Thursday, December 17, 2009

Know Your Enemy - SF


The Niners are 6-7 with hopes of still winning their division or getting a Wildcard berth. They have been up and down all year long. They started off 3-1, but 2 of the wins were SEA and STL, a couple of bad teams. SF then got to the heart of their schedule and things got rough. They lost 4 games in a row. Since then they have righted the ship and gone 3-2.

SF is tough on defense. They're only 18th in yards allowed, but all the way up at 8th in points allowed. SF runs a 3-4 scheme. The heart of the D is a dynamic duo of ILBs, Takeo Spikes and All-Pro Patrick Willis. Spikes is the wrecking ball that does a lot of the dirty work. Willis is the star playmaker. The Niners aren't huge or fast. They are tough.

The offense is odd. SF started the year as a power running team with Shaun Hill at QB. That changed near midseason. WR Michael Crabtree removed his head from his butt and signed with the team. They made Alex Smith the QB. Since then SF has become a passing team. They are 3rd in the NFL in terms of pass/run ratio. Can you imagine a team not having good offensive balance? How embarrassing...

Smith has played well since getting his old job back. SF is more dink and dunk than big plays, but they have the personnel to carry out that kind of attack. And they do like to mix in RB Frank Gore when they can. He ran for more than 160 yards last week in their win over Arizona.

The OL is a work in progress. Injuries have been a major problem. Starting LT Joe Staley missed recent games, but is on the mend. That's good since his replacement, Barry Sims, is now hurt and not likely to play. The interior players are all good run blockers. David Baas, Eric Heitmann, and Chilo Rachal are phone booth guys. Put them in a tight space and they will pound on you and battle you to the echo of the whistle. Baas was very effective at pulling from LG and being the lead blocker on runs to the right side on Monday night.

The offense is 27th in yards and 18th in points. It has been better of late. They have 4 straight games of at least 17 points. The passing game has definitely come to life with Alex Smith as the starter.


* ALEX SMITH - Talented QB. Most comfortable in the shotgun and making quick reads/throws. Will force the ball into coverage at times. Good accuracy. Downfield throws aren't great. Better on short and intermediate stuff. Has some athletic ability. 15 TDs, 9 INTs. Rating is 83.3.

* FRANK GORE - One of my favorite RBs in the league. For my money, the most physical runner in the NFL. Some guys are bigger. Some are thicker. I don't see anyone break as many tackles as Frank. Rarely goes down to the first defender. Has good burst. At his best on quick hitting plays up the middle. Runs hard. If he has a seam Frank will turn a short run into a good gain. Doesn't have the speed to consistently take those plays all the way, but he does have a couple of long TDs this year. Has 43 receptions on the year.

* VERN DAVIS - Enigmatic TE has finally become a playmaker. Excellent Red Zone weapon - 11 TDs. Good blocker and receiver. Very dangerous when he's got the ball in his hands.

* MICHAEL CRABTREE - The real deal. He can run routes and get open. He has very good hands. He has terrific body control and RAC ability. Lacks top speed, but he's everything you want in a workhorse receiver. Very impressive player considering how much time he missed.

* JOSH MORGAN - Another young WR. Excellent size. 39-418-2. Leads team in WR catches, but Crabtree will probably pass him Sunday. Josh hasn't fared so well in the small-ball attack. Only averaging 7 yards per catch the last 7 games.

* DELANIE WALKER - Athletic, versatile guy. Has the same size as Leonard Weaver. Walker plays TE, H-back, and all over the place on STs. Has 13 catches, 3 runs, can be the KOR, and also is excellent at covering kicks.

* DE JUSTIN SMITH - He impresses me every time I watch SF play. Smith might have a better motor than Trent Cole if you can believe that. He plays as hard as anyone in the league. SF uses him at DE and NT. I think he's played standing up some. I know they did some of that last year. Only has 2.5 sacks, but he can get pressure off the edge.

* NT AUBRAYO FRANKLIN - Who? Exactly. Sits in the middle and quietly does the dirty work. Not monstrously big, but has a thick, powerful build at 6'1, 320. Quick enough that he can make plays in the backfield (5 TFLs). Eats up blocks and lets Spikes and Willis flow to the ball and make plays. Franklin doesn't get a lot of hype, but he has developed into a good NT.

* OLBs - The Niners play several guys. Manny Lawson is having a career year. He's got 5.5 sacks. He's a tall, athletic guy. Good burst. 3 FFs. Parys Haralson is a player I've always liked. He lacks Lawson's big frame and natural ability, but Haralson is an excellent effort player. He's powerful and plays hard. He's only 6'0, but that helps him with leverage on blockers. Ahmad Brooks is a pass rusher off the bench. He had 3 sacks, 2 FFs last week. Very quick off the ball.

* TAKEO SPIKES - Former Eagle signed with SF and has been a perfect running mate for Willis. Spikes is still one of the most physical LBs in the league. He will take on blockers. Not a great playmaker anymore, but does have 3 sacks and 2 TFLs.

* PATRICK WILLIS - The best MLB in football. Complete player. Outstanding tackler. Great range. Covers from sideline to sideline. Hits with power. Good instincts. Also a good pass defender. Only weakness is that he doesn't shed blocks all that well. Run right at him and you've got a chance. Check out his stats: 132 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 TFLs, 3 FFs, 6 PDs, 2 INTs.

* SAFETIES - Former Eagle Michael Lewis is the SS. He's just as we remember him...good hitter and tackler. Very up and down in coverage. Dashon Goldson is the FS. Interesting young player. He's got a lot of potential, but has to eliminate mistakes. Very good hitter. Has 3 FFs this year. Likes to put his helmet right on the ball. Has some coverage ability. Played CB in college. Knows how to play the ball and has 3 INTs on the year. He can be an erratic tackler. Dashon will sometimes try for a big hit and then miss. Mark Roman is the top backup. He's got plenty of experience and is solid off the bench.

