On the Road Again – Eastbound and Down

Happy Holidays from the Forty Niners

smiths

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.

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About unca_chuck

Lifelong SF 49ers and SF Giants fan
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73 Responses to On the Road Again – Eastbound and Down

  1. Grumpy Guy says:

    How did the Giants beat the Pats last SB?

    They beat the hell out of Mr. Bundchen, all day long. And they did it with their front four, not by blitzing and giving Brady openings to burn them.

    Can we do the same? I’m skeptical. Our pass rush is good, but has not looked dominant.

    But IF we are going to win, I think that has to be the key component on defense.

  2. unca_chuck says:

    As with everything else about this team, it has been hit or miss, Grump. Some games the pass rush is dominant, other days it’s non-existent. Even as far back as Green Bay, the pass rush was outstanding. Constant pressure, and Rodgers never got comfortable. Same with Stafford, but not at all with Manning and Ponder. Brees took a beating, but Tannehill was untouched for long stretches. Look at the Houstons yesterday. They had guys all around Brady, but couldn’t get there in time. He got whacked around, but had enoug time to throw. I think we’ll have to risk blitzing an LB at times. It’s a tough deal to figure out with Brady and Belichick, but it can be done.

    • barleyfreak says:

      Yeah Tannehill was “untouched for stretches”, but there actually looked like good pressure on more than a few occasions where he did a good job of moving around in the pocket to elude. Queue Tom Brady, who does likewise but doesn’t have anything near the speed of Tannehill.

  3. NoFear49er says:

    Give Brady 60 chances to kill you and he probably will. The game plan must be to control the ball and for long periods of time. We don’t have to get out of our game if we can keep moving the ball. Inside runs will be tough against Wilfork, but those gun formations may keep him from using Goodwin as an extra d-lineman against Kaep on pass plays. One thing about that inverted wishbone we saw so much of Sunday, the play action out of it can be deadly and the Pats’ D can be had.

    I don’t think blitzing with extra rushers is the key but useful at the right time, like some third and longs, against our tendency to drop eight. Brady will keep us in the nickel, which is a big reason for their running game and Ridley’s success, and I don’t know if that means Rogers is manned on Welker or if he just plays over the slot.

    Can’t imagine a game plan against Belichick that doesn’t have a spot for a gimmick or two.

  4. Irish Kevin says:

    According to Accuweather.com, the weather will be in the mid 40’s

  5. Irish Kevin says:

    Thats just it Chuck, if the Niners have to have a game plan if playing from behind, they cannot go with “lets stick to the run” and “HOPE” the Defense can hold them oh say under 30,”, that will be ridiculous. No come out and score and score often, otherwise it is going to be a long day. if Brady goes off, it will not be that the Niner defense is on the field all the time, it is that the niner offense will try to eat up clock, but when Brady does get the ball he “WILL” score. Book it. And if all the Niner offense does is “RUN” up and down the field and score field goals…well lets just say that is not going to work

    • unca_chuck says:

      Irish, the best way to slow down Brady and co is to keep them on the sidelines. Like the NO game, the Niners came up with an 18 play drive that ate up close to 10 minutes. It only netted a FG, but it kapt Brees on the bench. It won’t happen all game, and yes, the Niners need to come out aggressive, but if the Niners can somehow get on top, THEY can dictate the pace, not the Pats. The Pats are doing we this year mainl;y because teams now have to respect their run game.

      We will play predominantly nickel. It’s how we stop the run in the nickel that will tell a lot about this game.

  6. Irish Kevin says:

    I do not want to see the Niners be the Ravens of the NFC, win a super bowl and then be known for Defense. and go nowhere.

  7. unca_chuck says:

    Win a Super Bowl, and they can do as they please. With Kaepernick, they won’t become the Ravens.

  8. TOUCHDOWN TOMMY says:

    Winning the Super Bowl under any circumstance would be great.
    Need to win the one before you worry about what follows.

  9. Consolidating some scoring perdictions, Niners vs Patriots early this week:

    Irish Kevin: 35- 13 Patriots. I don’t see Harbaugh opening up the offense to keep pace, he will stick with what he thinks is good football, run, run, and run somemore. I am
    putting my score out there right now. Niners 13 – Pats 35.

    Grumpy Guy: 38-31 Patriots. Early prediction: the Pats beat us in New England. 38-31ish. Setting up our showdown with Pete the Cheat and the Temple of Doom, for the division title.

