Thursday, September 19, 2013

How Can The 49ers Offense Beat The Colts Defense?

The 49ers offense is coming off it's second worst performance in the Jim Harbaugh era, having accumulated only 207 yards last Sunday in Seattle.  As they look to bounce back this week, they find themselves facing the coach whose Baltimore Ravens defense held them to the lowest production, Chuch Pagano.

Yesterday I mentioned how this weeks game is almost like an extended Harbaugh family reunion, and that extends over to the defensive side of the ball as well.  Having worked previously under John Harbaugh, Pagano is very familiar with Jim, and probably knows as well as anyone what makes the Harbaugh brothers tick.  In addition to Pagano, the Colts will bring with them former 49er Ricky Jean-Francois, and safety Delano Howell who played under Harbaugh, and Fangio at Stanford.

Fortunately for the 49ers, Pagano's Colts defense is a far cry from that 2011 Ravens defense.  The Colts defense enters Sunday's contest 23rd in the NFL having given up an average of 385 yards on average in their first two games against Oakland and Miami.

I am sure right now most of you are saying, "They gave up 385 to Oakland and Miami?  Our offense will roll them at home."  We'll see.  The 49ers offense has yet to get going on the ground, in large part due to the opposing defenses selling out to stop the run and daring the 49ers to beat them over the top.

This may be the week the 49ers get the ground game going.  The Colts defense is 29th in the league against the rush, giving up 136 yards per game on average while giving up an average of 4.5 yards per carry (25th best).  If history holds form, look for the 49ers to get back to their commitment to the run game.  In their 4 losses and 1 tie in 2012 the 49ers averaged 24.4 run attempts per game for an average of 116.4 yards.  If you take out the two Rams games those averages drop to 17.3 attempts for 83.6 yards.  In the 5 games following losses and ties last season the 49ers averaged 34 rushing attempts and 165 yards.

My primary concern for the running game this week is that the Colts have already faced a read option team so far this season.  Watching their week 1 game against Oakland, they did a very good job of shutting down the Raiders inside, but allowed Terrell Pryor to go off for over 100 yards.  In that contest they had little to no film to draw from while game planning.  With Kaepernick the Colts have 12 games to look at, as well as how they played against Pryor week 1.

When it comes to defending the pass the Colts have struggled.  Although they are currently in the middle of the NFL, allowing an average of 249 yards through the air (16th), that number is a bit misleading.  The Colts have given up an average of 8.5 yards per pass attempt (25th) so far, and when watching them on film they are prone to giving up the big play.

The Colts safties, LaRon Landry and Jerell Freeman, along with inside linebackers Pat Angerer and Jerell Freemen have struggled in pass coverage.  They have been prone to blow coverages and take poor angles through the first 2 weeks, and allowing big gains through the air.

In conclusion, look for the 49ers to come out running the ball early and often.  And when they go to the air look for them to attack the middle of the Colts defense much like they did in the Super Bowl to the Ravens.  It is huge for the 49ers offense to bounce back this week and put up a big performance, especially with a tough short week trip to St Louis coming up.

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