By Jerrell Richardson
Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Coach: Joe Philbin
The Miami Dolphins are a work in progress, but still a very dangerous team. In fact, earlier this season the the Dolphins defeated the same St. Louis Rams that beat San Francisco last week. That outcome was a surprise, but a loss to the Dolphins would be a bigger shocker. The Dolphins don’t have the luxury of seeing the 49ers twice a year, the game is in San Francisco, and Harbaugh doesn’t do losing streaks. The 49ers are not only the better team, but they know that this is an important game for them, and if they are to have any post season success, then they should have no problem with Miami.
When Miami Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
Not only are the Dolphins led by a rookie in Ryan Tannehill, but even for a rookie he is inexperienced. In college he played only one full season as the quarterback and was previously used as a wide receiver. The fact that he has so little experience and is still the starter for the team speaks a lot for the rookie, but also speaks a lot for the team. The bad news for Miami is that Tannehill has had less-than-stellar numbers this season against much inferior competition. He has one less fumble (six), than touchdown passes (seven), and has thrown 12 interceptions. He will be under duress for most of the game, and he will need a big game from former New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush to keep his team close.
Bush has stepped his game up since coming to Miami. His 4.4 per rush average is 18th in the league, and although this is down from his 5.0 average last year, he is still a much better back than he was during his early days. He has struggled as of late, rushing for more then 65 yards only once in the last four games so he will need to rekindle the fire that he started the season with. As a team, the Dolphins average 108.3 yards per game on the ground, but they will be lucky to crack 100 against the leagues 3rd best rushing defense. The 49ers should be able to control the game with their defense and cause some turnovers to help out the offense.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
Colin Kaepernick remains the starter, but although he has yet to nail down the position, that has more to do with the players around him than Kaepernick. He has shown that he can do what is asked of him to win the game, and will gain more valuable experience on the field this week against a Dolphins defense that is ranked 27th against the pass. Kaepernick will make some more mistakes as he learns along the way, but will be able to use his arms and legs to put points on the board.
The big problem with last week’s game was the rushing attack. The team had recently lost Kendall Hunter for the season, so Frank Gore and the rest of the team struggled to get anything going on ground. Brandon Jacobs, in his first real action, did nothing, so the team may need to look elsewhere. It’s essential for the team to sort out any problems with their ground game, as they will not go far with just one back and no production from ground game. Frank Gore and company know this and will look to come out and dominate at the point of attack and get back to their league leading numbers.
Gore Vs. Bush
Although the game has two inexperienced quarterbacks under center, the game will ultimately be decided by the running backs and offensive lines. A good running game will be the difference in this game, and Frank Gore wins over Reggie Bush every time. Both quarterbacks will need to play smart, and make a few big plays, but if either gets nothing from their running game, then they could be in for a long day. Further tilting the scale in the 49ers’ favor is their defense playing against the turnover prone Tannehill. A complete team effort will mean a blow out. However, if the special teams replicate last week’s performance and the offense struggles, this game could come down to the wire.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.