Dissecting Best Individual Matchups to Watch in SF 49ers' Week 3 Action
The 49ers and Colts share two additional things in common. They have both been hit hard by injuries. The 49ers have already been dealing with injuries to Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Ian Williams and Chris Culliver. The Colts have lost running back Vick Ballard and tight end Dwayne Allen.
The second thing these teams have in common is they both feature outstanding young quarterbacks. The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick took his team to the Super Bowl last season. The Colts' Andrew Luck has orchestrated one of the quickest revivals in the NFL.
Kaepernick and Luck are the unquestioned leaders of their respective offenses.
The winner of this game is in solid position, but the loser will have an uphill climb to put itself back in the thick of the playoff discussion.
Let's look at some of the most interesting personnel battles that will go a long way toward deciding the outcome of this game.
All stats are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
Trent Richardson vs. the 49ers Front Seven
The Indianapolis Colts are going all in as they push toward their goal of a trip to the Super Bowl. Earlier this week, the Colts traded their 2014 first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for running back Trent Richardson.
The Colts hope Richardson can give their running game a boost after the injuries to running back Vick Ballard and tight end Dwayne Allen.
In 2012, Richardson was the third selection in the NFL draft. He had a solid, though unspectacular year playing for a poor Cleveland Browns team. Richardson gained 950 yards on 267 carries, a 3.6 yards-per-carry average.
Richardson was very productive in the passing game last year, catching 51 passes for 367 yards and one touchdown.
In his first two games of this season, Richardson had 31 carries and 105 yards. He also caught seven passes for 51 yards.
With Andrew Luck and the greater diversity of talent in Indianapolis, Richardson should see a marked increase in his averages.
The increase in productivity will have to wait for one week, however. The 49ers are extremely tough against the run, and although the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch had some nice runs last week, do not expect Richardson to have the same success.
Look for the 49ers to stifle Richardson on the ground. The 49ers front seven was bitterly disappointed by its play against the Seahawks and will come well-prepared and ready to play against the Colts.
Reggie Wayne vs. Nnamdi Asomugha
Reggie Wayne will be 36 years of age in November, but he is still a top NFL wide receiver. He has also developed a good chemistry with quarterback Andrew Luck, which resulted in 106 receptions for 1,355 yards last year.
In the first two games of this season, Wayne has 13 catches for 142 yards.
Look for the Colts to use a three-wide receiver formation quite frequently against the 49ers. They will attempt to create a matchup between Wayne and San Francisco cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Asomugha is the 49ers nickel back and has been mediocre in the first two games of the season. The Colts will try to exploit him by creating the matchup against Wayne.
The 49ers can ill afford to let Wayne go off. If he and Luck get rolling, it's very bad news for the 49ers.
Aldon Smith vs. Anthony Castonzo
Aldon Smith will primarily go up against Anthony Castonzo, the Colts left tackle. It will be up to Castonzo to help keep Andrew Luck upright and unscathed.
Smith enters the game with 3.5 sacks, which leads the 49ers. The key for him and the entire defense will be to get more consistent pressure on Luck.
If Smith and the 49ers pass rush can get to Luck, forcing him to throw before he wants to, it will help their defensive secondary immensely.
Anquan Boldin vs. Greg Toler and Vontae Davis
In the 49ers' first two games, we have seen dramatically different results from Anquan Boldin.
Against the Packers in the 49ers' first game, Boldin exploded onto the scene with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown.
In the second game of the season, Boldin and the other 49er receivers were stymied. The tough press coverage made it hard for any of the San Francisco receivers to get open.
The Seahawks defensive backs won their individual battles, and that suffocated the 49ers offense.
The Colts cornerbacks, Vontae Davis and Greg Toler, will have their hands full trying to contain Boldin. Look for Boldin to get back in sync with Colin Kaepernick.
Frank Gore vs. Indianapolis Front Seven
Frank Gore has had two very difficult games. Both the Packers and Seahawks took away the 49ers' top running back. It has been a very frustrating beginning of the season for Gore.
Look for that to change against the Colts. The 49ers offensive line was outplayed by the Seahawks, and we can expect it to come out strong against Indy.
On the season, Gore has 30 carries for just 60 yards, a 2.0 yards-per-carry average. Gore and the 49ers offensive line are too good for those woeful numbers.
The Colts defense ranks 29th in the league against the run. It is allowing an average of 136 yards per game. Opposing offenses are averaging 4.5 yards per carry against the Colts.
This promises to be a confidence booster for Gore and the 49ers' offense definitely needs him to produce.