Saturday, December 19, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - SF


Sorry for the late post. Christmas shopping and bad weather made for a long Friday. On to the good stuff.

SF has one major disadvantage in this game and that is being a road team coming off a Monday night game. I don't have the stats in front of me, but over the last decade those teams have really struggled. Add in the fact that SF won an emotional game over the division rival Cardinals and it could be tough for the Niners to have their A-game.

I'm sure some might argue that the Eagles could be flat coming off the big win over the Giants. We're normally at our best in December and with this being a home game I think the team will be ready to play.

Let's start with our defense. They didn't play well last week. SF is an interesting opponent. Their offense is built on short throws and running Frank Gore. Tackling will be crucial in this game. If we limit their RAC yards it will significantly hinder their offense. Gore and WR Michael Crabtree are very talented, but neither is a speed demon. TE Vern Davis is the most explosive offensive player. SF likes to be methodical and move the chains. They don't throw downfield that well. Taking away RAC yards is crucial.

Last week we were in good position to make plays. The problem was that the initial tackler missed. The backup tackler missed on several plays. A third tackler even missed a few times. I will be shocked if our guys come out and repeat that performance. Tackling became a focal point in practice this week. The coaches really got on the players. It seemed like last week we tried to strip the ball a lot. I'm sure players were told to focus on making the tackle first and then going for the strip. Turnovers are hugely important, but not at the expense of actually making the tackle.

RB Frank Gore ran 19 times for 101 yards last year when we played SF. He was really hard for us to stop. Gore pushed the pile for extra yards several times. Frank is the most physical runner in the NFL. This is exactly the kind of challenge we need. Our goal is to win Sunday, but also get ready for the playoffs. We need to be tested. I think our defense will step up. We have a proud, veteran defense that will want to show that Sunday night's performance was the low point and we're now on the way back up.

Frank loves to hit seams up the middle on quick run plays. We must get off blocks up front and control gaps. LG David Baas pulled quite a bit last week vs ARZ. The Giants had their LG Seubert pull on us. Both were very effective. That can't happen again. We must attack blockers. Gore is a N-S guy. Make him run E-W and he's not nearly as effective.

LB play wasn't good last week. That must change. Rookie Moise Fokou will play a lot at SAM. Chris Gocong has had a quiet year, but also Fokou is a better matchup for Vern Davis in the passing game. Trot and Jordan will split time at MIKE. Spoon is the other guy. These guys must be in the right gaps on run plays and they must either stop Gore or at least slow him down so the second defender can get there to finish the tackle. You can bet SF will try to get Davis matched up on Trot going down the seam if possible.

The Giants won the LOS last week. Our DL had some good moments, but not enough obviously. SF has a solid interior trio of blockers, but Patt and Bunk should hold their own vs those guys. Trent will be dealing with Joe Staley at less than full strength. That should be a big advantage for us. Cole hasn't had a sack in the last 2 games, his longest such streak of the year. It can be tough to get to Alex Smith. He tends to throw the ball quickly. Last week he used the snap count to get ARZ offside several times and that slowed their pass rush. Our guys need to watch the ball. Don't want to give SF 5 free yards.

The secondary is also looking for a bounce-back game. SF doesn't have great receivers. Crabtree is the best. He can catch the ball in traffic, but also runs good routes and knows how to get open. He and Josh Morgan both have good size. I'm sure Vern Davis will get some DB coverage on a few plays. Smith is inconsistent on intermediate and vertical passes. He will also force the ball into coverage. We play the ball pretty well and should have some opportunities for picks or at least PBUs. Tackling is critical. Get 'em down or at least really slow 'em down. Hopefully Hanson will play better now that he's knocked the rust off. Sean and Q must have a strong game in run support.

I like the matchup of our offense and their defense. SF is really strong in the middle of the field. They have a good NT. They have good ILBs. Their Safeties come up and hit/tackle well. I think our ability to stretch the defense deep and wide will hurt them. SF doesn't have great speed on D. Willis is one of the fastest LBs in the league, but the other players are more physical than fast.

DeSean Jackson will be huge in this game whether he catches 1 pass or 8. We need him running vertically to push the Safeties back. That opens the middle for Celek, Brown, Avant, and Kevin Curtis. SF was able to stifle ARZ because the Cards threw short and intermediate passes. They didn't stretch the D.

