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Previewing the San Francisco 49ers

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Mgrex03 from Stampede Blue was nice enough to share some of his observations about the San Francisco 49ers with us.

Here's a review of the 49ers from last week:

Offense

  • Alex Smith wasn't great, but he played decently enough for a guy who hasn't played in 2 years.  He did overthrow a few receivers, which resulted in the INT he had.  He wasn't afraid to throw the ball down the field, and can still move around the pocket reasonably well.  In my opinion, they should have run more plays out of the shotgun, as Smith looked very comfortable and decisive.  By far his best drive was in the two minute drill, where he marched 89 yards in 7 plays.  Remember, he played in that zone-read offense in college, so he's definitely comfortable in the shotgun.
  • Frank Gore almost exclusively ran up the middle, only rushing outside twice.  He had the big run up the middle for a TD, but overall the 49ers only had a 35.5% Success Rate.  I think it's fair to say the Titans are better at stopping the run than the Colts, so that's a good sign.  I think Coffee had 1 carry, but that was it.  They did run from the Wildcat one play, got 0 yards, and didn't try again.
  • For not playing the first 5 games, Michael Crabtree is really good.  I don't remember him dropping a ball, but he did fumble, which was entirely his fault.  He also ran a 10 yard route on 3rd and 12, but he made some pretty good plays.  Vernon Davis is a completely different player too, especially with Smith throwing the ball.
  • Much was made about the 49ers having a bad OL, except for Joe Staley.  Well, he went down with an injury on the very first play and is now down for 6 weeks, making the OL even worse.  But you couldn't tell it on Sunday.  They kept in at least 1 extra blocker on 27 of 35 dropbacks, which seemed to work, for the most part.  The Colts had 2 sacks, but overall they didn't get as much pressure as they have in other games.  I think being in the shotgun helped as well.

Defense

  • For the most part, they stayed in their Base 3-4 defense, but really mixed up how many lineman actually went down into a 3 point stance.  At times, it was nobody.  I'm guessing this was a Manning-only tactic, but they could surprise me.  They also tried their best to disguise their coverage, and had moderate success, keeping Manning from throwing a TD pass.
  • The 49ers brought 4 on the pass rush 29/48 times, and brought 5 19 times, and blitzed half the time as well.  Blitzing only led to 1 of the 3 sacks.  Another sack was the Colts RG getting absolutely blown over.  They dropped 8 into coverage twice, both on third down, and the Colts converted both of them.  One was a 3rd and 20, which went for 32 yards.
  • They held the Colts to a FG in the Red Zone all 4 times they got there.  Manning tried going deep on them numerous times, but never connected.  Some of them he had a receiver open, but just missed.  The secondary never looked out of position.
  • I don't think the Colts running game, especially without Brown, is a good barometer as to how good the 49ers defense is at stopping the run.  They do lead the league now in YPC defense, which matches up quite nicely with the Titans, which are #1 in YPC offense.  My guess is they'll be stacking the box against the Titan offense, forcing Young to beat them through the air.

The 49ers have shown this year they can be a very good team, but have also laid a few eggs this year.  They are especially good defensively, which will be a much better test for Young than the Jaguars, who quite possibly have the worst defense in the league.  Alex Smith is an upgrade over Shaun Hill, and has the skills to win a game if called upon.