The San Francisco 49ers will be coming off of a convincing win last Thursday night against the St. Louis Rams. They are 8-1 under Jim Harbaugh in games that came off of an extended period of rest. The Houston Texans come into Candlestick Park off of a crushing home loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Texans have the NFL’s top defense in total yards per game (252.2yds) and passing yards allowed per game (141yds). Their defense will present a huge challenge for Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense. Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt will lead the defense into the Bay area for a showdown on Sunday Night Football.
Russell Wilson was able to find success scrambling in the fourth quarter after Cushing went down with a concussion. Before Cushing went out in the third quarter, the defense was able to hold Wilson to just three yards on three carries and Lynch to 59 yards and no score. Marshawn Lynch was able to gain 98 yards and scored a touchdown late in the game. The Seahawks were able to tie the game up when Richard Sherman stepped in front of a pass by Matt Schaub and took it back for the game tying touchdown.
Schaub made 49 pass attempts against one of the best secondaries in the NFL. They also able to get their running game going as Arian Foster rushed for 102 yards and Ben Tate had 44 yards as well. Andre Johnson contributed 102 yards on nine receptions as well. The problem was that the Texans could not score any points after jumping out to a 20 – 3 lead in the first half.
The 49ers were also able to get Frank Gore going as they returned to their identity. They were successfully running the inside run plays that this tough offense excels at. Anquan Boldin was able to get the best of Cortland Finegan by making two big plays including a 20 yard touchdown.
These two teams are very similar in that they rely on play action to get their passing game going. Both of these teams have elite running backs and very good alternates in Kendall Hunter and Tate. The Texans use a more traditional play action pass. A lot of the play action by the 49ers comes out of unique formations using 22 personnel. No teams uses 22 personnel more than the 49ers at 29%.
The key to this game will be who can win the battle of turnovers. A key turnover will end up costing one of these teams the game. The turnover differential battle is one that Houston and San Francisco are losing, both near the bottom of the league at minus-four. The Texans and 49ers each are in desperate need of the big plays that they are giving up to opponents.
The Texans have a top notch offense that can hurt defenses both on the ground and in the air. Owen Daniels is still a very effective player and will draw the attention of Navorro Bowman or Eric Reid when the 49ers go to man defense. Daniels is very good at working the middle of the field while Andre Johnson is still a threat to most defenses. DeAndre Hopkins is another player that the Texans will use in the passing game.
This will be a very tough game for the 49ers and they have to continue to rely on the running game to set the tone. If they can run the ball effectively, they wil be able to slip in a few play action passes to Vernon Davis on corner routes or on seams routes for a big gain. Vance McDonald is another player that will get some targets in the 49ers two tight end packages.
Ed Reed vs Colin Kaepernick Reed intercepted Kaepernick in the Super Bowl when a pass sailed on him. He is a gambler in the secondary and likes to jump routes. He will rely on J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith and Whitney Mercilus to pressure Kaepernick into making an errant pass. Reed will also provide solid coverage against Vernon Davis, one of Kaepernick’s favorite targets. The 49ers should use some hard double moves to take advantage of Reed’s risk taking. A big play can result if Reed bites on the double move and Kaepernick has time to execute the play.
Brian Cushing vs the read option Russell Wilson struggled moving the ball when Cushing was in the game. The Texans often used him as a spy on Wilson. It was no coincidence that things took a turn for the better after Cushing went out. He will again be used as a spy but this time against Kaepernick.
J.J. Watt vs 49ers offensive line Watt is the best defensive player in the NFL. He is equally effective against the run as he is against the pass. He has an uncanny ability to bat balls down at the line of scrimmage. It will be important for the offensive line to make sure that Kaepernick has enough time to work through his reads and thrown the ball. Watt will be looking to get into the 49ers backfield and be a disruptive force.
Frank Gore vs the Texans rush defense The 49ers have been 9-0 since 2011 whenever Frank Gore rushes for over 100 yards in a regular season game. They will look to get their catalyst going early in this game. The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and will need to rely on them to pave the way for the running game. Gore played like a man on a mission against the Rams and will need that same hard running in order to be successful against the Texans.
Matt Schaub vs the 49ers secondary Schaub has thrown an interception for a touchdown in his last three games. The 49ers defense will need to continue the consecutive streak when they play. The Texans use a good amount of play action passes and Schaub is very familiar with how to the team does it. He passed for a pretty remarkable 355 yards passing last week.
This will mark the third time that these two teams have met. Each team has one a game in this series.
The Texans have been outscored 33-0 in second half/overtime losses this season.
Brian Cushing suffered a concussion against the Seahawks but was cleared to play this week.
The 49ers have the fourth ranked defense in total yards allowed per game (299.8 yds) and third ranked defense against the pass (190.5 yds per game).
The Texans are averaging 32 minutes per game (4th) in time of possession while the 49ers are only averaging 29 minutes per game (19th).
Tremain Brock will be the nickel cornerback, surpassing Nnamdi Asomugha on the depth chart after a solid game against the Rams. He will play right cornerback while Carlos Rogers moves inside to cover the slot receivers.
This will be the first game in which we see Donte Hitner which is the new name that Donte Whitner legally changed to.
Farewell to Candlestick will celebrate moment #6 by looking back on the 49ers comeback win against the New Orleans Saints in over time after being down by 28 points. They won the game 38-35 after scoring four straight touchdowns and Ray Wersching kicked a 36 yard field goal.
Here is your injury report:
G Brandon Brooks (DNP) Toe
ILB Tim Dobbins (DNP) Hamstring
T Duane Brown (Limited) Toe
WR Andre Johnson (Limited) Shin
OLB Bryan Braman (Full) Hamstring/Shoulder
ILB Brian Cushing (Full) Concussion
TE Owen Daniels (Limited) Knee
RB Arian Foster (Full) Thumb/Back
TE Garrett Graham (Full) Hip/Groin
FB Greg Jones (Limited) Foot/Groin
CB Johnathan Joseph (Full) Non-Injury/Rest*
CB Brice McCain (Full) Knee
C Chris Myers (Full) Biceps
T Derek Newton (Full) Knee
S Eddie Pleasant (Full) Hamstring
WR DeVier Posey (Full) Achilles
S Ed Reed (Limited) Hip/Abdomen
ILB Darryl Sharpton (Limited) Foot/Hip
G Wade Smith (Limited) Knee
RB Ben Tate (Full) Shoulder
DE J.J. Watt (Full) Groin/Nose
WR Quinton Patton (DNP) Foot
CB Nnamdi Asomugha (Limited) Knee
T Anthony Davis (Limited) Shoulder
TE Vernon Davis (Limited) Hamstring
DT Ray McDonald (Limited) Ankle/Ankle
RB Bruce Miller (Limited) Quadricep
CB Carlos Rogers (Limited) Knee
DT Justin Smith (Limited) Shoulder
LB Patrick Willis (Limited) Groin
TE Demarcus Dobbs (Full) Calf
G Mike Iupati (Full) Shoulder
T Joe Staley (Full) Hamstring/Ankle
WR Kyle Williams (Full) Knee
This game is well deserving of being a prime time game in week five. Some feel that this is a Super Bowl preview. At this point, both teams at 2-2 are still capable of getting hot at the right time. The next four games will offer a very good opportunity for the 49ers to get back on track and go into the bye week with a winning record. Step one comes on Sunday Night. Be sure to tune into this clash of AFC and NFC contenders.