As long as we protect McNabb and he is on target I think we'll be able to move the ball. Scoring in the red zone will be tough. DeSean's speed doesn't have the same effect. Hopefully we'll continue to see creative playcalling and Mike Vick will be effective in our GL running package.

Running the ball will be tough. SF is 5th in run defense and only allows 3.7 ypc. We need to have some success so that Big Red and Marty will stick with it. Last week ARZ had some good runs with quick hitters off the edge to Beanie Wells. Those plays looked similar to our runs with Leonard Weaver. Give the ball to #43, please. Good things seem to happen. I think it would be wise to run McCoy a lot from the 3-WR set. That forces SF out of their base defense. One thing that scares us all is the way Shady holds the ball. He swings it wildly as he runs. He does try to cover it up when defenders close in, but it never looks completely safe to me. SF has 4 players with 3 FFs. They can hit. You can bet that hitting McCoy's arms will be a big part of their gameplan. If Jamaal Jackson can single block the NT Franklin then we could have some success running against their base D.

We should be able to handle the Niners pass rush for the most part. Justin Smith, Haralson, and Lawson are good rushers, but are a notch below Tuck, Kiwi, and Osi, who we just handled. Brooks will come in on 3rd downs and give Peters a tough time. Ahmad had 3 sacks last week. Their LB and DB blitzes are a concern. Spikes and Willis are excellent downhill attackers. They will test McCoy's blitz pickup skills.

SF has pretty good STs. P Andy Lee is a weapon in terms of field position. Because we can be a big play offense that isn't a huge a concern for us as some teams. We do need to block well on FGs and PATs. Ray McDonald is very good at getting upfield quickly and blocking kicks. SF blocked a FG last year and ran it back for a TD against us. Can't have that. Maybe last week's blocked PAT will be a good thing. Ted Daisher needs to get after his guys to tighten things up. Quintin Demps will be the KOR. He had a good return last week and did a terrific job all last year. He'll give us good speed. Maybe some success on KORs will help him to play better on D.

I expect a tough game from SF. They almost beat the Colts. They had MIN beat, but Dre Bly dropped a pick and then Favre pulled off the miracle. Both those games were on the road. SF is tough. I do think our speed and playmaking ability gives us the advantage.


Cliff said...

I haven't seen too much of the 49ers this season to say this definitively, but I think they'll have to get creative on D to stop our offense and I'm not so sure they have the personnel or coaching to do so. That's a positive.

Has Macho hit a rookie wall? It seems like his PT is getting less and less each week. Has Jones just emerged as a better option at FS?

Ben said...

kickoff moved to 4:15...

Tommy what's your take on how the weather could affect this game?

Tommy Lawlor said...

RE: Macho

There was some indication he was hurt last week and that's why he didn't play on D and eventually was replaced as KOR.

Jones has played the best of any of our FS candidates. He has his issues, but does help in other ways.

RE: weather

We live in the cold weather so that gives us some advantage. McNabb has big hands which helps him control the ball in bad weather. He's got a strong arm which is good if the wind picks up.

SF could have an advantage if Frank Gore has a good day. His style of running is perfect for bad weather. The problem is that the Niners run game is highly inconsistent. We're ahead of them in carries and yards.

Cliff said...

AccuWeather doesn't say anything about precipitation tomorrow, so that's a plus.

We all need to root for the Saints big time tonight. The obvious reason being that a Dallas loss benefits us tremendously. The not so obvious reason being that an undefeated Saints team, I think, will be easier to beat in the Playoffs. My thinking is that they'll have huge pressure on them to win and their untested guys could crack.

Oh, and don't forget to go vote the Eagles to the Pro Bowl at!

Myron said...

Re: Dallas -

I think I'd rather see Dallas in the playoffs as the #6 seed than the Giants. I'd absolutely hate for the Eagles to lose to them in the wildcard round and for dumbass Eli and co. to go on another miracle playoff run and win another Super Bowl. I think that would be too much to bear. And they definitely played us too close for comfort this last time around.

Re: Game -

Poor weather might be bad for us in this game. Consider that a.) SF has the superior running game in Frank Gore and b.) in poor weather the passing game will be less effective, and you have an equalizing factor that could benefit SF more than it does us.

