COMMENTARY l After rolling past the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers got trounced by the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers were defeated handily in prime time, but with a new week upon them, the Red and Gold will look to get back on track against the Indianapolis Colts.
This upcoming showdown features a host of young talent, including Andrew Luck returning to the Bay Area where he'll square off against his former Stanford head coach in Jim Harbaugh.
But before the whistle sounds, here are five things that I look to keep my eye on:
How Will the 49ers Respond After a Blowout?
The 49ers suffered their first loss of the season in Seattle. And once again, they lost by a wide margin to their arch rivals up north. So how will San Francisco respond the moment they hit the field at Candlestick? Will the team come out firing on all cylinders, or will they be sluggish after a highly-anticipated Week 2 matchup?
Looking at the numbers, history is on the 49ers' side. Since Harbaugh took the reins as head coach of the 49ers in 2011, his team has yet to lose in back-to-back games.
Establishing the Run Game
Through two games, the 49ers have managed just 3.5 rushing yards per carry and 95 rushing yards per game. Last season, the team averaged 5.4 yards per attempt to go along with 155.7 rushing yards per game. Getting back to their roots of pounding the rock with Frank Gore would be a key factor in defeating the Colts. So far, Indianapolis has yielded 136 rushing yards per contest to opposing rushers while surrendering three touchdowns.
The 49er rushers clearly had difficulty establishing any kind of rhythm in Seattle, as they possess an elite defense, capable of shutting down both the run and pass game. But returning back home against a middle-of-the-pack defense should aid their ground game performance.
Penalties played a major role in the 49ers' loss to the Seahawks. In their defeat, San Francisco committed 12 penalties for 121 yards. No team can expect to commit that many mistakes and expect to win. Even in their win over the Packers, the 49ers had 11 penalties called against them. Give the talent that the 49ers have, just cutting those numbers in half would go a long ways in helping them come out victorious.
Injuries to Key Starters
The 49ers suffered more than a humiliating defeat against the Seahawks on Sunday night. Not only did they lose 29-3, but key members of their offensive and defensive units suffered a host of injuries. Nose tackle Ian Williams is lost for the season with a broken ankle, Eric Reid was concussed in the second quarter, Ray McDonald sprained his ankle and Vernon Davis strained his hamstring.
If Reid and McDonald are limited or sidelined completely, San Francisco may struggle to defend Luck. He has reliable weapons in Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener, but the addition of running back Trent Richardson gives the Colts a hammer in the backfield. They have a well-rounded offense to give opposing defenses headaches.
The 49ers' depth on defense will be tested should they need to turn to their backups.
Offensively, San Francisco needs Davis in the lineup, as he is a capable run blocker and premier target in the passing game. Without him, Kaepernick is left with Anquan Boldin as his only legitimate receiving threat. Backup tight end Vance McDonald excels as a receiver, but he is not on the same level as Davis.
Glenn Dorsey Taking the Spot of Ian Williams
With Williams out for the year, Dorsey will be called upon to become a key cog on defense. The sixth-year pro should see plenty of snaps when he faces off against the Colts offense. Dorsey would not only have to slow down Richardson, but also generate pressure up the middle to disrupt Luck's passing attack.
Travis Chan is a lifelong fan of the San Francisco 49ers. He is currently covering the team on the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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