Monday, October 21, 2013

5 Burning Questions Answered



While the 49ers defeated the Titans 31-17 on Sunday, the final score does not indicate how the 49ers dominated the game.  The 49ers offense marched through a Titans defense that came into the game ranked 10th in the NFL, scoring on 4 of their first 5 possessions.  The only time the Titans defense stopped the 49ers was when they were forced to start in the shadow of their own goal line early in the 2nd quarter.  Despite that one hiccup, the first 3 quarters were a systematic dismantling by the 49ers.

Here are the answers to the 5 burning questions I brought up on Friday.

1)  Will Frank Gore's pattern continue?  Over the last 4 games Gore has averaged 5.7 yards per carry.  He has also had a pattern of going for 80+ yards, followed by 100+ yards, and under 20 carries followed by over 20 carries in back to back weeks over that time.  Gore is coming off a 101 yard, 25 carry performance against Arizona.  Based on this, Gore is due for a day of about 15 carries for 80 yards.

Yes.  Gore once again followed this pattern, rushing for 70 yards on 25 carries.  Gore did add two 1 yard touchdown runs to his total.

2)  Can the 49ers defensive front hold up?  The 49ers run defense will be tasked with keeping Chris Johnson in a slump.  Through the first 6 games Johnson has averaged only 3.1 yards per carry.  

Yes.  The 49ers defense held the Titans to only 41 yards rushing on 10 attempts.  In addition to making the Titans one dimensional, the defensive front got to Jake Locker three times.  Justin Smith was able to sack Locker 2 times, marking the first time he finished a game with multiple sacks since 2011.

3)  Who will Tennessee start at quarterback? 

Jake Locker got the start and finished the day 25-41 for 326 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception and a QB rating of 92.1.  Those numbers aren't completely reflective of the day Locker had, as 159 of those yards, and both touchdowns came after the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt.

Through the first 3 quarters Locker's QB rating was a paltry 57, however in the 4th quarter facing a soft prevent defense Locker put up a rating of 135.15, aided by a 66 yard touchdown throw on a screen pass to Chris Johnson with both of the starting 49er safeties on the bench.


4)  Can Vernon Davis win against Bernard Pollard?  Davis is likely to find himself matched up often against the Titans strong safety.  Over their last 2 meetings Davis has put together 11 receptions, including a 6 reception, 104 yard effort last February during the Super Bowl.

With the limited receiving options the 49ers have right now, Davis' production is vital to the offense being able to move the ball through the air.

Davis got the best of this matchup, ending his day with 4 catches for 62 yards.  As I mentioned last week, Davis is the #2 wide receiver for the 49ers.  He led the team with 8 targets, and for the season is averaging over 7 targets per game.

5)  Will The 49ers stay balanced on offense?  This is a question that I bring up every week, usually only in regards to the run vs pass.  This week I am including the type of pass in that discussion.  Colin Kaepernick has thrived this season when throwing off play action with a rating of over 100.  Last week against Arizona, Greg Roman dialed up 11 play action throws for Kaepernick, the most since week 1 against Green Bay, and as a result Kaepernick surpassed 200 yards passing for only the second time this season.

Yes.  Roman continued to play to the strengths of the team with a good mix of the run and pass.  The 49ers ran 41 plays on their first 5 possessions while building a 24-0 lead.  During those possessions Roman called 24 runs and 17 passes.

Roman also hit the sweet spot for Colin Kaepernick by using play action on 7 of the 21 pass attempts.  In Kaepernick's 3 best games this season, Green Bay, Arizona, and Tennessee, the 49ers have averaged a play action to drop back ratio of 1:3, or 33%.  In the other 4 games, they have been closer to a 1:4 ratio.  With the success of the 49ers to run the ball, it should come as no surprise that their best passing days have come when they have used play action the most.



Prediction:

49ers 19 Titans 17

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