Niners, with Nolan at coach and Norv Turner at offensive coordinator, were off to their annual 2-5 start, but low and behold the defense strung some fine performances together and Smith capped off a hat trick of consecutive wins with a good day against the Seahawks, completing 19-of-25 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, while scoring the first rushing touchdown of his career as well.
It would be the first of two times he'd beat the Seahawks that year, and he'd finish both games with a passer rating over 100.
San Francisco was back to .500 and "things were happening" as they say.
We know how that turned out.
Now fast forward to the present.
The Niners again have the Seahawks in front of them.
Smith comes into the game, at Seattle, where he was born, playing as well and as confidently as he ever has.
The "Raye-gun offense," so coined for offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye's distaste for the term "spread," is as catered to Smith's strengths as any pro system he's played in.
Again, the 49ers have a chance to even their won-loss ledger, and again they have a chance to control their destiny.
It couldn't have happened against any other team.