    Phil: 34-31 Patriots. It gives me NO pleasure to say we are not gonna get ‘er done my friends. Prove me wrong, I’ll be great with that. IF we play milque-toast against Billy-cheat we are fucked. IF the D coord Fangio waits fer what is to come. IF we graciously allow Tom B to skin us alive–he will. Sack the mofo!

    • phil fan says:

      twinfan: 27-24 Niners. Brady checks off on almost every play so moving people around, showing blitz and dropping back, anytthing to not tip what the defense will be, can be effective,..NE is pretty tough against the run but they give up a bunch in the air-seems a good day to air out a few. IMO. 27-24 Niners.

      unca_chuck: 34-24 Niners. I think we can win it. For all the talk of NE’s defense, I think we light them up. 34-24.

      barleyfreak: 23-17, Patriots. There’s a lot to be worried about going into Sunday night. This will be the biggest test for our D this year. They’re firing offensively on all cylinders. Based on how we’ve played (or not played) against the slot receiver, they better have an answer for Wesley or it is going to be a frustrating night. I have to think that despite their improvement in the run game, we have to dare them to run and try to mess with Brady from the get go. Al-Don has shown a proclivity to be a freak in prime time. If he brings the multiple sack Smith version, then it could go well. No pressure on Brady and it’s lights out. I have trouble seeing our offense in any way matching in a shoot out. Keep Brady on his back, or off the field.

      I think we’ll bring much more of a fight than HOU. But I think the home field is going to mete some crucial plays for them and I think we fall, not in a shootout, but a let down on D at the end. 23-17, Patriots.

      Alleykat: 24-20 Niners in a rockin-sockem battle.Want to see Dashon Goldson’s dreadlocks flying as he lays the wood on their recievers.Pats have won 20 straight games at home in December,they won’t get their Blackjack 21st.Niners will be Fucking “FIRED UP” for this game.They get up for the Huge games,like taking down Double-Check Rogers on the road in Green Bay 1st week!!

      winder: 16-13 Niners… penalties will be something we have to be careful of. I don’t know whether it’s a soft defense we’ve had since the Ram game or opposing offenses have figured us out, the time of possesion in our games say that we aren’t really stopping anything. We do buckle down in the Red Zone, but against a team like NE we will have to really change up what we have done recently. I have seen quite a few missed tackles coming from us lately. But you are right about the motivation, no doubt we will show up. I think we win this one. 16-13 niners

      Chico: 24-24 tie at the end of regulation, Niners win it 27-24 in OT. As mentioned above, get to Brady and keep him off the field or we’re in trouble. That’s on Fangio. I don’t think we can, or should get into a shootout. We just don’t have that kind of dynamic offense that they run, and Brady is, well, Brady. Run the ball, and don’t abandon it like we have done a few times this year. We’ve proven that we can play against the pass heavy offenses but it will be tough on the road and in that weather. I’m sure they’re looking at the film from the Saints and Packers game. 24-24 tie at the end of regulation, Niners win it 27-24 in OT

      Great calls gentlemen. This “could” be our Super Bowl so let’s win this one! I’ll post on the spreads later

      • Flavor: 23-21 Niners. This game comes down to our pass rush. If we can get to Brady he can be had. And I’m not talking blitzing him all the time, he reads that shit like a bedtime novel to his kids. If The Smith’s have a big game we win, if not we will lose badly. But I’m inclined to think we get to him and win this one 23-21. Throw a few long drives in there. As Chuck said above, even if it ends in a FG, if you keep Brady off the field for 8+ minutes that’s a GOOD thing……

  10. rtfirefly says:

    I reserve the right to change that to 37-26 before Sunday night.
    The UFO Coyotes made the playoffs at the last minute and I’m waiting to get smacked by Dennis, but the next game, that’ll be fun for 3rd place.

  11. unca_chuck says:

    I think we can win it. For all the talk of NE’s defense, I think we light them up.

    34-24.

    • Grumpy Guy says:

      I think we can score on them. It’s keeping Tommy from going Pinball Wizard that is the challenge. Our nickel front four needs to come up big. Give Mr. Bundchen time to throw, and he’ll light up Tarell and Carlos like Dennis’s Christmas tree.

  12. rtfirefly says:

    The Patriots pass defense is their Achilles heel, which is why they picked up Talib.
    But he’s only 1 guy and he can’t defend the whole field.

