After the Indianapolis Colts' loss to the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday, visiting San Francisco to play a 49ers team ready to bounce back from a bad loss sounds about as fun as being interrogated by Slender Man.
While Trent Richardson is a great talent, he likely won't play this week (and if he does, his snaps would be limited), so the blockbuster trade won't really make an impact until the Colts visit Jacksonville next week.
But a team from Indianapolis will visit San Francisco regardless this week, attempting to upset one of the NFC's elite teams.
What will the Colts' strategy be this week after a poor second half derailed them in Week 2? Will they pray for a weather delay to slow down the San Francisco offense? How can Luck and the decimated-by-injury offense sustain success against the 49ers defense?
Pressure Colin Kaepernick... Without Blitzing
Last week, San Francisco went into Seattle confident after putting on an offensive show against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.
They proceeded to put up three points.
How? Well, first, the Seattle defense made Colin Kaepernick uncomfortable, and it resulted in the young quarterback's worst game of his career. Kaepernick finished 13-of-28 for 127 yards and three interceptions and generally looked indecisive and inaccurate all game.
Namely, the Seahawks were able to pressure Kaepernick with just four pass-rushers for a large portion of the game, meaning they didn't have to sacrifice coverage. The interior line for Seattle was particularly disruptive, which collapsed the pocket quickly and forced Kaepernick to scramble.
Here, Seattle gets pressure up the middle and forces Kaepernick to run. By employing a linebacker to spy on Kaepernick, the Seahawks force him to throw the ball away under pressure.
The spy is a key part of this. Oftentimes, even when Seattle was able to get pressure, Kaepernick was able to escape and pick up big gains.
The Seahawks blitz on this play, and Kaepernick is able to break contain and pick up 28 yards on the carry. He finished the game with nine carries for 87 yards.
If the Colts can get pressure without relying on the blitz, they can afford to keep a spy on Kaepernick, limiting (hopefully) his rushing output.
Force Long Third Downs
Every team struggles in 3rd-and-long situations, but the 49ers have been below average with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.
After Kaepernick took over the starting duties last season, the 49ers converted on 20.9 percent of their long third downs (eight or more yards to go); the league average was 24.1 percent. The numbers so far this season are pretty similar: League average is 25.5 percent while the 49ers are converting just 21.4 percent.
It may not seem like a huge difference, but the 49ers offense isn't as explosive this season with some key playmakers out and relies more on methodical driving down the field. Long third downs disrupt that rhythm and keep them off of the scoreboard.
In this play, for example, Kaepernick simply takes too long to find somebody downfield and tries to force the issue, resulting in a sack/fumble.
One big reason why San Francisco struggles in these situations? They tend to put themselves in really long third downs. In long third downs with Kaepernick as the starter last year, the 49ers' average "yards to go" was 13.09, the longest in the league. San Francisco tends to shoot themselves in the foot with poorly timed penalties.
It's continued this season, as the 49ers have already had seven third downs with 15 or more yards to go.
They didn't convert a single one.
The Colts should be able to put up points on offense, although I wouldn't guarantee anything. If they can slow Kaepernick and the 49ers offense, they'll have a shot at winning. If the 49ers are cruising to a 30-point kind of day, it'll be difficult for Andrew Luck to keep up.
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