Sep 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) celebrates with tight end Vernon Davis (85) after a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers vs. Indianapolis Colts: In-Depth Breakdown


This Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers face each other for the 50th time since 1947.

The last time these teams faced each other was in 2009, when Peyton Manning and Alex Smith were the teams’ respective quarterbacks. This time the teams have changed considerably. Back in 2009 Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck were on the same team — at Stanford University in California. Luck was a redshirt freshman in 2009 and was probably preparing to face off against Oregon when the Niners and Colts faced off in Indianapolis.

The Niners are a very different team offensively now. In 2009 they were being coached by Mike Singletary, and were little more than a power-run team pounding out the yards. And Alex Smith was doing his best to grapple with his seventh offensive coordinator.

Since 1998, the Niners have faced the Colts 4 times, splitting the series. Interestingly, the game in 1998 featured Peyton Manning and Steve Young as the starting quarterbacks. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see that now?

Last year, Luck was drafted by the Colts and was instantly installed as their starting QB. He went on to be a heavy contributor in the turnaround 11-5 season that the Colts had, even making it to the playoffs last year.

Let’s look at a comparison of these two teams last year, keeping in mind both were playoff teams, and had very similar records (49ers 11-4-1, Colts 11-5):

Passing 49ers Colts
ATT

436

628

CMP

286

339

YDS

3551

4374

TD

23

23

INT

8

18

SACK

41

41

Rushing
ATT

492

440

YDS

2491

1671

TD

17

11

Receiving
REC

289

339

YDS

3551

4374

TD

23

23

(stats compiled from www.footballdb.com)

Looking at these numbers, there are a ton of similarities. You might worry about the yards Indy threw for, but believe it or not, yards per completion are pretty comparable.

A huge factor however, is that the Niners were able to create a more efficient offense, with the help of one of the best run games around. This meant that the Niners were able to shut down their opponents better, with the help of a very good defense. Just look at these numbers:

Points 49ers Colts
For

397

357

Against

273

375

Differential

124

-18

The Colts won their games last year by an average of six points. Only their games against Jacksonville mid-season and their final game of the season against Houston were won by more than ten. By contrast, the Niners won their games by an average of about seventeen points. Basically, if the Colts can keep their games close throughout, they’re going to be a factor at the end. We learned this last year.

Two games into the regular season, let’s see how the teams stack up.

49ers Colts
Passing
ATT

67

66

CMP

40

43

YDS

539

499

TD

3

3

INT

3

1

SACK

5

7

Rushing
ATT

54

52

YDS

190

260

TD

1

2

Receiving
REC

40

43

YDS

539

499

TD

3

3

(stats compiled from www.footballdb.com)

Again, there are some surprising similarities here. The surprise, two games in, is the rushing yards. On the ground, the 49ers haven’t been nearly as effective as we’re used to seeing. Granted, teams are keying on the running game even more this year than last year, and this is making things very difficult for the 49ers.

I decided to go back and watch the tape, and this is what I found through two games with regards to 49ers designed run plays: 16 were run with the QB under center, while 26 were run out of the shotgun. This is something I’m not much of a fan of seeing from a power run team, regardless of the packages they run it out of (which are many, with everything from two extra offensive linemen to no tight ends).

The 49ers’ biggest issue is going to be getting this aspect of their game plan working again. Averaging only 3.5 yards per carry at this point isn’t going to win you games unless your receivers get free, something all of them struggled mightily to do last Sunday when they were blanketed in Seattle. Getting the run game going should allow the pass game to open back up.

A big thing happened on Wednesday, when in an amazing blockbuster trade, the Browns have traded starting running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick in next year’s draft.

Midseason trades just don’t usually happen, especially ones where a team trades away their starting running back and most valuable offensive player. I can’t even begin to guess why the Browns agreed to this, I just don’t have enough information (The one thing I can tell you is my one friend who is a Browns fan is not happy. To be fair, when it comes to the Browns though, he rarely is. Sorry, Joe.)

But what does this mean for the Colts, and ultimately the matchup? It means the 49ers defense is going to face another tough runner. Nothing to be afraid of, considering they regularly face Marshawn Lynch.

Ultimately, this is going to be another important game for the 49ers, with no shortage of storylines.

Harbaugh goes back in Indy. Harbaugh facing his old quarterback Luck. Ricky Jean-Francois facing his former team. Vernon Davis versus his cousin, Vontae.

Outside of these very personal stories, my take on the most interesting story is going to be “Can and will the 49ers make the necessary adjustments to regain their composure and continue to be a dominant team in the NFL?”

If the past two seasons are any indicator, the quality of coaching and quality of the players are enough to assume so.

Tags: Indianapolis Colts San Francisco 49ers