  13. snarkk says:

    Reserve D-lineman Dobbs out for the year with a knee…

  14. rtfirefly says:

    Here’s kinda Pat’s scouting of the Redskins, who run a multiple option running attack balanced with a long passing game.
    They run 1 guy inside the tackles to keep the D-line busy. Sometimes it works.
    Then they run to the outside to try to draw the safeties and corners up. If they bite, RG goes deep.
    That ability to throw deep is what differentiates it from the Wishbone, as an example.
    If they stay back, RG and the other back go for 5-7 running outside the edge and maybe break that one deep.
    RG has had a concussion already and a sprained knee that he hurt in college.
    But this offense is dangerous, and with Kappy, Frank, Manningham, VD, Crabtree, Moss, they can and will run it.
    That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.

  15. rtfirefly says:

    Then they have RG just sit in the pocket and scan the field and go for the TE while the D-line is winded.

  16. unca_chuck says:

    Is manningham going to be healthyed up for the game?

  17. rtfirefly says:

    Dunno. I forgot the best part of Shanny’s offense. They have plays that look like pass to get the DEs on outside speed rushes. Then they run inside them, and that’s where Frank comes in. Hard for the DEs to rush when they don’t know where the ball is.
    But watch out for Wilfork. He’s not playing nose anymore, he’s moving around.

  18. dirtnrocksnomo says:

    Nice pic of the 49er cheerleaders. I dated one back in the day. It was before she was a member of the gold rush or whatever the hell they are called. Ahh, man I miss that one sometimes.

  19. rtfirefly says:

    I stole that Achilles heel phrase from David Fucillo by accident. I owe him an apology. I was just impressed by his article and it stuck in my mind.
    http://www.ninersnation.com/2012/12/11/3755590/49ers-vs-dolphins-colin-kaepernick-and-the-bug-eye-diamond-full-house?ref=yahoo

  20. unca_chuck says:

    It certainly was a weird looking formation. It worked sometimes and not others.

    • rtfirefly says:

      You have to throw deep to make it work.

    • rtfirefly says:

      Peyton runs a pick ’em apart offense that infuriates defenses.
      The Niners haven’t had that accurate a passer since Steve.
      You play the dice that you’ve got in your cup.
      The Niners have Frank. Kappy. Crabtree. Stone Hands (just kidding). Delanie Walker.
      You run that offense.

  21. rtfirefly says:

    Ok, Chuck. Pat’s try #2.
    I get to watch a lot of Broncs games on local TV without messing with European feeds.
    Brady I didn’t watch this year until MNF, but they are similar QBs in some ways.
    No-huddle. Calling out the defense before the snap.
    Seeing a young guy coming on the blitz and fake “Huts”. Going 20-30 down the field.
    No-huddle. Nobody on the bench is allowed to come on the field without giving up 5 quick free yards.
    That’s reality in the NFL today. My observations from watching only.

  22. unca_chuck says:

    The Niners weren’t getting the time, or the separation most of the time vs Miami. They did a better job of covering than I thought, but again, Kappy didn’t have a lot of time either.

  23. rtfirefly says:

    No-huddle running offense with the deep game as a threat.
    Frank goes down, the Pats can rest the D-line but that’s OK.
    But wear those guys out with the no-huddle.
    Don’t let them breathe or know what hit them.
    Get them tired, then let Frank go.

  24. winder says:

    We can win this one by playing mistake free football and it starts with a solid coaching plan. Turnovers, lackadaisical play(tackling), will kill us with a team like NE. One thing for sure is we need to put some serious pressure on Brady, I don’t care how good our coverage is if we give him time he will pick us apart. I think you hit it on the head nofear about holding on to the ball. This game won’t be so much about playmakers as it will be about the OL and DL. I think this will be a true trench game.

  25. unca_chuck says:

    I’m not worried about lack of fire or turnovers. The Niners are 2nd in the league in giveaways. And they are the best tackling team in the league.

    Penalties and 3rd down conversions are a BIG concern. They HAVE to do better at converting 3rd downs. The Niners are 21st at 36%.

    NE? 1st at 52.5% They are the only team over 50%

  26. barleyfreak says:

    There’s a lot to be worried about going into Sunday night. This will be the biggest test for our D this year. They’re firing offensively on all cylinders. Based on how we’ve played (or not played) against the slot receiver, they better have an answer for Wesley or it is going to be a frustrating night. I have to think that despite their improvement in the run game, we have to dare them to run and try to mess with Brady from the get go. Al-Don has shown a proclivity to be a freak in prime time. If he brings the multiple sack Smith version, then it could go well. No pressure on Brady and it’s lights out. I have trouble seeing our offense in any way matching in a shoot out. Keep Brady on his back, or off the field.

    I think we’ll bring much more of a fight than HOU. But I think the home field is going to mete some crucial plays for them and I think we fall, not in a shootout, but a let down on D at the end. 23-17, Patriots.

