San Francisco 49ers' Keys to Beating the New York Jets
Two dominating wins against NFC playoff teams from a year ago, followed by a confounding loss to a big underdog.
Will the real San Francisco 49ers please stand up?
Give the Minnesota Vikings credit for executing their game plan to perfection against San Francisco (2-1) last week. Offensively, they stayed balanced, converted third downs and finished in the red zone. Defensively, they pressured the quarterback with their pass rush and forced three San Francisco turnovers.
But what happened to the 49ers pass rush, and who was that man masquerading as Alex Smith?
The 49ers will look to re-establish their identity against a 2-1 New York Jets team, and here are the ways they will look to do that.
Attack New York's Secondary Depth
The Jets are down about the loss of Darrelle Revis.
And the 49ers need to make it hurt even more.
Sure, San Francisco will want to stay balanced, but Alex Smith will have an opportunity for a huge game if he picks his spots effectively against New York's short-handed secondary.
Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson aren't scrubs, but when Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are all on the field at once, somebody is going to have a major matchup advantage.
And Vernon Davis should get lots of separation when marked by a New York linebacker or strong safety Yeremiah Bell.
New York's pass rush hasn't exactly been stellar either with just three sacks this season.
It all comes down to Smith making accurate throws, something he struggled with against the Vikings.
Sack Mark Sanchez Multiple Times
Mark Sanchez is 9-9 in his past 18 starts. In that stretch, he is 7-0 when sacked less than two times. Conversely, he's 2-9 when sacked two times or more.
So, how can the 49ers get to Sanchez?
Having an early lead would help a lot.
When the Vikings jumped out to an early lead, they ran the ball effectively with Adrian Peterson and stayed away from deep dropbacks for Christian Ponder. He got rid of the ball quickly, frustrating the San Francisco pass rush.
Expect a bounce-back performance from the 49ers' defense.
The Jets don't have a dynamic running back like Peterson; Shonn Greene is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry. When the 49ers shut down the Jets' run game, Sanchez will be forced to make plays on third-and-long, which will give Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks several opportunities to take down Gang Green's signal-caller.
Contain Jeremy Kerley
Percy Harvin gave the San Francisco defense fits last week in the open field. He finished with 89 receiving yards on nine catches with 73 of those yards coming after the catch.
Jeremy Kerley may not be as explosive as Harvin, but he's close.
Kerley has already found the end zone three times, including a 68-yard punt return for a score.
San Francisco would be wise to kick away from him.
He's the only Jet who is a home run threat.
If the 49ers contain the Jets' offensive X-factor, they should be able to stifle the rest of New York's offense.
It's possible that the 49ers were exposed against the Vikings, and the Jets will use a similar game plan to beat them.
But I'm not buying it.
Smith will have more time to throw against a Jets' defense that doesn't create as much pressure as it used to. Expect a performance more reminiscent to his two-touchdown, no-interception games against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.
Sanchez tends to struggle against the better defenses in the league (10-of-27, 138 yards in Week 2 vs. Pittsburgh), and San Francisco's defense will be out to prove that last week was a fluke.
With Willis and company motivated, Sanchez could be in for a long day.
San Francisco 26, New York 13