San Francisco 49ers (3-3) vs. Indianapolis Colts (6-0)
Lucas Oil Stadium
10:00 AM (PST)
On a two game losing streak the struggling 49ers travel to Indianapolis to take one the undefeated Colts this Sunday. The 49ers and new starting quarterback Alex Smith showed promise in the second-half of last week’s loss against the Texans that the 49ers offense is capable of sustaining multiple scoring drives. The 49ers need a win badly but with QB Peyton Manning having another MVP type season and the Colts offense running on all cylinders the prospect of pulling off the upset is steep but if the 49ers come out swinging on both sides of the football a win might be stolen from the Colts.
A sour point in the last two losses has been the defense. The D played better in pressuring Texans QB Matt Schaub than they did against Falcons QB Matt Ryan but the pass coverage has been exposed as the weakest part of the defense. Manning is known to pass the football quickly while getting pressured so the linebackers and secondary will need to a better job of pass coverage than they did against Texans TE Owen Daniels and WR Roddy White as both destroyed the 49ers D in the passing game. The 49ers will need to contain TE Dallas Clark who is second to Daniels in most passing categories for tight ends. WR Reggie Wayne has not practiced this week due to a groin injury. Wayne is expected to play but even if he does not Manning has plenty of other receiving weapons in WR Pierre Garcon, WR Austin Collie and RB Joseph Addai. Speaking of Addai the 49ers should not have a hard time containing him as the D has done a great job so far this season of holding Pro Bowl running backs to under 100 yards rushing a game. The Colts have gone away from the run this year as they rank first in the NFL in passing offense but 27th in rushing offense.
Smith and Crabtree Keys to Upset
With Alex Smith making his first start since 2007 and Michael Crabtree making his second start of his career the chances for an upset look bleak but it is within reach if both players come out and lead the offense to scores early in the game. Manning and the Colts offense will get their touchdowns no matter how well the Niners D plays so the offense needs to have early success to keep up with the Colts. The most important element on Sunday is how offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye will call his plays. It is no secret that 49ers wanted to run the football as much as they could this year but with the horrible play of the offensive line the running game as gone nowhere. Opponents are looking to stop the run as they do not think the 49ers can pass the football. With Smith under center I think Raye should tilt the offensive plays called to have more passes in the spread formation to make Smith more comfortable. Unlike Shaun Hill, Smith has the ability to scramble and avoid the sack which he showed last week against the Texans. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney has seven sacks so far this season and along with Robert Mathis on the left side of the D-line both will put a lot of pressure on Smith. Good thing is that Frenney lines up on the left side of the line so we will counter with left tackle Joe Staley who is one of a few solid players on the 49ers O-line. During the 49ers bye week Smith and Crabtree where at the 49ers training facility working with each other as the other players took the week off. With Smith and Crabtree already building chemistry in the bye week and in the second-half last Sunday I expect a big game from both players. With the Colts D-line flushing Smith out of the pocket and with them most likely blanketing TE Vernon Davis in coverage Smith should find Crabtree on the outside quick routes. After Smith releases the football it will be Crabtree’s job to make the defenders miss to gain yards. Crabtree will get his first career touchdown this weekend and maybe have over 100 yards receiving. This will only happen if Smith plays with confidence and makes good decisions.
49ers 24 Colts 31
The 49ers will surprise people by keeping up with the Colts most of the game but in the end Peyton Manning and the Colts offense will be too much for the 49ers to come back and pull off the upset. Alex Smith will have good game passing for 215 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Frank Gore needs to also have a good game for the 49ers to keep up. It won’t be in the running game but in the passing game where Gore will have his impact. With Smith getting pressured all game he will find his check down receiver as a good option to move the football. Gore will finish with 70 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown and 4 receptions for 55 receiving yards. If Jimmy Raye withholds from calling conservative offensive plays and calls plays that suite Smith’s abilities the 49ers have a chance to win. The Colts though are on a whole another level than the rest of the NFL. They are undefeated for a reason and unfortunately their record will remain that way after Sunday.
Topics: 49ers, 49ers 2009 Season, 49ers Injuries, 49ers Offensive Coordinator, 49ers QB, 49ers Quarterback, Alex Smith, Austin Collie, Colts, Colts 2009 Season, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, Frank Gore, GAMEDAY Week 8: 49ers Vs. Colts, Greg Manusky, Jimmy Raye, Joe Staley, Joseph Addai, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, MCT, Michael Crabtree, Mike Singletary, Patrick Willis, Peyton Manning, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco 49ers (3-3) Vs. Indianapolis Colts (6-0), Shaun Hill, Week 8 Prev, Week 8 Preview