Question for Tommy -

Tommy, I know it is too early to be speculating about this stuff but for some reason I'm obsessed with the draft of late. Among all the prospects being talked about for the 2010 draft, which would be most beneficial for the Eagles? In other words, which positions do the Eagles need to shore up in the first 2 rounds of the draft? Based on how the team is performing right now, I'm going to have to say this team needs another solid DE, a FS, maybe a CB that we can develop, and maybe a DT? Everyone on the draft boards is talking about Philly looking for LB prospects, and even have Philly picking Brandon Spikes in some mock drafts I've seen, primarily due to the poor LB play they've seen from this team thus far. However, most of these people have forgotten that our stud MLB got injured before the season started, and if we can count on Stewart Bradley coming back next year healthy, our needs at LB are not very pressing, right? So DE is probably the top spot or what? Obviously it would be nice to get a FS like Eric Berry but he's not dropping below top 5, so maybe we'll have to forget about drafting a safety this year. I want to hear your opinion based on the college season so far, and the Eagles season so far.

Cliff said...

How are the Cowboys winning this game? Romo is playing like he's shell-shocked. And I'm pissed... Witten is my fantasy team TE. Let's get him some catches!

Stephen said...

Can't believe the Saints didn't tie it up after the missed field goal. Seemed like it was just destiny at that point. They really were too laxidasical with the clock, and the Brees batted pass to himself was dumb on two counts, lost yards and didn't stop the clock.

Really the Saints didn't look like the Saints tonight, but I wish they had sunk the Cowboys. Any loss for an NFCE opponent helps at this point because we have by no means locked up a playoff spot.

Ben said...


that's true, but it's not entirely true..

if the giants lose on monday and we win today, we have a playoff spot locked up. realistically, the only team with a SHOT at even taking a playoff spot from us right now is the Giants. And we have the tie breaker over them. We haven't mathematically clinched, but realistically we'll have to implode not to make it. We do, however, want to finish strong, win the division, and see improvements before the playoffs start

Boyboy said...

Week 17: PHI @ DAL

There's still a few weeks left, but this the winner of that game could very well end up representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

For a few years now, I've refused to buy into the Dallas hype. They finally proved something to me. Their defense abused the Saints last night. The pass rush was relentless and Mike Jenkins has played really well in the secondary. We all know what their offense is capable of.

Actually, depending on how things shake out, we could play Dallas two weeks in a row. Let's just hope that second game is in Philly, not in Dallas.

Anyway, don't want to get ahead of myself, but it's something to watch for...

Cliff said...


I don't think the Cowboys looked that great last night, though. Their D was clearlly I'm control, but NO's D was non-existent. Yet, Romo looked like a deer in headlights on a lot of plays.

NO did a good job of taking away Dallas's run game and Witten. They just couldn't stop the Cows on 3rd down (50+%). Likewise, the NO offense couldn't convert a 3rd down (14%, yikes).

I just didn't get a feel from this game that the Cowboys were turning around their December woes. But I guess this is a momentum-changing game.

Prem Prakash said...

Maybe I'm too full of pre-Christmas cheer, or maybe I'm jinxing us, but I don't think SF has a chance. Regardless of weather, I don't think they can possibly stop our O. I'm also optomistic our D will come out with a chip on its shoulder and shut down Gore and co. I'm not saying it will be easy, and I'm not saying it will be a blow-out, but I am saying the Eagles take control of the game and win strong.

Boyboy said...

@ Cliff

After last night, I don't think there is an elite team in the conference. I do think it's a credit to Dallas that NO took away what they like to do best (run game and Witten) and they still managed to win.

Romo did look flustered at times but he still threw for over 300 yards and he still did make the right throws on 3rd down to keep drives alive. I'm not going to sit here and proclaim that Dallas is the class of the NFC or that their December woes are over. However, they did go on the road, in December, and beat the best team in the conference. You can't take that away from them -- and it was probably a confidence builder.

Do they build on that win next week in Washington? Who knows. Maybe they flop. But the Skins always play them tough so it wouldn't be an embarrasing loss, were it to happen. Bottom line, last night they showed that they're as good as anyone in the NFC -- or at the very least, they showed that nobody in the NFC is all that great.

Myron said...

The Cowboys basically confirmed the following: To beat the Saints, you need a stud pass-rushing DE. If you don't have one, you lose. The only way to slow down Drew Brees is to pressure him with the front four and keep him out of rhythm.

The secondary was also very weak, but mostly because they didn't have Jabari Greer (their best cornerback), and they were uncharacteristically playing from behind.