49ers’ Defensive Game Plan
The Giants have been moderately OK in both run blocking and pass protection — ranked 15th and 12th, respectively, according to Football Outsiders. But according to Pro Football Focus, the Giants offensive line has given up 97 total pressures this year, which is tied with the Cleveland Browns for 11th most.
So it is possible for the 49ers defense to get to quarterback Eli Manning, especially given New York’s preference to pass first (288 pass plays to 241 rushing).
Establish a Strong-Side Pass Rush
The majority of edge pressure comes from the weak side against opponents’ left tackles. And while Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers has been a primary source of blame for New York’s pass-blocking woes, he’s not exactly the worst culprit or vulnerability.
Check out the PFF matchups against San Francisco’s nickel defensive front below:
Granted, the 49ers haven’t had the best success generating outside pressure. But one can see how right tackle Bobby Hart (in place of the veteran, Justin Pugh — back, questionable) is a key player to target.
EDGE Dekoda Watson is the player shown here, although one could see the recently acquired Datone Jones make an impact here as well.
Set the Edge Against Giants Running Back Orleans Darkwa
With wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall out, the Giants have been forced to rely more on their ground attack.
Few probably heard of running back Orleans Darkwa prior to 2017, but he’s quickly making a name for himself in an otherwise forgettable season in New York. Averaging 5.1 yards a carry, he’s already taken over starting duties and might be the only serious weapon the Giants have on offense.
Looking at the All-22 film, Darkwa is primarily a between-the-tackles runner. But the presence of Niners defenders DeForest Buckner and Reuben Foster on the inside may force the Giants to call up more outside runs.
Based off the clip of Darkwa against the Denver Broncos back in Week 6, Darkwa is more than capable of doing this effectively:
This mean two things for the 49ers. First, the front seven has to set the edge. And it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Giants run right at linebacker Brock Coyle, like the Niners may do to Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson.
Equally important will be getting run-support help from the secondary, notably cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. And this wasn’t exactly his strength a year ago in college.