The San Francisco 49ers hit a road bump last week, encountering their first loss of the season to the Minnesota Vikings. However, Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense deserve a lot of credit for making the crucial play in key situations. The instant David Akers kicked off, Minnesota showed that they were not intimated by the Niners' physical, hard-hitting defense. On the other hand, the Vikings defense forced three turnovers and made Alex Smith uncomfortable the entire game. At this point, the Niners can only learn from their mistakes and turn their focus toward the New York Jets.
Perhaps the biggest storyline entering this Week 4 matchup is the loss of star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who tore his ACL in the Jets' win against the Miami Dolphins. With Revis gone, Smith now has the option of attacking the whole field. Antonio Cromartie is a talented corner, but does not have the shutdown ability of Revis.
New York ranks 28th in run defense and without their All-Pro corner, their 11th-ranked pass defense will likely suffer as well. There is even talks of running back Joe McKnight playing some snaps at cornerback. Either Jets head coach Rex Ryan sees something in him, or is simply desperate for answers. For the first time, a Ryan-led defense is looking vulnerable.
Without Revis, Smith and his receivers could afford to take some pressure off of Frank Gore. The Niners can choose to remain balanced on offense, but with the Jets' secondary going through a transitional period, Smith and his coaching staff should make an effort to attack their inexperienced corners. Revis' replacement, Kyle Wilson was inconsistent as a slot corner, but has shown steady improvement this season. Conversely, backups Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant lack experience, and the McKnight experiment is a great unknown. With the speed of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Vernon Davis at his disposal, the onus will be on Smith to use his weapons and take advantage of the young secondary.
The Jets traded a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick for the infamous Tim Tebow during the offseason, but have yet to use him extensively. Tebow brings an added dimension to the rushing attack with his ability to throw or plow through defensive linemen for those tough yards. Even though he has not seen much action in the Jets offense, San Francisco's defense must be on the lookout for any trick plays involving the former Florida Gator.
Much like the Niners, the Jets have placed an emphasis on being a physical team that prides itself in running the ball. Along with Tebow, starting running back Shonn Greene is tough to bring down, but does not have the quickness to elude defenders. If Justin Smith and the defensive line keep them contained, the Niners will be placed in a favorable situation to stop their drives. Forcing Mark Sanchez into predictable pass plays should disrupt their offensive rhythm.
San Francisco hopes to get back to their winning ways on Sunday afternoon, but this matchup won't necessarily be a cakewalk. It is easy to gloss over the Jets' shortcomings on both sides of the ball, but the Niners cannot afford to get caught up in statistics. Also, the Niners are just 6-18 since 2004 when playing in the Eastern time zone. Hopefully their stay in Youngstown, Ohio over the past several days serve them well. If Jim Harbaugh can get his troops to play with a sense of urgency and discipline, there is no reason why they can't pull off a much-needed win in the Big Apple.
Travis Chan is a longtime fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Giants and Golden State Warriors. He is also a contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Travischan1.
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