Here are 5 questions that 49ers fans should be looking for answers to during their week 4 matchup with the New York Jets:
1) How will the 49ers respond to their first loss of 2012?
- After their first loss of 2011, 27-24 in OT to Dallas in week 2, the 49ers went on a roll, winning their next 8 in a row. With 5 of their next 8 at home the table could be set for a repeat of that performance in 2012.
2) Can the 49ers defense become the dominant force that it was in 2011?
- In 2011 the 49ers defense made a name for itself by going 15 weeks before giving up a rushing TD, and being one of the best in the league in stopping teams in the Red Zone. They have not been able to meet those lofty expectations thus far in 2012, allowing a TD run by Vikings QB Christian Ponder last week, and also allowing their opponents to score touchdowns on all 5 of their Red Zone trips. Both are definitely areas to watch moving forward.
- After breaking a franchise record by making 249 throws without an interception, Smith saw his streak snapped on a sailing 4th quarter pass intended for Michael Crabtree. Smith also had 2 critical misses in the Red Zone, an overthrow of Randy Moss on their 2nd possession of the game, and a no throw to an open Crabtree on 3rd down after Kyle Williams' long kickoff return to start the 2nd half set the offense up inside the Vikings 20 yard line. The 49ers offensive struggles in the Red Zone in 2011 were well documented, and the 49ers need Smith to elevate his play in this area of the field to get back to the postseason and go deep.
- The 49ers are usually one of the most balanced teams in the league with a run/pass ratio of close to 50/50 each week. Last week in Minnesota, Roman lost that balance, calling 41 passes to only 16 runs. While Smith has raised his level of play in 2012, the offense is still at it's best when it is able to keep the defense off balance, and use the run to set up it's play action passing attack and the "Shot" plays that we discussed earlier in the week.
5) Will Tim Tebow take another pass off the top of his head?
- Sorry, I couldn't help myself. That was easily one of the funnier moments thus far in the NFL season. If you haven't already seen it, here you go: http://youtu.be/VSsRnqw9yfQ
Prediction Time! I see the 49ers defeating the Jets by a score of 17-6. The 49ers offense will get back on track after their off balance performance last week in Minnesota, behind big days from both Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter in the run game, and Randy Moss catching an Alex Smith pass for a TD in the Red Zone.
The defense will also play well, shutting down the Jets running attack of Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, and taking advantage of Mark Sanchez who will be forced to throw more than the Jets would like.