Tale Of The Tape: San Francisco 49ers At Tennessee Titans
- QuarterbackThe 49ers had one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league last year once Colin Kaepernick took over under center, and Jim Harbaugh was expecting his quarterback to be even better this season. It hasn’t worked out that way as Kaepernick has looked tentative at times. He needs to be more decisive and accurate in his throws.The Titans were rolling with Jake Locker at quarterback, but his injury forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to take over and the offense has slipped a couple of notches. Fitzpatrick is a gutsy leader who can extend plays and knows how to find the open receiver, but he is not as accurate as Locker and that’s why the Tennessee offense has struggled the last two-plus games.
- OffenseThe 49ers will come at the Titans with a bone-crunching ground game led by running back Frank Gore, who has run for 477 yards and has seven carries of 20 yards or more. Anquan Boldin has 29 receptions and will fight hard to catch any ball he can reach. Vernon Davis is an excellent weapon from the tight end slot while Kyle Williams can get the job done converting third-down plays.While Chris Johnson has game-breaking speed, this is one of those seasons opposing defenses have him marked and his production has been limited. Johnson is averaging a measly 3.1 yards per carry. Nate Washington is a solid receiver who has caught 23 passes for 377 yards. Delanie Walker keeps the chains moving as nine of his 20 catches have gone for first downs.
- DefenseThe 49ers are still adjusting to life without Aldon Smith, as they rank ninth in overall defense and just 18th against the run. NaVorro Bowman has the speed to make plays all over the field and he leads the Niners with 53 tackles. Donte Whitner is a nasty defensive back who is second to Bowman with 32 tackles. Patrick Willis will punish any running back or receiver who goes over the middle.The Titans rank 11th on defense and 10th against the pass. Strong safety Bernard Pollard is making a solid bid at a spot in the Pro Bowl as he leads the team with 45 tackles. He also has five passes defended and two interceptions. Defensive end Roman Pitoitua may be one of the most under-appreciated players in the league, but he leads the Titans with 4.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe 49ers are decent in their punt and kickoff coverage. Williams is a decent returner, but he is not explosive. Phil Dawson has been slightly above average as a kicker, making 8-of-11 FG attempts. Andy Lee is averaging 48.6 yards per punt.The Titans have done a good job in special teams coverage and head coach Mike Munchak believes Darius Reynaud can break a long punt or kickoff return. Rob Bironas has been one of the most dependable kickers in the league for several years, but he is just 2-of-4 on FG attempts of 40-49 yards.
The Titans would have a good chance to pull an upset in this game if Locker was healthy, but he is not. Fitzpatrick is a competitive quarterback, but he will force the ball into coverage at crucial times and that’s going to make it difficult against San Francisco. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor