The San Francisco 49ers are coming off their most disappointing game of the season. If you go back to last week’s mid week report I had 3 keys to the game, I don’t want to say I told so, but there really is no way around it.
First thing I led off with was how the Cardinals were able to pass on us late in the game just a few weeks prior. I also stated how Fitzgerald could kill a team and it’s not a matter of shutting him down, but rather limiting the damage. The 49ers couldn’t do either as Larry had 7 catches for 149 yards with a touchdown. John Skelton was able to redeem himself from the week 11 disaster as he threw for nearly 300 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Second thing was offensive play calling. I wanted to see the ground game being the focus of the offense and that didn’t happen. RB Frank Gore was able to rush for 7.2 yards per carry but the team only had 21 rushing attempts. I called for 35, and I also called for only 25 passing plays. Instead we had QB Alex Smith drop back 37 times and complete less than 50% of those attempts. This led to the Niners offense being 3 of 17 on converting 3rd downs; once again this is not a winning formula for this team.
Last and surely not least is the red-zone offense and being held to 3 instead of putting 7 on the board. K David Akers attempted 5 field goals and connected on 4, the only miss was from 50 yards after a challenge midway thru the successful fake field goal was allowed. While we can blame the refs for the 1 blown play, it doesn’t change the missed field goal, or the 60 yard touchdown for Arizona just a play later. The fact is the 49ers had plenty of time to recover from the call, they just didn’t execute.
Keys to this week’s match-up
So looking forward to this week’s matchup I have little to no confidence in us beating the Steelers. Even with Big Ben and center Maurkice Pouncey questionable with high ankle sprains and linebacker James Harrison facing a 1 game suspension I don’t think we can win.
Normally I don’t think blitzing Roethlisberger works, he tends to throw the defender off then find the open WR for a big gain. This week however I think we have a chance to pressure him. If Pouncey gets the start we know he won’t be 100%, so a strong bull rush up the middle should get Ben moving around, something he won’t be able to do as well as normal if he does in fact play. Ben while a tough QB will go down if he is in pain, I’m sure Steelers fans will argue, but they are also the same fans that think he is in the same class of Quarterback as Brady, Brees, or Rodgers.
This week will give the offense a chance at redemption for the loss we suffered to the hands of the Ravens a few weeks ago. In that game we weren’t able to run, pass, or protect QB Alex Smith. The Steelers are built much in the same way as that Ravens team, so this almost works as a rematch without all the brotherly love from the head coaches. I don’t expect to put up 30 points, but I’d like to see 20 on the board with 2 red zone touchdowns. We have had a problem finishing drives and if we can manage to finish 2 against a great defense, ranked 2nd in the league only to ours, it should build confidence leading forward into the playoffs.
For the first time all season we will get to see the Niners play as if their season depended on it. With a bye and the 2 seed on the line in the next 3 weeks, we have to take care of business. We can beat the Saints at home on grass, as we watched this last week the Saints struggle to beat the Titans who had their back-up qb in the game played outdoors, but in a dome we have little to no chance. The Steelers are also desperate for victory as they are 1 of 4 teams with a 10-3 record in the AFC, but if the playoffs would start today they’d be the 5 seed. So with us having to keep pace with the Saints and the Steelers having to keep pace with Baltimore, neither team has room to give. With that said the Niners need 1 quality victory to make them seem legit going into the playoffs. Some would say the Giants victory was that, but it’s hard to believe beating a team 1 game above .500 can be considered a quality victory. This is that week to truly prove it to the whole league that we are not the Kansas City Chiefs of last year.