Game Preview: 49ers at Chargers, HEY IT'S ALMOST GAME DAY

"Yes, everything is going according to plan." (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Sorry, got excited there for a moment. Did you know that two days from today is game day? And that, if the Chargers win, there's still a very meaningful game to be played on Sunday to entertain us all? This has the potential to be one of the most entertaining weeks of the season for San Diego.

Anyways, onto the "Chargers on Defense" part of the preview.

 

49ers Running the Ball

  • 18th in Yards/Game (108.5). Last Week: 95 rushing yards
  • 15th in Yards/Carry (4.2). Last Week: 3.5 Yards/Carry
  • 27th in Rush TDs (7). Last Week: 0 rushing TDs
  • 12th in Runs for 1st downs (22.4%).
  • 21st in Runs for 20+ Yards (7).
  • 11th in Fumbles (5).
Don't be fooled by the big win against the Seahawks, the 49ers' offense still blows. You know what I keep hearing this week? "I'm terrified of Brian Westbrook. He's running like the Brian Westbrook of old." Ummm, I'm sorry, it's going to take more than a big game against an Arizona Cardinals team that quit playing in training camp to convince me that Westbrook is back to his old form.

Since his big game against the Cardinals (23 carries for 136 yards and 1 TD), Westbrook has put up some pretty crappy games against the Packers (9 carries, 31 yards) and the Seahawks (9 carries, 23 yards). This is still the same running game that will occasionally make you say "I wonder why Frank Gore can't stay healthy, because he's pretty good", but will otherwise not impress. The good news for Charger fans is that Gore is on Injured Reserve for the rest of the 2010 season.

 

Chargers Stopping the Run

  • 4th in Yards/Game allowed (91.6), up from 5th last week.
  • 4th in Yards/Carry allowed (3.7), up from 5th last week.
  • 17th in Rush TDs allowed (11), up from 21st last week.
  • 5th in Runs for 1st downs against (19.6%), up from 6th last week.
  • 4th in Runs for 20+ Yards allowed (5), same as last week.
  • 32nd in Fumbles recovered (1), same as last week. They'd go down if they could though.

In 13 games this season, the Chargers' opponents have run for more than 100 yards 5 times and for more than 200 yards just once. More than half of the time, the Chargers are forcing teams to try and move the ball downfield by attacking a secondary that could easily be described as the strength of the defense. 

Maybe this is some over-confidence on my part, but I do not see the 49ers doing much (and especially not dominating the way the Raiders did) on the ground against a Chargers defensive line that look proud and angry against the Chiefs.

 

Advantage: Chargers. 

 

49ers Throwing the Ball

  • 19th in Yards/Game (209.0). Last Week: 255 passing yards
  • 14th in Yards/Attempt (7.1). Last Week: 6.0 yards per pass attempt
  • 24th in TDs (16). Last Week: 3 passing TDs (Alex Smith) 
  • 29th in Passes for 1st down (29.9%)
  • 12th in Passes for 20+ yards (40)
  • 23rd in Sacks taken (32) Last Week: 2 sacks allowed
  • 16th in Interceptions thrown (13) Last Week: 0 interceptions

The 49ers season has been the tale of the unstable QB position. Alex Smith or Troy Smith? Who is better, and is either worth the label of "Franchise QB"? Alex is more like the poor man's Matt Cassel (sans Charlie Weis). He's athletically gifted, but as a thrower he's not going to do much more than make the safe 5-7 yard passes and hope that his receivers (and the play-call) are good enough to do something after that. Troy Smith has a bigger gun and a style that lends itself more to downfield passes, which means a lower completion percentage and typically more interceptions, that seems better at showing off the skills of guys like Vernon Davis.

In both QBs, there are obvious Pros and Cons, but this week the Chargers will face Alex Smith and therefore will have their focus on containing those short-passes to keep the receivers from reaching the first down marker.

 

Chargers Defending the Pass

  • 1st in Yards/Game allowed (173.4), same as last week.
  • 1st in Yards/Attempt (6.2), up from 2nd last week.
  • 3rd in TDs allowed (12), up from 4th last week.
  • 3rd in Passes for 1st downs allowed (30.3%), up from 5th last week.
  • 1st in Passes for 20+ yards allowed (28), same as last week.
  • 3rd in Sacks (38), up from 6th last week.
  • 15th in Interceptions (13), down from 12th last week.
As the weeks go by, the answer to the question of "How is Ron Rivera getting this defense to play so well this year?" is becoming more clear. The secondary, which is made up of Quentin Jammer, Antoine Cason, Eric Weddle and rotating spare parts, is really good. Both CBs can seemingly cover any WR in the league one-on-one (evidence by their blanketing of Dwayne Bowe last week), all three Safeties that play seem to play the run very well and coverage the deep ball even better, and even the guys filling in at Nickel CB are having a great time knocking away passes and hitting the WRs in front of them hard when the ball is caught.

Simply put, Ron Rivera is trusting the secondary more and taking more chance (this explains the great sack figures for the team). He knows that they are good enough to handle any situation he puts them in, and so he spends most of his time devising ways to get pressure in the face of opposing QBs so that they never quite feel comfortable going up against the Chargers. Pair that with an uncertain QB situation and, unless it's Jason Campbell under center, you have a good situation for the Chargers defense.


Advantage: Chargers.
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