Rebuilding An Image: 49ers vs Titans Preview
After a 0-9 start, the 49ers have won the past 3 out of 4 games. This Sunday serves a unique test as they are going up against an up and coming team. While they have struggled against established powers such as the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Cowboys they have shown great promise in multiple matchups. All season long they have trusted Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and it is now showing its fruits. The 49ers are making great strides in rebuilding an image. In a lot of ways, these final three weeks of the season are like finals in school where the team is now putting together all it has learned over the course of the season. The offseason will surely bring fresh faces to the franchise but in order for them to be the right ones the team has to put its best effort against three playoff-caliber opponents. The first opponent is the Tennessee Titans.
It appears that they have found their franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who has shown great poise under pressure and is 2-0 as a starter. Their defense has been showing some life since the Seahawk game three weeks ago. While they did get beaten soundly, they routinely had pressure on Russell Wilson throughout the game. Since then they have gotten much better in the second half by allowing only 7 points total in the past two games. They are gaining momentum as a team and are starting to believe in their head coach, Kyle Shanahan.
After years of missing the playoffs, the Titans are just a couple wins away from clinching at least a wild-card spot. With the outlook for the rest of the AFC, there is no question that they need this victory. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is looking more and more comfortable in a pro system. Former 49er Delanie Walker has proven to be a capable receiver and leads the team in receptions and yards. Former Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry has punished opponents all season long with powerful runs. While he only had 8 carries in the previous game there is little doubt that they plan on using him this week. They don’t look too shabby on defense while only allowing 4 field goals in a 7-12 loss to the Cardinals. Bottom line, they will be hungry for a win in a must-win game. Expect nothing less than their best.
Matchups to Watch:
Titans running game vs 49ers front 7:
This is an interesting area because the 49ers have not done well against quality running backs such as Adrian Peterson. The Titans have a good running back tandem in Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry. While the 49ers front 7 can play cohesively, there is a chance they might wear down in the second half if the Titans keep running the ball. If they need to draft more players in the front 7 then this would be the week to evaluate that need.
Marcus Mariota vs 49ers DB’s:
One of the biggest weaknesses for the 49ers is their secondary. While they have played a bend but don’t break defense the past two weeks, that has been against lesser quality quarterbacks. However, they did play impressively against Russell Wilson.
49ers O-line vs Titans pass rush:
This has unquestionably been the thorn in their side all season as their quarterbacks have been battered week after week. While they do have quality tackles, they need to improve the guards and possibly the center in the off-season. Luckily, this is not against a league-leading unit. As a result, this might be a less stressful day for Garoppolo.