The San Francisco 49ers are set to face off against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Initially, the focus was on Luck going against his former head coach Jim Harbaugh. That remains a key story line, but things have changed with the Indianapolis Colts acquiring Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a first round pick in 2014.
Vic Fangio and the 49ers defensive staff have been vocal about how important it is to stop Luck and the Colts passing attack. That will still be important, but Richardson is a running back that will fit in well with Chuck Pagano’s desire to run the ball between the tackles.
Having Richardson as the running back is definitely an upgrade for the Colts. Fangio hinted at the idea that the Colts may run the ball a bit more.
“I don’t think they’ll be different at all,” he said. “They just may hand it off more than they have been. It’s more reason for them to have balance in their offense which is something I think they want to do anyway. Should be a seamless transition for him. They should be able to teach him a good bit of the running game. This guy is ready to go. I expect him to play a bunch on Sunday.”
The coaching staff had to go right to work on getting familiar with Richardson and how he likes to run the ball. This will be another test against a bigger back. The 49ers have faced Eddie Lacy and Marshawn Lynch so far this season. Fangio is one of the most prepared defensive coordinators in the NFL and he didn’t waste any time getting his scouting report done on Richardson.
“We went in and put tape together of him running the ball in Cleveland over the last year and two games,” said Fangio. “Watched him and got acclimated to him running and showed it to the players today. He’s bigger, a bigger version of Vic Ballard and faster too. He’s strong, fast. Has a good stiff arm. A move the pile kind of guy. Has some shiftiness too where he can bounce it inside or outside. He’s comfortable running it inside or outside. They’ve tossed it to him a few times in Cleveland, they have a similar play in Indianapolis. They have a similar running game in both places.”
There shouldn’t be any radical changes to the Colts rushing attack as far as the scheme is concerned. They already looked to work some inside runs and that will surely continue with Richardson at running back. He is a powerful running back but the good thing is that he is not a breakaway runner. That is shown by him not yet having a running play over 20 yards as a pro.
“I don’t think they’ll be different at all,” Fangio continued. “They just may hand it off more than they have been. It’s more reason for them to have balance in their offense which is something I think they want to do anyway. Should be a seamless transition for him. They should be able to teach him a good bit of the running game. This guy is ready to go. I expect him to play a bunch on Sunday. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him play half of the game or 90% of the game.”
The Colts will look to take advantage of their new feature back. Giving up a first round pick for him may not have been the best option but they’ll be looking to justify bringing Richardson in right away. The problem is that the 49ers defense is able to contain pretty much any running back.
The 49ers are aware of this and they will need to be able to stop the run out of their nickel formation. The Colts will want to get the offense rolling. Luck will be itching to distribute the ball to his wide receivers. That will call for the 49ers to remain in the nickel package.
This game has multiple story lines. Some will focus on the acquisition of Richardson, but there is no way that takes over as the main topic for conversation. Andrew Luck coming back to the Bay Area will be a leading story for most football fans.