San Francisco 49ers (5-8) vs. San Diego Chargers (7-6)
Kickoff: 5:20 PM (PST)
Success of Alex Smith:
Alex Smith not only regained the starting role at quarterback last week but also regained his confidence. With a full playbook at his disposal offensive coordinator Mike Johnson called plays last week that Smith was comfortable with. Those plays included what Smith is most known for which is short passes and checkdown’s. That worked against the Seahawks but against the Chargers Johnson and Smith will need to take chances down the field with the long pass. Smith has made his most crucial mistakes this season trying to throw the deep pass so it is hard to believe he will be any different than from earlier in the season. But if the 49ers want to beat the Chargers some long passing plays and scores will be needed.
49ers Pass Defense:
The 49ers defense will be able to control the Chargers running game but stopping Phillip Rivers and his high powered passing offense is a whole another story. Rivers will complete his deep throws so the 49ers secondary need to make sure they contain the yards after the catch of Charger receivers. Tight end Antonio Gates will present matchup problems for the 49ers linebackers. Brining up someone from the secondary to cover Gates may not be wise as the 49ers safeties will need to stay deep in coverage to make sure the Chargers speedy receivers don’t get behind them.
Yards after the catch: The 49ers won big against the Seahawks thanks to 201 yards after the catch by the receivers and running backs. If the 49ers can duplicate half of those yards they will stay in the game until the end and have a chance to win. It will be tough though as the Chargers have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL.
Chargers in December:
Anytime a team faces off against the Chargers in December with Norv Turner as the head coach a lot is made of how well they play in the month. Rightfully so, the Chargers are 14-1 in December. Combine this with the Chargers playing at home in the middle of a division race equals a tall hill to climb for a 49ers victory.
The 49ers players and coaches like to talk about still being alive in the playoffs and they know a loss in the final three games could shut the door on that opportunity. The 49ers need to come out with playoff intensity if they want to beat the Chargers. Players on the 49ers don’t care what their record is or what people like me say even if they make the playoffs which is they won’t be able to compete with the higher caliber playoff teams. The 49ers know if they win they are still in. In the most important game of the season I hope the players can bring the intensity needed because there is no room for error. If the 49ers beat the Chargers they are for real.