SANTA CLARA — What do Abraham Lincoln, Willie Mays and Jimmy Stewart have in common? They all got referenced Wednesday by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in advance of Sunday's big-time game with the Seattle Seahawks.

"If this doesn't fire up the fans, then what does?" Harbaugh asked. "I suppose Abraham Lincoln riding across the field with a frock (coat) and a top hat, riding a horse, waving an American flag -- I doubt that would fire them up if this game doesn't fire them up.

"The people that really love football would be fired up by this matchup."

The Seahawks (11-1) can clinch the NFC West by winning at Candlestick Park for the first time since 2008. The 49ers (8-4) have won two in a row and are currently poised to land the NFC playoffs' second wild-card berth.

Seattle enters with the league's top-ranked defense in terms of yards allowed per game, and helping key that unit is safety Earl Thomas.

"He can cover a lot of ground," Harbaugh said of Thomas. "He's Willie Mays, a five-tool player that can do it all."

Harbaugh thought back to his playing days Wednesday in recalling what it was like to be coached at Palo Alto High School by Earl Hansen, who revealed this week that he's retiring.

"I congratulate him on a stellar career, and what it meant and how many people he impacted," Harbaugh said. "You think of 'It's A Wonderful Life' with Jimmy Stewart and the amount of people that he impacted. That would be a very good comparison to Coach Hansen."


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Harbaugh typically refrains from making any comparisons, and that wasn't the only one he offered up Wednesday.

Asked about the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and the Seahawks' Russell Wilson, Harbaugh noted how they're "both very talented and great young quarterbacks." Both excel on the move and in improvised situations but Harbaugh made it a point to note: "Both throw really well from the pocket."

It remains to be seen if left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Mike Iupati will be able to shake off sprained knees and protect the 49ers' pocket. Neither has been ruled out, at least not yet, by Harbugh.

Harbaugh took issue with critics of the 49ers' running game, which hasn't produced well the past three games.

"I don't call them struggles. It's football," Harbaugh said. "Frank (Gore) does so many things for our offense. For people to rush in and call it a struggle if you don't rush for 100 yards in a game, I don't see it that way."