This Sunday in London, the San Francisco 49ers will face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second game of the NFL’s two-game International Series this season.
The Niners are riding high after their win against the Titans, where the run game controlled the pace of the game beginning to end.
Unfortunately, the Jags’ pass defense is likely better than it’s looked and a good day for them will mean a long day for the 49ers pass-catchers.
Everyone knows the term “trap game” and I’m fairly hesitant to call this game a trap game. Trap games usually insinuate there’s a chance the underdog team might win the game; either by a team with momentum or a team looking to change it. The Jaguars are winless this season and sometimes all it takes is that one win. I just don’t realistically see it being against the 49ers this weekend. With that in mind, here are the four keys for the 49ers to take care of business this weekend.
1. Run, run, run the ball …
… Not so gently up the
stream field. The 49ers’ offensive success this year has largely been on the back of its offensive line and the running game. There’s no reason to change this working equation. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are making the ground game work fantastically against just about any opponent. The only real hiccup was the Seahawks, who have a stout defense and who the Niners played during Seattle’s successful attempt at becoming the loudest outdoor sports stadium crowd.
2. Keep it simple
It’s very easy to look at the 49ers’ formations and adjustments prior to the snap and think they might be too “cute.” I don’t subscribe to this train of thought. I really feel like all of them are done for very specific reasons. These coaches are not unintelligent or unimaginative and that’s fantastic. But keeping that in mind, I don’t feel like much more than the simplest of game plans should be needed for this game. Which leads into …
3. Sustained Solid Defensive Play
Through seven weeks, the 49ers have proven yet again that their defense is going to be a problem for opposing offensive schemes. With solid (or better) players at every position, we can expect this aspect of the game plan to stay the same. With solid linebackers and a secondary playing surprisingly well, the only area of concern is a banged up defensive line. History tells us that this shouldn’t be much of a problem though. After all, Justin Smith is still one of the beasts of the NFL. This should lead to a very long day for the Jags’ O-line.
4. Special Teams Play
What? Special teams as a key to a win? Yep, that’s right. Special teams. On some days, games can be lost just as easily as won due to the play of the special teams. Special teams play has fallen sort of flat over the last two seasons. This isn’t to say it’s been bad; we’ve just been accustomed to watching much more solid play during the moments between offense and defense. Positive yards on returns will go a long way to making our offensive drives less excruciating.
Barring any unfortunate accidents, the game shouldn’t be terrible to watch if you’re a Niner fan, and hopefully it can be possible for players and coaching staff to return to their roots; get back to basics as it were. I feel this is important, because clearly it’s working for the 49ers. And, if it ain’t broke; we certainly don’t want anyone to try fixing it.