Happy Holidays from the Forty Niners
Well, the Niners weathered the game they desperately needed to win to keep their tenuous grasp on the #2 seed, and maintained their 1.5 game lead on the resurgent Seattle Seahawks. Now they hit the road for their next challenge. New England. On the road. In December. Usually that means terrible weather, but strangely enough, the game time temp was 59º last night in Foxborough. Somehow I don’t think the Niners will get that lucky next Sunday.
Most of the punditry out there is giving this one to NE. And rightfully so. This team made the Super Bowl last year, and was a Hail Mary (and 2 feet) from winning it with a crappier defense. Even still, NE is 29th in pass defense, and 8th vs the run (26th in the league). Similar to what they just faced vs Miami. The biggest difference being NE leads the league with 34 takeaways (15 picks, 19 fumbles) and has only turnovers themselves (5 picks, 5 fumbles). NE isn’t great at getting sacks, but their D line is stout and hard to run on.
Offensively, well . . . NE is #1 with a bullet. A whopping 425 yards per game. The big difference from last year is NE is running very well with Stevan Ridley. he’s already over 1,000 yards. Of course the Niners are #2 overall defensively and very tough on the run. Since this is a roadie, I think the Niners need to come out max aggressive on defense. The Niners have been very good at disguising their blitzes at times, so they really need to come out and take some chances early. Brady hits passes under pressure. Imagine letting him sit in the pocket. A recipe for a quick deficit. The point being, if Brady is going to beat you slowly and painfully, then try to force the issue by getting in his face early and often. It may not work, but neither will playing the 4 man rush and dropping the coverage.
So, is this game winnable? Sure. Any game is. But the Niners have to do a few things. Do NOT turn the ball over. Create one or two over their own. Limit the penalties. Especially the costly ones like roughing and unsportsmanlike. Pressure Brady and try to knock down passes. Come out aggressive on both sides of the ball to start the game. There’s no reason to play this safe. Try to get on top early, and force the pace. NE will do what they do and that’s play fast, run no-huddle and force THEIR pace. Got to slow them down. If the Niners can come out throwing successfully and get some points, then they can start the ground and pound. Otherwise, if NE gets on top early, it’ll look a lot like last night’s game.
One thing about Belichick is he doesn’t let up. He’s about pedal to the metal all the time. The Niners need to control the pace.