How NFL defenses might try to stop the Niners offense next season

This is a companion piece to the blog I wrote yesterday on how offenses might try to attack the Niners defense. I write this to start discussion. I am not giving away any secrets, not that I know any secrets. NFL teams already know these things, and so do the Niners – they self-evaluate all the time.

Now that the 49ers are not sneaking up on anybody, here are five ways I’d expect defenses to try to attack the Niners offense. Do you disagree? Do you have anything else to add? This is a purely academic discussion.

  • Double team Vernon Davis until the 49ers make you stop. Make Alex Smith prove he can hit Randy Moss and Mario Manningham deep down the sidelines when they’re single covered.
  • Test the young right side of the line early with stunts and overload blitzes. If you beat the right tackle, Greg Roman has been known to keep Vernon Davis in to help block, which is a victory for any defense facing the Niners.
  • Blitz up the middle. Last season Jonathan Goodwin and Adam Snyder struggled to pick up blitzing linebackers in the strong side “A” gap. This year, Daniel Kilgore or Alex Boone will be the right guard, so you can bet defenses will test that guy first.
  • Don’t give up the big play. The Niners want your defense to over-commit to the runs and the short passes so they can then burn you deep. They struggle on third down and in the red zone, so they’d like to bypass those challenges altogether. To counter this strategy, make the Niners drive the whole field in 13 or so plays and make them have to convert multiple third downs. It’s exactly what Vic Fangio preaches to his defense.
  • When the Niners offense gets near your goal line, take away four plays: 1. The run up the middle 2. The fade pass to the wide receivers. 3. The quick slant pick play Smith threw to Delanie Walker to beat the Lions (he also threw it to Crabtree for a TD against the Saints in the playoffs). 4. The QB naked bootleg run. Alex Smith tends not to throw into tight windows, so he likes these four low-risk red zone plays. Take them away. Make him try to throw darts into the middle of crowded end zone.
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