San Francisco 49ers: Who's Under Pressure to Perform Against the Jets?
Conceptually, the 49ers and Jets present a matchup of similarly constructed teams. On offense, beleaguered former first-round picks at quarterback take the snaps for teams that value a ground-and-pound style. These are also two teams that pride themselves on defense and the ability to control the opponent.
The 49ers may be a bit less flashy (at least in terms of media coverage), but they executed that plan much more effectively last season. However, the reality is that both teams are 2-1 heading into this critical Week 4 contest.
The Vikings managed to catch the 49ers off-guard in Week 3, and the team will need redeeming performances if they are going to bounce back against New York.
Ricky Jean Francois:
With starting nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga likely to miss the game against the Jets, Jean Francois will get the nod in his place. While not seeking a "redemption" performance this week, there is certainly pressure to help the defense bounce back from a subpar performance.
Gore's 63 yards on 12 carries were good for a 5.3 YPC average, but Gore's fumble in the fourth quarter was untimely, to be understated. Many point to the Vikings' three-and-out following the fumble, but the 49ers lost 30 yards of field position and a minute off the clock. If you believe in momentum swings, this undoubtedly counts.
I left Gore off the actual list because the 49ers still had several chances to win the game after his fumble. However, I felt it was worth noting as Gore looks to avoid these mistakes going forward.
The Receivers (without Facing Darrelle Revis)
New York's superstar cornerback tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week versus Miami, and will most likely miss the remainder of the 2012 season. Without the presence of "Revis Island," there is a glaring hole in the Jets' defensive scheme.
I don't think the receivers played particularly poorly against Minnesota (nor in the previous games), but the absence of Revis puts a little more pressure on the group to step up. If Mario Manningham's comments this week cause any concern, he and Alex Smith have a great chance to get on the same page this week.
Yes, Antonio Cromartie is no slouch at the other corner, but there's no doubt that Revis' injury is devastating to the Jets. The 49ers' passing game should benefit greatly, and it would be equally troubling to see them struggle against a weakened unit.
Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner
I'll apologize in advance for the music in the highlights here, but the visuals are too illustrative to leave them out.
Dashon Goldson is the ultimate risk vs. reward player. You'll see plenty of takeaways and impact hits in the accompanying video, but you will also see him throw a few punches around the 1:13 mark. The incident led to Goldson being ejected from the game and fined $25,000.
Fast forward to last week against Minnesota, where Goldson was flagged for two unnecessary roughness penalties on a drive that ended in a Viking's touchdown. At least one of the two flags was questionable, but it does highlight the risk of Goldson's aggressive style of play.
Fellow safety Donte Whitner dropped an easy pick in the fourth quarter with the potential to score going the other way. Whitner was also on the coverage for one of Kyle Rudolph's two touchdown passes, although there was contact on the play.
Regardless of questionable calls, the 49ers' safeties will need to play better and smarter football this week. Mark Sanchez isn't quite a top-tier QB, but Christian Ponder wasn't exactly a household name before last week either.
Seems like a familiar slide, doesn't it? Alex Smith always seems to face the tough questions when this team loses, for one reason or another.
Smith completed 24-of-35 on the day, good for 204 yards and a touchdown to Vernon Davis. However, he lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter and lost his streak of 249 consecutive passes without an interception. Smith also missed Randy Moss on a potential touchdown in the second quarter.
I personally don't blame Smith for the loss in Minnesota. This was a complete team meltdown, where no phase of the game really stepped up to the plate.
On the other hand, Smith still has his skeptics. He is simply not an elite quarterback at this time, and his past performances will continue to haunt him until he shows consistency over a long period of time.
Should Smith come back with a big effort against the Jets, the critics will most likely simmer down. But, if Smith turns in a lackluster performance with a 49ers' loss in New York, the clamors for change could start to heat up once again.