Anyone with any insight into the X's and O's of this game feel free to chime in. It's the biggest game of the season so far. Few of us picked this as a win going into the season. But few of us counted the Hawks out of it either. I thought if we could split with the Niners we had a good shot at taking the division. That was before the loss to the Rams. Splitting with the Niners might not be enough. We can't go 0-3 vs the division.
So that said, here's what I know about the Niners recent history: MYTH: the Giants exposed the Niners by shutting down their running game and making Alex Smith carry the team. Smith promptly threw 3 INTS in the second half and the rout was on. REALITY: the Niners rushing attack was just fine. They didn't get any yards rushing because after Smith went INT happy in the 3rd Qtr. the Niners had to abandon the run. 4.7ypc is not being stifled. 17 carries, however, is a team that is playing catch up. The Giants crushed the Niners because the Giants were able to sack the QB 6 times. Constant unrelenting pressure screwed with Smiths rythym (I give up, I can never remember how to spell rhythm). But in the first half, the game was still close. The Niners missed two FG's in the first half. Halftime score should have been 10-9 Giants.
Second half, however, the Giants take the opening kick down and score a TD. An INT gives them the ball at SF 12 and they get a FG. Then an INT gives them the ball at SF 5 but the Niners D still holds them to a FG. So suddenly, 7 minutes have passed and the score is 23 to 3. goodbye rushing attack. What did Alex Smith do? He went deep to Moss.
Yet, inexplicably, HarharBAH! then sends in Kaerpernick. For one play. He gets sacked for 11 yards and drive stalls. Don't convert on 4th down and walk away with no score.
From that point on it's rotating QB's. Smith finishes with a 24.8 QB rating. This after Smith had dismantled the Bills the week before. The week before THAT Smith barely had to throw the ball because they ran it 44 times in a 35-0 rout of the Jets. So it's not like SF has a QB controversy. They may have oline protection issues however. Smith doesn't play well when under pressure. Imagine that. Who knew?
Obviously, we should try to establish a good pass rush on Smith and keep him under pressure. Unlike Brady, who would have owned us had we blitzed, Smith will turn the ball over if he's harrassed enough. On the flip side, we cannot move ET up to blitz because Moss and Manningham are deep threats and ET needs to stay in center field to keep a lid on it. that means we will continue to get hit with the short passing game. That's fine, because once the Niners get into the red zone ET comes forward and suddenly there is no one to throw it to. Brady turned the ball over 2 times. Should have been 5. Smith will get eaten at the end of those long drives.
If I'm the Niners, I give the ball to Gore. This is where the game will be decided. Nobody runs on us. But Gore and this SF rushing attack isn't nobody. This is the true test of our front 7, much like the Pats tested our secondary. We stopped them last year, we'll stop them this year IMO. That means the Niners will probably be kicking ton o' field goals.
On the flip side, the Niners will do to us what we do to everyone else: hold us to FG's. Here's where we have the advantage. The Niners haven't been able to mount much of a pass rush all season. Wilson will find the open receivers. Additionally, while their rushing defense has been stout, they've only faced two top 10 rushing attacks and against Buffalo they gave up 4.7 ypc until they got so far ahead the Bills abandoned the run. Against the Giants they gave up a 100+ yd rusher in Bradshaw. Lynch can run against this team.
This game comes down to which side can rush against the other and whether or not we can bring a pass rush against Smith. I think neither team will be able to run the ball, but if one team does, it will be the Hawks. We've never shown we can be run against. The Niners have. As for pressure on the QB, the Niners aren't bringing it, but the Seahawks will, I'm certain of it. Expect Pete to draw up all kinds of blitz packages to keep Smith rattled. If we can force him to make mistakes, we win the FG battle.
I'm taking the Hawks to win this one ugly. 16-12.