Saints-49ers matchups: Part IV – Darren Sproles vs. NaVorro Bowman

The 49ers play the Saints Sunday at the Superdome. In the meantime, I’ll break down five key matchups. RB Darren Sproles vs. LB NaVorro Bowman When the 49ers front-seven has struggled against running backs this season, they’ve struggled against big, tough running backs. Sproles is a small, quick back who catches passes more often that he carries the football. He is Brees’ go-to possession receiver. When Brees needs six yards,…

November 24, 2012

49ers Week 11 grades: Defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers destroyed the Chicago Bears 32-7 Monday night. Here are the grades for the 49ers defense and special teams. Defensive line: A. They held the Bears rushing attack to just 3 yards per carry. Justin Smith got consistent pressure on the quarterback for the first time this season. Ray McDonald tackled Chilo Rachal in the end zone for a safety. Linebackers: A. NaVorro Bowman had a…

November 19, 2012

Cosell: “It might be blasphemous, but I think Willis and Bowman have not played well as of late.”

NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell spoke on the Murph and Mac Show Thursday morning. Here’s what he said about Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Q: What warts are you seeing on the 49ers defense? COSELL: We can start by throwing out a few numbers. If you subtract the Arizona game – Arizona’s not a very good offense – they played in the other three games New York (Giants), Seattle and…

November 15, 2012

49ers Week 10 grades: Defense

SAN FRANCISCO — The 49ers tied the Rams 24-24. Here are the grades for the 49ers defense. Defensive line: D. Isaac Sopoaga was a liability at nose tackle. He actually got planted on his back by Steven Jackson in the first quarter. Sopoaga was briefly benched for Ricky Jean Francois. Ray McDonald was flagged for a 15-yard helmet-to-helmet hit on Bradford. Justin Smith finished with eight tackles and two pressures….

November 11, 2012

Laurinaitis on Willis and Bowman: “I think they both use their hands extremely well, especially Patrick.”

SANTA CLARA – St. Louis Rams inside linebacker James Laurinaitis spoke to Bay Area reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what he said about fellow inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Q: I’ve heard it said about you that you’re under the radar in large part because of what the inside linebackers here are doing. What are your thoughts when you watch Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman….

November 7, 2012

How to beat the 49ers

Now that we’re halfway through the season, there’s a book on how to beat the 49ers. We know it, the 49ers know it – it’s their job to know it — and the rest of the NFL knows it. Let’s explain that game plan and list the teams that can pull it off. Stop the run with seven defenders. If you can do that, you can beat the 49ers. You…

November 7, 2012

49ers midseason awards: Defensive runner up – NaVorro Bowman

The 49ers are halfway through their season. Today, I’ll give midseason awards for the best offensive and defensive players. Best defensive player: Runner up – LB NaVorro Bowman Bowman is the best run-defending inside linebacker in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. He’s also one of the best at covering tight ends and running backs in the passing game. Bowman was the front-runner to win the midseason best defensive…

October 31, 2012

49ers Week 8 grades: Defense and special teams

Here are the grades for the 49ers defense from their 24-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Defensive line: A. They completely shut down the Cardinals run game, holding it to 7 total yards. The defensive line often tackled running back LaRod Stephens-Howling five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Justin Smith got consistent pressure on a quarterback for the first time this season. Linebackers: A. The outside linebackers had dominant…

October 29, 2012

Week 7 grades: The defense

SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers beat the Seahawks 13-6. Here are the grades for the 49ers’ defense. Defensive line: C+. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 103 yards on this group, which has given up 100-yard rushers two weeks in a row. However, when Lynch came Justin Smith’s way, Smith stopped him most of the time. Smith finished with a team-high 9 tackles, but he did get planted on his back by…

October 18, 2012

Is Millen’s criticism of Willis and Bowman fair or unfair?

