By Jerrell Richardson
The Texans could have done themselves and the 49ers a huge favor if they beat the Seattle Seahawks this past weekend. Instead, Houston suffered a second half collapse and now both they and San Francisco find themselves in desperate need of a win.
After halting a two game losing streak against the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers will now face a quality opponent, that – oh by the way – their hated NFC West rival just beat. If they lose, not only will San Francisco continue to lose ground in their race for the division crown, but they will also continue to face the questions surrounding losing their mojo.
The up and down Texans are coming off a tough home loss and know they need to put their best foot forward. If the Texans play like they are capable, San Francisco is going to have their hands full. In the end however, the home team should be able to pull this one out.
When The 49ers Have the Ball: Advantage Texans
The Texans defense has not gotten enough recognition this season. The debacle against the Seahawks was due to quarterback Matt Schaub’s ill-advised 4th quarter pass that resulted in a pick six, and no fault of the defense. They are ranked first in the league against the pass, and not an easy team to run against, despite allowing 113 yards on the ground per contest. With defensive end J.J. Watt at the point of attack, linebacker Brian Cushing at the second level, and veteran safety Ed Reed patrolling the secondary, the Texans have playmakers at every level.
The 49ers have had success running the ball as of late, and will need another big game from Frank Gore. As they showed last week, the San Francisco offense starts and ends with the running game. The game plan must be to come out and run to take pressure off a passing game that is still learning on the fly. Colin Kaepernick will need to make plays, but more importantly he needs to protect the ball. With ball hawk Ed Reed, combined with the anticipated pressure that J.J. Watt will apply, No. 7 needs to avoid the costly mistakes that can put his team in a tough position.
The 49er offensive output against the Rams was a good sign, but will be far more impressive if they can do it against a Texans defense that from top to bottom is as good as any in the league. Despite their ability to stop the run and pass, the Texans have allowed an unimpressive 26.3 points per game. While San Francisco will be lucky to score 26 points, it’s possible, and if it happens, it will be more than enough for the defense.
When the Texans Have the Ball: Advantage 49ers
To slow down the high powered Houston offense, San Francisco must first stop Arian Foster. The Pro Bowl running back is coming off a 100 yard performance against the top ranked Seahawk defense and is running and receiving threat. If Patrick Willis is able to play then the 49ers should be able to limit Foster, but even without Willis, San Francisco has in NaVorro Bowman, a more then suitable replacement to shadow the Texans star back.
The problem is that Arian Foster is still capable of a big game, and if he gets going the 49ers will be in trouble. If able to take him out of the game though, they will put the fate of the Texans in the untrustworthy hands of Matt Schaub, which is exactly what the defense wants.
Schaub is better than a lot of quarterbacks in the league, but he is not the most poised when things start to break down. His stats are solid, but he has thrown at least one interception in every game this year, and has thrown two twice. In Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, Schaub has two big, fast, sure handed targets, so if given time they can shred up any defense. To stop this, it will take pressure on Schaub and sound help defense in the secondary, which has been exactly what San Francisco has done this year.
If the defense can shut down Foster, then they will slow down the Texans enough to win the game. The weak link of the Houston offense is Schaub. No penalties, no mental breakdowns and solid tackling will mean another solid defensive performance.
Big Game For Both Sides
The Texans have lost two straight games and will be the underdog in this one, but this is no easy win by any stretch of the imagination for the 49ers. San Francisco is still putting all its pieces together and may struggle on both sides of the ball, but they showed signs last week of being able to run the ball. If they can get back to 49ers, smash mouth football, then the offense will score points.
In regards to the defense, its more about the health of Patrick Willis who if on the field will make a difference. It will not be easy, but San Francisco will ride the home crowd and their recently found momentum to their second straight victory.
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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. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.