* CBs - Shawntae Spencer is an impressive cover guy. He is fast and athletic. Made a real impressive coverage play on Larry Fitzgerald on Monday. Went up high and extended to disrupt a catch attempt. Great timing, athleticism. Tarell Brown is a player that opposing QBs will target. Brown will make them pay occasionally (8 PDs, 2 INTs). Dre Bly leads the team with 10 PDs. He can cover, but his best days are behind him. Nate Clements was the other starter, but has been benched.

STs - P Andy Lee is one of the best in the league. He averages just under 48 yards per punt. Lee does a great job at pinning teams deep. PK Joe Nedney is very good.

The returners have been erratic. PR is the biggest problem. SF leads the league with 7 fumbles on PRs. Ouch.

Stats Links:



Kevin Curtis will play this week. I haven't heard anything about how he looks in practice. The one concern I heard about was conditioning. Going from rehab to running routes up and down the field is a big jump.

Sean McDermott noted that one reason the Eagles were sloppy on defense last week was that they started going for big plays. I wondered if the strip of Jacobs and subsequent TD had an effect on us. Mikell tried to strip the ball all game long. Either that or he was practicing starting a lawnmower. Hopefully Sean and Big Red will get the guys focused on tackles and not turnovers this week. We always want the ball, but only after the opposing player has been stopped. Going for the strip instead of making a good tackle leads to mistakes and lots of points for the bad guys.


The Old Buffoon said...

This Niners team scares me. I'm really glad they have to travel East on a short week, because otherwise I'd hate to play an up-and-coming team coming off such a confidence-boosting win.
On the other hand, if this Eagles team is championship bound, this is the type of game they should win easily. I really hope to see a steady, solid performance. I'm encouraged by McD's comments. The D needs to show up this week in order to limit the big-play potential of Gore, Davis and Crabtree. And no more stupid penalties!

Tommy Lawlor said...

SF is tough. I didn't give away any thoughts on the game because I have to save that for tomorrow's post.

We need to show we can tackle better. SF isn't finesse and will be a good test for us on both sides of the ball.

Cliff said...

Didn't realize Clements was benched. That really sucks for SF. Good example of why it's always risky to dish out mega-contracts to free agents.

Michael said...

Clements was benched, but he's injured too. He actually was the team's punt returner for like three plays at Indianapolis before he broke his shoulder. He might return in Week 17...

I think the Eagles offense matches up very well against the Niners. You can throw on these guys all day, especially on the road. Their pressure comes from the sides, which doesn't bother Donovan nearly as much as pressure from the middle does.

Also, they don't defend the intermediate stuff well, and I don't think they've had to face anyone with DeSean's speed yet.

Dan said...

I live in the Bay Area, so I watch alot of Niners games, and I've been to the last two Eagles/Niners games. They are an up-and-coming team, no doubt...but they are wildly inconsistent, their offense usually struggles when they can't run, and they don't play well when they're down points. They often seem to rely on turnovers or the other team's mistakes to win games.

That said, they gave us trouble last time we played them. This game won't be a cakewalk, but I expect us to win, especially at home.

Ben said...

I feel like the 9ers always just give us trouble. I don't feel great about this game, but I think our defense comes out with a chip on their shoulder after last game. The thing that makes me feel good is that I know we can beat Alex Smith.

I noted last week that on Hixon's big TD Spoon went for the strip. I guess everyone did that a bunch (more than I noticed). The good thing is that on multiple big plays we were in GOOD position, and just didn't make the play (I guess that's good). Sound tackling could have saved 2 big TDs last week. Imagine what could have happened then?

We need Maclin back soon. But on the plus side, McNabb's on fire. Who stops McNabb when McNabb's on fire? Only he can...

Myron said...

Maybe they have a contest going on in the locker room to see who can get the most ffs/ints in a game. Seems like something the presence of Asante would encourage the other guys to try, right?

"Don't worry about tackling guys, just grab the ball! Turnovers are the stat that separates the elite from the chumps!"

Also, this game has "trap" written all over it. I watched the Arizona game, and while Alex Smith is mostly inept, their defense scares me if that performance against Warner & the Cards is anything but a fluke.

Mr_Boomy said...

Do you think it's gonna be a high scoring game Tommy?

Stephen said...

If their was actually a game I would like to see the D take chances in pass defense I'd prefer this one over the Giants, I don't think Alex Smith sees the field very well. I think there are definitely going to be some chances to jump some routes this game. Smith seems to lock onto recievers quite a bit.

Pitmanite said...

Tommy - I may be misquoting you but I thought you said we're the 10th ranked defense. I believe that takes into account total yards given up, but we're the 16th ranked defense as far as total points are concerned. Isn't that really the only thing that matters?

Tommy Lawlor said...

Most people focus on yards because PTs allowed can also involve STs scores and defensive scores.

Obviously scoring defense is more important, but sometimes those numbers can be skewed. I think 2006 was the year we gave up a bunch of non-offensive TDs.

Our scoring D has been disappointing this year. No doubt about that.

Pitmanite said...

very good point, i didn't fully take into account the STs scores.

i really hope a healthy akeem jordan in the middle helps us turn things around. i'll always have a soft spot for trotter, but he can't be on the field for 40 plays.

Cliff said...

So is Fokou getting the start on Sunday? Les Bowen's article sort of made it sound like McD doesn't have much confidence in Gocong's ability to cover TE's.

I wonder if it might be a better match-up to put Jordan at SAM and Fokou in the middle. Isn't that where he played all pre-season?