Saturday, December 8, 2012

5 Burning Questions and a Week 14 Prediction

Here are 5 questions that I will be looking for answers to during Sunday's week 14 49ers-Dolphins match up.

1)  Can the 49ers get their running game back on track?

The 49ers offense was averaging 5.6 yards per carry during the first 8 games of the season.  Over the last 4 that number has been cut down dramatically to only 4.0 yards per carry.

Is this due to the change at quarterback?  Has the league started to catch up?

There is probably a bit of truth in each of those questions.  It took Alex Smith into this year to become an "expert" in this offense, and I wouldn't expect Kaepernick to be there after only 3 starts.  That aside, the 49ers coaches need to either hit the calls, or make sure Kaepernick is getting closer to Smith at the LOS.

The 49ers run scheme has a lot of wrinkles, but is very basic.  The teams that have done the best job at stopping have not sold out to do so, instead playing their base defense and focusing on making their fundamental reads.  The 49ers want you to start guessing based on looks, and once you do that they can hit you for the big gain.

2)  How do Colin Kaepernick and Greg Roman rebound from St Louis?

I have gone on record as saying that Kaepernick played well against the Rams, and made 1 terrible play, and another poor decision in not getting out of bounds.  That being said, there are a couple of plays in the passing game that I am sure he would like to have back.  Although the passes were complete they were a bit inaccurate, and that caused the play to be stopped short of the endzone.

As for Roman, he called the same type of game in St Louis that he has called since coming to the 49ers.  It was a very balanced attack.  Many will point to the pitch call as being the worst call of the game, and I can see that since it led directly to the Rams tying the game.  For me, I would also point to the series of calls made in OT after the shanked punt gave them the ball at the 50 yard line.

Instead of going for it Roman went into conservative mode: run, run, pass, run, run, pass.  The result was another missed field goal by David Akers.

Roman has a tendency to back of the gas peddle when the team is either tied or ahead once it gets to the 30 yard line.  It is as though his internal conversation is, "ok we have 3, let's not screw it up."  That worked last year when his kicker was actually making kicks, but that isn't the case this year.  Hopefully we will see a more aggressive approach in these situations going forward.

3)  Can the 49ers get the penalties under control?

The 49ers have committed at least 10 penalties in 3 of their last 4 games.  During their turnaround last season, one of the things that many pointed to was the increased discipline shown by the team.  That seems to have fallen off a bit this year, and the increase in penalties is only one example of this.

There have been too many big plays either erased on offense, or drives extended on defense as a result of penalties, and they will need to get this cleaned up if they are going to make a run deep into the playoffs come January.

4)  AJ Jenkins?

With injuries sidelining Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham, Jenkins is now the next man up.  This may be the first game in which we see Jenkins actually touch the field.  How will he be utilized?  Can he help pick up the production that is lost due to the loss of Williams and Manningham?  

He should get a chance to start answering those questions on Sunday.

5)  LaMichael James?

With James, you can pretty much ask the same questions, but substitute Kendall Hunter as the player he is trying to replace.

With the loss of Hunter the 49ers need to find a running back who can press the edge of the defense, Frank Gore is no longer that player.  Can James step up and fill that role?


49ers 24  Dolphins 3

The 49ers defense has allowed opponents to less than 6 points after a loss during the Harbaugh era.  Based on their performances the last couple of weeks I don't see that changing here.  Kaepernick and the offense take advantage of some home cooking, and the 49ers get back into the win column.

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