I'm a simple recipe kind of guy. Want me to make you a delicious meal? Then you better find me an easy-to-follow recipe. If the steps reach double digits or words like "braise" and "sear" appear, then I'll probably end up ordering pizza instead. Keep it short. Make it as specific as possible, and this is what I'm trying to accomplish with this article.
Follow these steps, and the end product will be a tasty victory.
3 > 7, or better yet, 0 > 7
The defense just needs to keep doing what they’re doing. What exactly are they doing? Oh, just leading the entire NFL in scoring, allowing a microscopic 14.6 points per game. Basically, they are giving up a miniscule amount of touchdowns. They have still yet to allow a rushing touchdown all year. All year!
Once the opponents reach that red zone, they’ve been forced to kick field goals, if lucky. The Niners defense has done a tremendous job of creating several turnovers, 26 total. It’s the classic “bend but not break rule,” when in reality, they are doing very little bending. They say it takes 90 days to form a habit; I say the 49ers have established a healthy habit of keeping the other team out of the end zone.
7 > 3
The offense, however, has a bad habit of not capitalizing on their trips to the red zone. Too many times, they arrive only to eventually kick a field goal. It’s frustrating; it’s disappointing. Imagine accumulating a large quantity of frequent flyer miles only to settle on a vacation to Des Moines when you could’ve gone to Hawaii. That’s what it feels like. Hawaii is a touchdown.
Don’t get me wrong, David Akers has been a solid addition to the team, but the only time I want to see him this Sunday is on PATs and kick-offs. Against the 2-9 Rams and their 21st-ranked defense (that surrenders 24-plus points a game), San Francisco is sure to find themselves visiting the red zone often. Anything less than three touchdowns on offense will be a major disappointment.
Let’s go to Hawaii.
During the past few weeks, the total rushing yards have dropped dramatically, as has Gore’s appearance on many MVP lists. After posting five straight 100-plus yard games, the star running back has averaged a pedestrian 42.3 yards over the last three matches. The team needs more than that. Blame it on whatever you want: the O-line not creating any lanes, nagging injuries (to both Gore and starting fullback Bruce Miller), predictable play calling, etc.
Either way, the 49ers absolutely need to re-establish the run. Run Gore. Run Hunter. Heck, even bring in Dixon on short-yardage situations. Throw in some play-action. Keep the defense guessing, and the big plays will pile up.This team is designed to have a balanced attack on offense, and it starts with the run. The passing game will feed off of that, and vice versa.
Look for San Francisco to gain well over 150 yards on the ground against this St. Louis team that is dead last at stopping the run.
Protect our quarterback and attack theirs.
The most clear and visible difference between the Ravens and Niners on Turkey Day was the sack total: Baltimore, nine and San Francisco, zero. A big donut hole.
In fact, if Alex Smith hadn’t been elusive on a few plays, the sum would’ve surely reached double digits.
Flacco, on the other hand, had all day. I’m pretty sure I even saw him drop back, pick a few daisies and make a phone call to wish his family a Happy Thanksgiving before throwing a ball only out of boredom. For a team usually recognized as having one of the premiere front seven on defense, the Niners definitely failed to perform like one.
Baltimore did, however. They dominated the line, and that was the difference.
In their two losses, the Niners have given up a staggering 15 sacks. In their other nine games, Alex Smith was sacked a total of 15 times. It’s no coincidence that those were all victories.
Like every other quarterback, Smith needs time to throw. More specifically, our receivers/tight ends need time to run their routes and get open. They are weapons. But, much like in a duel, a pistol is useless if you don’t have time to draw it from the holster.
Against the Rams, look for the offensive line to prove again they don’t “suck.” Smith will be sacked a maximum of once. The defense will be up to the task and are surely upset about last week’s outcome. Bradford will be in danger; look for him to get hit and sacked throughout the afternoon.
Give the Niners team and staff a full week to prepare and they’ll take full advantage of it. Give them an extra few days plus the bitter taste of defeat, and you better bet they’ll be more than ready against the St. Louis Rams.
At Baltimore, the team had a short week of preparation on top of traveling across three time zones. Being a self-proclaimed expert of recipes, that’s a recipe for disaster. And it showed. They looked flatter than month old soda. Frankly, they were unprepared (not an excuse; the Ravens also had a short week).
That will not happen again, especially this week. Expect a well-thought-out game plan and a team ready to execute. The play calling will be superb, and the necessary in-game adjustments will be made, if needed.
That’s a guarantee better than George Zimmer, the Men’s Wearhouse guy, could ever offer.