The San Francisco 49ers were destroyed by the New York Giants in Week 6, but this team doesn't have time to dwell on past failures. The Seattle Seahawks come to town for a Thursday Night Football showdown—an even tougher challenge.
On a short week like this, both teams have significantly less time to game plan for their opponent. Execution is the key, and given the fact that the 49ers were outplayed in every facet of the game against the Giants, improvements are needed across the board.
Judging by what I saw from the debacle in Week 6, here are the biggest keys to the 49ers bouncing back to win against a tough Seahawks team on TNF.
Run. The. Ball.
Funny thing: In both of the team's losses, Alex Smith has been the focal point of the offense.
Now, regular readers here at Bleacher Report know I'm a huge Smith fan. I've even gone so far as to suggest that he's an elite quarterback. And, while I'm not backing off of my support for him, I am backing off the elite statement.
Smith is not Eli Manning, and when he's asked to win games on his own without a running game, he comes up short.
In both of the 49ers losses this year, offensive coordinator Greg Roman has abandoned the run.
Then, against the Giants in Week 6, the team ran the ball only 17 times for 80 yards while Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick combined to throw the ball 37 times—a losing ratio for the 49ers.
It's easy to say that they stopped running the ball because the Giants pulled ahead with a big lead, but I don't buy that for a second. Given the way this team has dominated on the ground the past two weeks, their running game is just as potent an offensive weapon as their passing attack.
The truth of the matter is that Roman and Harbaugh started panicking too early.
It's not like the running game was ineffective. I mean, between Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, they rushed the ball 12 times for 62 yards, averaging over five yards per carry.
The problem is the 12 carries part.
The Giants were stacking the box with eight and sometimes nine men, but the 49ers still managed to find success against that defense when running the ball.
You can't win if you don't try.
Get Back to Winning the Turnover Battle
Really, when the 49ers are dedicated to running the ball, the offense usually does its part to win the turnover battle. When Smith is asked to be the focal point of the offense, things turn out a bit differently.
The biggest issue I'm having with the 49ers this season in this department is that the defense hasn't been pulling its weight. Through six games, the 49ers have only managed to force 10 turnovers—six of which have been fumble recoveries.
Last season, the team's secondary was on fire, claiming 22 of the 23 interceptions the team tallied in 16 games. This season, the secondary has only intercepted two passes—one by Chris Culliver and one by Dashon Goldson.
One of the biggest differences I'm seeing this season is that Carlos Rogers isn't the same player in 2012 that intercepted six passes and generally stuck to his receiver like glue in 2011. He's been getting repeatedly burned by opposing receivers, and as we know, one weak link can ruin the entire chain.
Perhaps it's not all on Rogers, though, because the biggest issue the 49ers have on defense is...next.
49ers Must Generate More Pressure on Defense
They sent four or fewer after the quarterback on 80.9 percent of snaps during the regular season, the second-highest rate in the NFL. They held opposing quarterbacks to the third-lowest QBR (49.9) and recorded 31 sacks (t-fourth in NFL) when dropping at least seven into coverage.
This season, Justin Smith's production has fallen off a cliff (No. 25 out of 32 graded 3-4 defensive ends, according to Pro Football Focus), and as a result, the team's front line has been struggling to produce pressure.
As an apples-to-apples comparison, last season, Smith was the No. 1 3-4 pass-rushing defensive end in the NFL, per PFF.
Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith have been solid this season, tallying 7.5 sacks between the two of them, but the team has only nine sacks and 15 quarterback hits through six games—a far cry from the 17 sacks and 28 quarterback hits through six games in 2011.
Vic Fangio must stir the pot a bit and generate more pressure against opposing quarterbacks, or Rogers and the 49ers secondary will continue to struggle. The front and back ends of defenses work in tandem, and unless the men up front start pulling their weight, the secondary's struggles will continue.
Neither NaVorro Bowman or Patrick Willis has a single sack so far this season. Maybe it's time for Fangio to start dialing up some more blitzes to get the ball rolling.
Stop the Run
Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of the team's Week 6 loss to the Giants was the failure to stop Ahmad Bradshaw from running wild in the second half. For the game, Bradshaw totaled 116 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.
Before last week's contest, the team had only allowed one man to break the 100-yard mark on the ground in 43 games (h/t Giants.clubs.NFL.com)—Marshawn Lynch, who did it back in December of 2011.
If "Beast Mode" has a big game, it's going to be touch for the 49ers to win this game.
If the defensive line and outside linebackers can buckle down, maintain gap discipline (they were sorely lacking in this department against the Giants) and win the battle of the trenches, the 49ers will win the game.
As bad as their loss in Week 6 was, this team still has the makings of a championship contender. A win here on a short week against their divisional rivals will go a long way to proving that point, but the task certainly isn't easy.
The fact that it's a short week at home gives the 49ers an advantage over the Seahawks. If every man does his job, the 49ers should win the game.
That said, given the inconsistency we've seen from players and coaches alike, it remains to be seen which team will show up this week. One thing is certain: The Seahawks are no joke, and it's going to be an all-out war at Candlestick Park on Thursday night.
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