49ers Mailbag: How will rain impact crucial Week 13 game vs. Ravens?

Matt Maiocco

The NFL schedule-maker did the 49ers no favors this season with back-to-back road games multiple time zones away twice within the team's 16-game regular-season schedule.

When the team buses rolled out of Santa Clara on Friday afternoon en route to the airport, the 49ers packed for a lot longer than just their normal three-day business trip. The 49ers will be on the road for a while.

A question about the reasoning of spending five days in Florida tops this edition of 49ers Mailbag.

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Coach Kyle Shanahan was skeptical when he took the 49ers job in 2017 about the negative effects of West Coast teams traveling East. But after experiencing it, he became convinced it is a huge competitive disadvantage.

So the 49ers will remain East after the game Sunday in Baltimore in order to get ready for their Week 14 game at New Orleans on Dec. 8.

The club will practice next week at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Why not stay again in Youngstown, Ohio?

There are several factors, most notably the weather. Early in the season, the 49ers stayed in Youngstown between their Weeks 1 and 2 games at Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. With the weather in Northeast Ohio being a little, um, unpredictable this time of year, the 49ers decided to go to Florida.

"I think it definitely helped us in Cincinnati," Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan, which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3). "The week was tough at first, but our guys got used to it.

"We still got the challenge on Sunday (at Baltimore). But by the time New Orleans comes, that week, we'll be East Coast people because we'll be used to that time change and nothing will be different for us."

Also, the 49ers want to be able to practice on grass, which takes less of a toll on the players' bodies. The only option available at Youngstown State University was an artificial surface. After concluding practice on Friday in Florida, the 49ers will have a shorter flight to New Orleans.

There is a 100-percent forecast for rain on Sunday. The elements will impact Lamar Jackson more than Jimmy Garoppolo because Jackson is more reliant on his footing as a dual-threat quarterback.

But, at the same time, the 49ers' defense will be impacted, too, as they try to keep pace with Jackson.

Another way the weather could affect the Ravens is with their overall running game, which places a premium on Jackson's ability to handle the football flawlessly, whether he is faking handoffs and keeping the ball or sticking it into the gut of running backs Mark Ingram or Gus Edwards.

The Ravens practiced with wet footballs this week to get ready for that challenge. Turnovers could be the difference on Sunday.

The 49ers must pay a lot of attention to Jackson, but it is not so simple as having all 11 defenders focus on Jackson as a runner. It does not work quite that way.

All 49ers defenders have their responsibilities against the run and pass. Everyone has to be on the same page and each individual must take care of his responsibility.

"Every guy is just as important because they're all tied together to play 11-on-11 football, and if you have one weak link, it kind of goes down the line," Shanahan said.

So if the defensive linemen don't do their jobs, it makes it difficult on the linebackers. And if the linebackers are in the wrong places, it makes it nearly impossible on the defensive backs with a lot of open space for Jackson to operate.

Then, when the defense gives up a big play, it's especially important to diagnose what happened and why so defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can make the necessary adjustments.

"So you got to stick to your rules, get to the sideline, talk about what happened and keep playing hard," Shanahan said.

It never is one factor. There are probably a lot of reasons Dante Pettis' production has fallen off so dramatically from the end of a promising rookie season.

He has been available to play every game during that stretch, but he has already been ruled out for Sunday's game against Baltimore with a knee sprain, which is a difficult break for Pettis.

The injury likely will not have much impact on the game against Baltimore. Pettis has just two receptions for 26 yards over the past six games, and in the past two games, he has seen action on just two and seven offensive plays respectively.

Pettis was never able to build on the momentum with which he ended last season. That has clearly been a source of frustration for Shanahan.

It probably goes back to the offseason. Pettis did not make noticeable gains in his strength and skills when he came back for his second season. This offseason is going to be huge for Pettis, who will have to earn his way onto the team's 53-man roster next season.

When Pettis gets healthy, he should be in a weekly fight for a uniform on game days, too. Veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin was a healthy scratch against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12.

Both Goodwin and Pettis have to prove they can help the team down the stretch of the regular season in order to be one of the team's active wide receivers.

Richard Sherman is signed through the 2020 season, so there's no rush to work out a contract extension. They can let this play out a little longer before approaching Sherman's agent about working out a deal.

(Sherman's agent, by the way, is Richard Sherman, in case you didn't already know that.)

The 49ers now have some flexibility and options for the future at cornerback.

[RELATED: Tartt among five 49ers players to watch Sunday vs. Ravens]

Ahkello Witherspoon was playing the best ball of his career before leaving the lineup in Week 3 with a foot sprain. That would have been a big blow for the defense, except Emmanuel Moseley stepped in and played like a starter.

So, now, the 49ers feel good about their cornerback depth. They believe that they have three starting-caliber NFL cornerbacks on their roster and will probably try to keep each of them around as long as they are playing at high levels.

49ers Mailbag: How will rain impact crucial Week 13 game vs. Ravens? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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