Friday, October 18, 2013

5 Burning Questions For Week 7

This week 49ers begin a 2 week road trip that will find them in Tennessee on Sunday and London the following week.  The Titans come into Sunday's contest with a record of 3-3, and a 2 game losing streak that just happens to coincide with an injury that has sidelined starting quarterback Jake Locker.

The 49ers offense will face a Titans defense that has yet to allow more than 19 points in their 3 home games, and held Seattle to only 20 points last week in Seattle.  

On defense, the 49ers face a Titans offense that has struggled to get the running game going in the absence of Locker, and this week will find itself going against a rookie center.

Here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.

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.

There is a bright spot here that could play into Gore continuing to grind out the big yardage.  According to ESPN Stats and Information, Gore leads the NFL in yards after contact with 140, while the Titans defense has given up the most yards after contact.

2)  Can the 49ers defensive front hold up?  The 49ers defensive front is beat up.  Ray McDonald played only 38 snaps against Arizona, and Glenn Dorsey was lost early in the game with a hamstring injury.  All signs point to the 49ers bringing either Quinton Dial or Mike Purcell up to the active roster this week.

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.  To make things even tougher for him this week he will be running behind a rookie center in former Cal Golden Bear Brian Schwenke.

3)  Who will Tennessee start at quarterback?  Reports continue to suggest that Jake Locker has a chance at coming back early from a hip injury to start for Tennessee this week, and that he threw a good portion of the individual reps at practice on Friday morning.  That would be a huge shot in the arm for a Tennesse team that has lost both games in his absence.  There is no coincidence that Chris Johnson's output has declined with Locker off the field.

If Locker is not able to go the Titans will again turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Fitzpatrick last faced the 49ers a season ago as the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.  On that day the 49ers defense held Fitzpatrick to his worst day of the season in a blowout victory.

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.

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 playaction 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.

The play action game will be key for the 49ers against a Titans defense that comes into the game with the 10th ranked passing defense in the league.


49ers 19 Titans 17

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