Most Important Matchups for 49ers vs Titans in NFL Week 16December 22, 2021
Most Important Matchups for 49ers vs Titans in NFL Week 16
The San Francisco 49ers followed a reliable game plan to move into a comfortable spot in the NFC wild-card race.
San Francisco has won five of its last six games by owning the line of scrimmage, feeding its top two offensive weapons and avoiding major mistakes.
Kyle Shanahan's team should follow the same path to success for Thursday's trip to face the Tennessee Titans.
The 49ers can control the contest through their rushing offense and run-stoppers, by feeding George Kittle and Deebo Samuel at a high rate and having Jimmy Garoppolo play efficiently again.
Both Sides of the Rushing Game
The 49ers need to run the ball well to have success each week.
The No. 6 seed in the NFC has run for over 100 yards in each of its last five victories. The lone loss since Week 10 saw the Niners run for 71 yards.
San Francisco outgained the Atlanta Falcons by 100 yards on the ground in its Week 15 victory. It has 100 yards or more on the ground than four of its last six opponents.
Tennessee's ground game has found its footing in the weeks since Derrick Henry went down his injury. D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard have carried most of the load in the last month.
The Titans have four straight 100-yard rushing games as a team, but they barely reached the century mark in two of those contests.
Mike Vrabel's team conceded 43 rushing yards in the last two weeks to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers, but it will be tested more by San Francisco's rushing scheme.
The 49ers ran for over 100 yards in all but one of their road contests so far this season, and the addition of Deebo Samuel as a rushing threat could hurt the Tennessee defense.
Controlling the line of scrimmage is the first key to success for San Francisco, and if it establishes dominance early, it could leave Nashville with a win.
Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Ryan Tannehill
Jimmy Garoppolo has been reliable through the air when the 49ers opt to go to the passing game.
Garoppolo has 10 touchdown passes and three interceptions since the start of Week 10. Two of those picks came in the loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Garoppolo has completed at least 65 percent of his passes in each of the last six games, and he has a completion percentage over 70 in three of those contests.
The quarterback's accuracy combined with the dominant run game has made the 49ers hard to stop offensively.
Ryan Tannehill has not had a multi-touchdown game through the air since Week 8, and his pass-catchers have been plagued by injuries for most of the season.
Tannehill is trying to do more with less, but he has not thrown for over 200 yards in each of the last three weeks. He has one touchdown pass, two interceptions and taken 10 sacks in that span.
Garoppolo is playing at a higher level than Tannehill, and if that continues on Thursday, the 49ers should have the edge in both facets.
George Kittle vs. Titans Passing Defense
George Kittle has been one of the best players in the NFL over the last three weeks.
San Francisco's tight end has 425 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 28 receptions in that span. He failed to bring in five of his 33 targets.
Garoppolo is using Kittle to stretch the field, and opposing defenses have not had an answer for the 49ers' top pass-catcher.
Tennessee needs to slow down Kittle's impact to have a chance of halting its losing ways. The Titans come into Thursday with three losses in their last four games.
The Titans defense against tight ends has been one of the few bright spots for the entire season. They give up the fourth-fewest yards to tight ends and have only allowed three scores to players at the position.
The 49ers can nullify one of the Titans' strengths with Kittle's route running and physicality across the middle.
If Kittle gains an advantage in that matchup, the 49ers may be able to do whatever they want against the reeling Titans.