Some 49er fans are probably looking at the game against Philadelphia today with a lot of apprehension.
Is it the water?
Today could be a feeding frenzy for this shark-like defensive opposition. When the Eagles have had good defenses in recent history, opposing teams have braced themselves for one blitz package after another.
For the Eagles, the expectation is that each player on the defensive unit has the potential to get a sack, depending upon the package.
On offense, Pittsburgh is second in the league with sacks allowed at 19.
San Francisco is worst with 20 allowed.
Despite my admiration of J.T. O’Sullivan’s grit, he isn’t close to Ben Roethlisberger in physical prowess to elude tacklers as they wrap their arms around him, nor is he capable of coming back as successfully as Roethlisberger is capable of doing, despite the punching-bag effect of being hammered so often.
The defense has shown indications that it is worthy, especially being ranked seventh in the NFL with 13 sacks. Thus, if preseason hype and the unit’s positive accomplishments so far this season are to be discerned as portending a potentially solid defense, then today is the day for it to prove itself.
It is important that the defense get after McNabb early and often, and to stop the Eagles on third downs.
Parys Haralson leads the defense with four sacks, which is awesome and says a lot about this evolving player.
Close behind him is Justin Smith with three, which could be an indication that he is set to break his season highs of 8.5 sacks set in 2001 and eight in 2004 with the Bengals.
As for our offense, we have to convert third downs, but doing so against the Eagles will present one of the unit’s toughest challenges this season. Why? Because Philadelphia has stopped teams 18 times this season on third down. Only Chicago has more stops with 19.
Another danger for the 49ers lackluster offense is the fact that the Eagles do not allow sustained drives. In fact, they are tied with none other than the Raiders for the league lead in allowing the fewest: three.
Keys to victory: sustained offensive drives by O’Sullivan, with a strong dose of Frank Gore; defensive pressure that turns the tables on Philadelphia, whereby the 49ers bring everything, including the kitchen sink, against McNabb.
Major key to victory: O’Sullivan must not turn the ball over—not even once.