    And more hand wringing about our offense. Meh.

  27. Alleykat says:

    49ers have a couple spots open on the 53 man roster.Heard they are bring back LB Eric Baklatri(sp?) back.

  28. unca_chuck says:

    Yes, they signed OLB Eric Bakhtiari. For his special teams work. With Dobbs out, he takes his spot.

    Also, Kevin Kolb IRed. Has there been a team that has sunk so fast as the Cards? 4-0 then 0-9? Crazy.

    And Frank Gore needs 30 yards to become the all-time leading rusher of the 49ers.

  29. unca_chuck says:

    At least Gronk is out. He’s a big part of their passing game and their running game. Hopefully the Niners can stop Ridley with their nickel defense.

  30. NoFear49er says:

    Chuck, in the last thread I commented that I didn’t notice Vernon, or anyone else for that matter, kept in to block much. You said you thought Vernon was doing a lot of blocking.

    I was, of course, talking about in protection on passing plays and I thought you were, too.

    I looked at every passing play in the MIA game. Vernon blocked only once, on the flea-flicker to Moss. Otherwise, he was out in the pattern on every pass play and open on quite a few of those routes.

    Even though Kaep didn’t have a lot of time to go through his progressions I don’t think Davis was a big part of the game plan. He didn’t draw double coverage and after the past, what, six or seven games, his decoy value is not outstanding.

    I thought at the beginning of the year when Moss and Manningham were added there would be a shortage of balls to keep the receivers happy. I just didn’t think Vernon would be the guy starved out and it still doesn’t make sense to me.

  31. unca_chuck says:

    Well, it baffles the shit out of me as well. Fricking Walker is getting a ton of balls thrown his way compared to VD.

    I’m still waiting for Moss to be used a lot more than he has. With all these other guys down, I don;t get that either. Every time he comes in he gets a 12-15 yard cushion. They could run slants with him til the cows come home. Or fricking 10 yard outs.

  32. rtfirefly says:

    Home Shopping Network has these big Sherpa throw rugs right now for $45 including S&H.
    I have no place the hang my new Niners one, so I’ll have to store it.
    But my new Cowboys one is going right in front of the front door so I can wipe my feet on it on a regular basis.

  33. NoFear49er says:

    Maybe that’s the idea, Chuck. That diamond set puts the two wideouts in single coverage and keeps Wilfork guessing about which way the runs go. It puts eight blockers in the tackle box and they need nine to keep their blocker advantage. A few good power runs from that formation and both safeties bite on the play action instead of dropping immediately. And Moss in single coverage isn’t a bad matchup anytime.

    I read that Gronk might play Sunday night.

  34. Alleykat says:

    24-20 Niners in a rockin-sockem battle.Want to see Dashon Goldson’s dreadlocks flying as he lays the wood on their recievers.Pats have won 20 straight games at home in December,they won’t get their Blackjack 21st.Niners will be Fucking “FIRED UP” for this game.They get up for the Huge games,like taking down Double-Check Rogers on the road in Green Bay 1st week!!

  35. unca_chuck says:

    Really? Heard he was still out, but knowing Belichick, he’s pretty fast and loose with the med reports.

    Yeah, that diamond formation was strange.They mostly ran out of it IIRC, but there were a few times they went to this and faked what they did before. I think you noted early in the game where they ran Gore to the right side andfaked the QB reverse. Later in the game, same formation, Kappy faked the handoff to Gore going right and went for 50 down the left side.

  36. Grumpy Guy says:

    Ten years since the Pats lost at home in December 2002. That tells you what sort of challenge lies ahead. This one will be one of the toughest games we play in this decade. We will need something very close to a perfect game to win.

  37. twinfan1 says:

    Brady checks off on almost every play so moving people around, showing blitz and dropping back, anytthing to not tip what the defense will be, can be effective,..
    NE is pretty tough against the run but they give up a bunch in the air-seems a good day to air out a few. IMO. 27-24 Niners.

  38. winder says:

    True dat chuck, penalties will be something we have to be careful of. I don’t know whether it’s a soft defense we’ve had since the Ram game or opposing offenses have figured us out, the time of possesion in our games say that we aren’t really stopping anything. We do buckle down in the Red Zone, but against a team like NE we will have to really change up what we have done recently. I have seen quite a few missed tackles coming from us lately. But you are right about the motivation, no doubt we will show up. I think we win this one. 16-13 niners

  39. Del Mar Dennis says:

    Chuck, I’m still chuckling over your “Merry Christmas from the Smith’s stockings picture.” That is one fine picture depicting Alex’s big lumps of coal. The only other picture that features bigger and better lumps is the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” that I’m currently watching and enjoying for the fourth time on TV at the moment. Their models are simply gorgeous. I love those girls.

