San Francisco 49ers (0-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)
Kickoff at 10:00 am (PST)
Mike Johnson and the 49ers offense:
There is only so much new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson can change in the offense three games into the season. What he can do is use all of the weapons, especially at running back, to make the defense account for everyone on offense and not just Frank Gore and Vernon Davis. If Johnson unitizes all the players on offense his two games of play calling experience should not matter. Johnson’s competiveness and energy will go a long way the offensive players whom he needs to buy into his version of Jimmy Raye’s offense. The quick fix to making the offense efficient is to get away from the check downs to the running backs. It is great that Gore has 22 receptions but him being the team leader in receptions is bad. That means the defense is making Alex Smith check down early and taking away the downfield pass. Spread out the offense and make the defense play the whole field and not just look for the pass to the running back.
49ers three running backs:
All last season and this season I have been calling for all of the 49ers running backs to be involved in the offense. With emergence of rookie Anthony Dixon in the preseason and the addition of Brian Westbrook I figured Raye would inject all three into the offense with Gore being the main running back. Gore being the only running back seeing action clearly has not worked. For Gore’s sustainability and to avoid injuries all three running backs need to be used. If Gore does go down it will be harder to have success with your backups if they don’t see action on the field. In Raye’s offense in three weeks the only time we saw Westbrook or Dixon the play would go to them. I am sure the defense played the running backs knowing the play was being called for the RB.
Atlanta’s big three:
Quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Roddy White and running back Michael Turner make up the Falcons big three. All three are NFL studs and each week gives the opponents defense hell. The 49ers know about this very well after their embarrassing loss to the Falcons last season. The thing is that game was at Candlestick and this Sunday Ryan, White and Turner will be playing on their home turf in the loud Georgia Dome. You can’t take away what the Falcons did to the Saints last week. The 49ers came within striking distance of defeating the Super Bowl champs but where the 49ers failed the Falcons succeeded. The Falcons will be riding high on confidence and will try to top the 31 points put up against the 49ers in their two road losses this season. The big three are fully capable of accomplishing that.
Smith is partially to blame for the offensive woes. Others to blame is a young offensive line that is not providing more time for deep passes, a former offensive coordinator afraid to go for the big play and to go against Singletary’s vision of running on ever play and Michael Crabtree who is showing that you cannot miss all of training camp and think you can be successful in the offense. It is no coincidence that wide receivers Dominic Zeigler and Josh Morgan combined have caught more passes than Crabtree. They both played in all of the preseason games and have translated that somewhat successfully to the regular season. I say somewhat because there is not much going on successfully with the offense this season. Any other player like Crabtree would be benched but he has so much guaranteed money in his contract the 49ers are forced to start him. All of this makes Smith look worse on top of how he plays and the mistakes he makes. One recommendation is Smith should stop throwing to Crabtree until he proves he can catch a football without it ending up in the defender hands. This will be a tough test for Smith against Falcons. But he has to show this week that he can run the offense and score on the road. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before we see David Carr.
49ers defense on the road:
No matter how bad the 49ers have been the last couple of seasons the defense was always the shining star on the team, outside of Gore. This year the defense was supposed to be one of the best in the NFL. Instead the only thing they have to be proud of is they shut down Drew Brees and the Saints offense except for the last minute of the game. Put that same defense on the road and the wheels fall off. Big plays get the fans excited and the 49ers defense is good at doing that. In both road games the 49ers have given up 31 points to mediocre offenses. The Falcons offense is anything but mediocre. They were able to score 45 points on the defense last season and White scorched the 49ers secondary. The 49ers offense can play as well as they want to but if the defense plays like it has been on the road the offense won’t matter. To make matter worse safety Michael Lewis is not with the team for personal reasons and may not play Sunday. Rookie backup Taylor Mays could get his first career start with other safety Reggie Smith seeing plenty of action.
The last three weeks I have picked the 49ers to win and I have been wrong. This week I hope to be wrong again. The 49ers will lose 26-16 against the Falcons. Both the 49ers offense and defense will play well but in the fourth quarter when they need a big play the Falcons will stop them and pull away with the win.
Topics: 49ers, 49ers 2010, 49ers 2010 Season, 49ers Lose Third Straight Game, 49ers Vs. Falcons: 5 Things To Watch Out For, 49ers Week 4, Alex Smith, Fire Jimmy Raye, Frank Gore, Jimmy Raye, Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers, Vernon Davis