Fairy tales are great fun and every story has an almost picture perfect ending, but that’s also why they are only for children. Worlds where children can fly, mice can talk and the impossible seems possible.
Mike Singletary has done a wonderful job thus far transforming his pumpkin into a hard hitting, focused and overachieving carriage. For this group of overachieving players that have endured six straight losing seasons, the 2009 season looked like they were slipping on the proverbial glass slipper.
A great start to the season had these Niners flying high, until they ran into Brett Favre and a fairy story/magic ending of his own. Despite this hiccup, this group of players seemed to be playing hard and still buying into Singletary’s system.
That all came to a crashing halt when the Falcons came to town and not only slept in all of the beds, but ate all the porridge as well. Forty-five points later, and the Falcons left town after turning the Niners into frogs.
This week, the Niners travel to Reliant Stadium to take on the Houston Texans. What to make of these Texans? I don’t know to be honest. This team can look so good the week before and then rip your heart out the following week.
These Texans are an enigma, the boy who cried wolf as it were. Talented and motivated, yet maddeningly inconsistent, this team is perpetually “about to turn the corner.” The Texans who have posted back to back .500 seasons look to finally “breakout” and perform to the talent level they have on their squad.
The Texans come fresh off their victory over the Bengals in which Matt Schaub looked impressive and in control. Andre Johnson is still the best unknown wide receiver and the Texans defense looks to be turning the corner. Despite how they have performed of late, this is still a team that young and has problems playing at a consistent level and lost to both Jacksonville and Arizona.
Lets take a look at the matchup.
Texans Offense vs. Niners Defense
Steve Slaton is got a set of wheels and a extra gear to boot, it’s a shame that I don’t believe he’ll be able to use it this week. The Niners front seven while undecorated, are a highly focused bunch and they do play the run very well.
Led by Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes, stopping the run is something the Niners do very well. And they had better this Sunday, because if Slaton reaches the second or third level, it might go all the way.
What will really be the test is getting pressure on Schaub, and I believe the Niners will have to blitz often and early. If Schaub has time in the pocket, its going to be a long long day for the Niners overrated secondary.
Matt Schaub is as pure a pocket passer as the Niners are going to see, and giving this man time in the pocket spells almost certain doom.
Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels make up a receiving corps that I think are on the verge of breaking out. Daniels and Johnson in this offense are scary when they are clicking and in sync. Gary Kubiak and the Texans love to get Johnson vertical down the field, and with the secondary of the Niners, it could get ugly.
If the Niners cannot slow the Texans, its going to be a long day and could be the makings of another blowout loss. I just don’t see Nate Clements being able to handle Johnson, when hes clearly struggled with top tier wide receivers in the past. With Michael Lewis out, and Jeff Ulbrich on the IR, the Niners will have to find a solution for Daniels roaming the middle of the field.
Niners Offense vs. Texans Defense
On the surface, it would seem that getting Frank Gore back and starting the finally signed Michael Crabtree would allow for an offensive spark. Reality, however, is that the Niners have some serious issues on the offensive line, and despite a shakeup at right guard and right tackle, the right side of this line is suspect. Chilo Rachal was a turnstile against the Falcons and consistently allowed the pocket to collapse on Hill from the inside out.
Frank Gore must keep the chains moving, and create his own running lanes if they are not there. The Texans stopped the Bengals running game last week despite not having a strong showing this season until then. The Bengals use a similar downhill type of running game that the Niners use, and its really all up to the offensive line to slow Okoye and Williams down.
If the Niners cannot keep Okoye and Cody occupied, they will have a tough time with the swarming Texan linebackers. Brian Cushing is stepping into his own, while Demeco Ryans is a tackling machine.
There is also the need to slow down Mario Williams, because Shaun Hill did not look good against the Falcons. When pressured he looked to be making bad decisions and just generally did not have enough time to look downfield. Hill has to get the ball into Vernon Davis’ hands quickly and often to keep the offense on the field and dictate the pace of the game.
While it would be a great story for Michael Crabtree to come in and make an impact, I don’t think its going to be this week. It will be a long road for this promising rookie, and it starts this Sunday. Issac Bruce is the steady veteran in the locker room and Josh Morgan has been relegated to the backup role, this group of wide receivers scares no one.
While the Niners certainly do have a chance this Sunday, I just don’t see it happening. The Texans at home are a tougher team than on the road, and if they are up by two scores the wheels are going to come off the Niners carriage quick.
Dont be surprised to see some Alex Smith action before the game is over. What would that fairy tale be called I wonder?
Niners 13 – Texans 28