Instead of doing the usual 5 questions that I ask the blogger of the Saints upcoming opponent, we are mixing it up a bit. Below you will find a little 49ers preview by Fooch of Niners Nation. Following that, the floor is open for all of your questions about the 49ers and this Sundays game against them. Fooch will then check in periodically and answer them. So fire away and give Fooch your best question or two or eight. Don't be shy. Of course I am doing the same thing over at Niners Nation, so be sure to check that out and feel free to add your own points to my answers over there.
Hey folks, this is Fooch from over at Niners Nation, the SB Nation 49ers blog. Your boy Saintsational and I decided to try out something different for inter-blog interaction. First I'll give you an offensive and defensive preview of the 49ers going into Sunday. After that, you guys can post questions you may have about the 49ers down in the comments. I'll then go through and answer all the questions. Also, I'm thinking I'll link to this over at Niners Nation and have my readers come over and answer questions if they think they have some more info on a given topic. All as respectful as possible of course, with maybe a slight bit of smack talk, but nothing too ridiculous.
The primary story for the 49ers has been the emergence of J.T. O'Sullivan. He has put together a solid start, currently ranking fourth in the league in passer rating. The way I like to put it, in regards to the 49ers offense is that they're clearly improved from last year, but we're still not sure how good they are. They put together 30+ point efforts in back-to-back games for the first time since 2003, but it came against a crappy Lions squad and a banged up Seahawks team.
The engine that makes this offense go is Frank Gore. He leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage thanks to his continued involvement in the passing game, combined with his running style that mixes slash and burn with a little smash-mouth. Gore slimmed down a little bit so he could take on a bigger load of the offense and the slimmer Gore can be seen slicing and dicing through some pretty small holes.
How do you stop the 49ers newly found offense? First and foremost, bring a lot of pressure. O'Sullivan was sacked 12 times in the first two games. If you bring pressure, a combination of JTO holding onto the ball too long and the offensive line struggling in pass protection could be enough. I'd say stop Frank Gore, but the only time he's been slowed down was poor running blocking against Seattle.
The 49ers have spent a sizable chunk of changing in bringing in guys like Justin Smith and Nate Clements over the past two seasons. Bring in a young stuf like Patrick Willis and you've got a recipe for success. The 49ers defense is showing continued signs of improvement as they develop chemistry. Smith does not have a ton of numbers in the stat book, but on Sunday you'll see him all over the field making plays. He has filled in at six of the seven DL and LB positions (everything except Patrick Willis' mike position) and if the last three games are a sign, he'll probably strip a pass, force the QB into a sack and be an all around terror.
The secondary has turned into a strength, although they placed a key member on the IR earlier today. Shawntae Spencer was the nickel back before blowing out his knee against Seattle. His injury means more playing time for second year CB Tarell Brown. Fortunately the 49ers have some very solid depth. Last week Nate Clements, Walt Harris and Brown were lights out in holding Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams and Mike Furrey to a combined 8 catches for 66 yards and no touchdowns.
How do you beat the 49ers defense? Running straight at nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is a start. While Franklin is not exactly under-sized for the 3-4 nose tackle, he seems to lack the strength to take on double teams. Additionally, if Donald Strickland is still hurt Tarell Brown will be in as the #3 cornerback. While he has shown tons of talent, he is still only a second year corner who has not gotten a lot of playing time. I'd be very curious to see how he matches up against a guy like Robert Meachem (if that indeed was the matchup). Thus far the 49ers have been very much inclined to give up the running game in exchange for shutting down the pass. Rudi Johnson averaged 5.9 yards a carry, although much of that came after the Lions were already down two scores.
From my own personal recollections, Reggie Bush has always been a terror against the 49ers averaging 140+ total yards per game. Over at NN I suggested using 2nd year DB Dashon Goldson to shadow Bush all game long, but we'll see if Mike Nolan reads my blog.
So that should give you a brief idea of what the 49ers bring to the table. Fire away with any questions you've got and I'll do my best to answer them. This is a huge game for the 49ers. Up to this point, 49ers fans know the team is clearly not bad. The problem is that we don't really know how good they are yet. The Saints explosive offense provides an interesting test for us.