    The “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” and Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” are my two favorite Christmas shows to watch each and every year. There’s just something about the Victoria’s Secret models and “The Nutcracker” that go hand-in-hand.

    • Del Mar Dennis says:

      I sure the hell hope not. Half the league make the playoffs? Goodell is going turn the NFL into the NBA and NHL. I understand the desire for more TV revenue, but don’t accomplished it by cheapening the regular season. I’m all for expanding the regular season to 18 games with 2 bye weeks to make the NFL season a nice and tidy 20 week year. That’s three more weeks of national TV revenue right there.

      No more playoff teams please. Roger Goodell is already pissing me off as it is with his player safety bullshit. Now they’re talking about eliminating kickoffs all together? Goodell is trying to expunge all the physicality out of football. Skirts and two-hand touch won’t be far away…

  40. Chico says:

    As mentioned above, get to Brady and keep him off the field or we’re in trouble. That’s on Fangio. I don’t think we can, or should get into a shootout. We just don’t have that kind of dynamic offense that they run, and Brady is, well, Brady. Run the ball, and don’t abandon it like we have done a few times this year. We’ve proven that we can play against the pass heavy offenses but it will be tough on the road and in that weather. I’m sure they’re looking at the film from the Saints and Packers game.

    24-24 tie at the end of regulation, Niners win it 27-24 in OT (Just to be different 😉

  41. Flavor says:

    This game comes down to our pass rush. If we can get to Brady he can be had. And I’m not talking blitzing him all the time, he reads that shit like a bedtime novel to his kids. If The Smith’s have a big game we win, if not we will lose badly.
    But I’m inclined to think we get to him and win this one 23-21. Throw a few long drives in there. As Chuck said above, even if it ends in a FG, if you keep Brady off the field for 8+ minutes that’s a GOOD thing……

  42. Del Mar Dennis says:

    Even with their 1 play every 25 seconds on offense, NE still ranks 13th in TOP (30.37). The Niners rank 8th at 31:08. Over the L3 games, NE even holds a slight .08 TOP > the 49ers. The point being, NE will get their fair share of the ball Sunday night. You don’t think other teams have tried the old, “Let’s run the ball and keep Brady on the sidelines” routine? How’s that shit been working out? Keeping the ball for 8 minutes and kicking a FG will NOT be a good thing. NE will get the ball, keep it for 7 1/2 minutes and score a TD. You do not beat the future President of the United States by kicking field goals. That shit gets the presidential veto post-haste.

    • Flavor says:

      none of it will matter if they don’t get to Brady. They HAVE to get to him or he’ll march down the field every time they get the ball…….

      • twinfan1 says:

        My post was not meant in response to yours, the things is: Brady *is* going to march down the field, my most important key to the game is Hurt the Squirts,I don’t mean maiming them, just shake some balls loose. Well, maiming is OK, too. Politely, of course.

  43. twinfan1 says:

    Well, Brady is going to throw, throw some more, and for good measure, throw again.He averages 38 passes a game, about 20 of them less than 10 yards. He’ll go deep occasionally ( 20% throws over 15 yards, same as Kap) but he kills you with the short stuff- which is why I think we’re better covering and disguising our look pre-snap than going after him. If Aldon and/or Brooks can get him a couple times, fine, but having Goldson and the linebackers put the hits on the checkdown receivers seems a better strategy to me. He can’t run a lick so that’s not a concern.
    On offense, if there was ever a game to turn Kap loose, this is it. Even Mark Sanche has thrown for over 300 yards against them- twice.So My Broken Down Toyota Keys to the Game are hurt their receivers, and bombs away..

  44. unca_chuck says:

    It’s like I’ve been saying. Pressure has to come up the middle. Brady evades pressure from the edges very well. Give him room to step up in the pocket, and he will kill the Niners. Soap needs to get a solid push up front.

    I’d love to see A Smith moved inside on some plays. They will stunt him with J Smith, but they should line him up inside to gain a mismatch. Move him around more. Send P Willie on some blitzes up the middle. Not all the time, just judisciously.

  45. unca_chuck says:

    New thread is up . . .

    I said new thread is up . . .

    • Del Mar Dennis says:

      Thank you Foghorn Leghorn. I always pay attention to your new thread alerts. Pay attention, that is…

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