Tuesday morning on 95.7 The Game, Matt Millen called out Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman for their performances against the New York Giants on Sunday. “That’s the worst I’ve seen those two play,” Millen said. As you may remember, Millen played inside linebacker for the 49ers in 1989 and 1990. Before that, he played inside linebacker for the Raiders from 1980 to 1988. He was a good inside linebacker, but…

October 16, 2012

Week 6 grades: Defense & special teams

SAN FRANCISCO — Here are the Week 6 grades for the defense and special teams. Defensive line: D. They got zero pressure on Eli Manning. They held Ahmad Bradshaw to 23 yards on 11 carries in the first half, but they gave up 93 yards on 16 carries to Bradshaw in the second half. At one point in the fourth quarter they gave up almost 70 rushing yards on 7…

October 14, 2012

49ers-Giants matchups: Part IV – Willis, Bowman and Whitner vs. Bennett

The 49ers play the Giants on Sunday at Candlestick. In the meantime, I’ll break down a couple of key matchups per day. TE Martellus Bennett (6-6, 265 pounds) vs. Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Donte Whitner With Dashon Goldson and Chris Culliver taking away the deep passes, Eli Manning probably will have to throw short and over the middle against the 49ers. That’s where Martellus Bennett comes in. We know…

October 9, 2012

49ers MVP standings: Part II

Here’s the second installment of the 49ers team MVP standings. To read the first installment, click here. Vernon Davis: The best player on the team, but he isn’t even the leading receiver. That’s Michael Crabtree, who has been targeted 31 times by Alex Smith. Still, Davis has caught 4 touchdowns in just 22 targets, and he’s an elite blocker. NaVorro Bowman: The best linebacker in the NFL. He’s giving up…

October 3, 2012

Week 4 grades: 49ers shutout Jets 34-0

Here are the grades for the 49ers 34-0 trouncing of the Jets – the worst team in the NFL despite their 2-2 record. Quarterbacks: C. Alex Smith completed 12 of 21 passes for 143 yards. No touchdowns or turnovers. He did not complete a pass on third down. Twice he was sacked because he held ball for more than three seconds in the pocket. Colin Kaepernick attempted one pass –…

September 30, 2012

Rex Ryan on Alex Smith: “I was hoping he wasn’t as good as he is.”

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan spoke to Bay Area reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning. He talked about the key players on the 49ers’ offense, the seven blue-chip players on the 49ers’ defense and the how the Jets’ defense will adjust to the loss of Darrelle Revis. The transcript. Q: Donte Whitner said the key for him in facing the Jets offense is keeping an eye on…

September 26, 2012

NEWS BULLETIN!! 49ers will destroy Vikings

Here’s how you know the Vikings are going to lose to the 49ers on Sunday: Head coach Leslie Frazier said, “We want to get the run established,” on a conference call Wednesday morning. Leslie, look at me. Listen to what I have to say. That’s not the move you want to make. You can’t establish the run against the 49ers. Understand? It’s a losing strategy. As long as All-Pro linebackers…

September 20, 2012

Week 2 49ers MVP standings

My Week 2 Power Rankings, in tiers. Tier 1: The 49ers. Tier 2: Empty. Tier 3: Empty. Tier 4: The Texans and a few other teams. Tier 5: It doesn’t matter. No team ranks anywhere near the 49ers right now. They’re in another universe. They’re so good, it’s more interesting to rank the 49ers players against the other 49ers players. So let’s forget the Power Rankings for now. Let’s create…

September 18, 2012

Fangio on the Lions: “This team will run the ball out of the gun.”

SANTA CLARA – The transcript of Vic Fangio’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers. Facing another team that likes to throw the ball around, is there much carry over from last week to this? “Well, there is in the sense that they play a lot of the similar personnel groupings, and they have some similar talent. So, there is some carry over.”   They don’t do as many four…

September 13, 2012

How the 49ers got the Packers in checkmate

Some things I forgot to mention about the 49ers’ performance against the Packers: Alex Smith and Greg Roman called brilliant running plays. What Smith did: Each time the Packers brought an extra linebacker or a cornerback to the line of scrimmage, Alex Smith audibled to a running play away from the blitz. These audibles worked beautifully. Peyton Manning couldn’t have made better pre-snap adjustments. Smith’s were near perfect. Before the…

September 13, 2012

Letter to Jim Schwartz, not pertaining to The Handshake

Dear Jim Schwartz, You want to call a running play against the 49ers, but it doesn’t exist. Il n’existe pas. Justin Smith will stop it while thinking of other things. Take your running plays and throw them away. They’ll only help you lose on Sunday. You have to pass against the 49ers. Remember how Bill Walsh used to set up the run with the pass? You have to set up…

September 11, 2012