In the Week 5 contest against the Houston Texans, the success of the San Francisco 49ers run defense will be influential in the outcome of the game. The Texans have amassed 537 rushing yards this season.
The task is the toughest of the season so far for San Francisco’s run defense. Houston is one of two teams who have two different running backs with over 200 rushing yards. Arian Foster has led the way with 292 rushing yards, while Ben Tate is right behind him with a total of 228 rushing yards. It’s easier said than done, but if the Niners can contain Forster and Tate, they will be able to pull out their third win of the season.
One of the reasons the Texans are so good at running the football, besides the talents of Foster and Tate, is because of the zone-blocking scheme they utilize on offense. This is similar to how the Seattle Seahawks attack the Niners defense when the two rivals go head-to-head. With the Niners defense having limited success at stopping Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s zone-blocking schemes, Sunday will present a challenge for San Francisco. Defensive tackle Justin Smith knows it won’t be easy stopping Houston’s rushing attack:
They’re [Houston] pretty similar to what Seattle tries to do. They’re stretch-cut, get you running one way, chop a guy down and bring (the running) back out the other way. They post guys up so that the backside guy can cut (the d-lineman). You watch tape and there are a lot of guys on the ground.
And you feel it in the game: biting your ankles and rolling up on ‘em.
It’s going to be important for us up front to stay on our blocks, keep our feet out of that stuff, stay up so there’s no cut-back lanes and tackle these two running backs. They got two really good ones.
Smith is right. Let’s not forget nose tackle Ian Williams went down for the season because of an ankle injury he suffered after a chop block against Seattle. There was no penalty on the play, but regardless if there was, the Niners lost Williams for the season.
Stopping the Texans running game is just half the battle for the Niners defense. Equally as difficult for San Francisco will be limiting the damage done by the dynamic dual of QB Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson.
The Niners D cannot become susceptible to play-action, so the safeties will counted on heavily in the game. Donte Hitner and Eric Reid will be the final defenders against the run and will have to make sure Johnson and his fellow receivers don’t get behind them for big receptions.
A couple of things the Niners defense has going for them is Johnson has played hurt the last two games and he has been limited at practice this week. He is fighting through a shin bruise, but he still managed to put up 110 receiving yards on nine catches last week. His status is still unknown for Sunday’s game.
Schaub has thrown a pick-6 in the last three games. And two of the last three games the Texans have played were at home. None was more costly than last week’s pick-6 that tied the game late in the fourth quarter. The Texans would go on to lose in overtime.
Pressure on Schaub will be key for the Niners defense. The less time he has to throw, the more unbalanced the offense becomes, which will lead to forced turnovers.