By Jerrell Richardson
Tennessee Titans (3-3)
Head Coach: Mike Munchak
Players To Watch: Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, Alterraun Verner
The Tennessee Titans season took a major hit, when they lost their opening day starter, quarterback Jake Locker, in Week 4 with a hip injury. Back-up Ryan Fitzpatrick has not played well in relief and the result has been two straight losses. However, it can’t be ignored that these defeats have come at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks, two teams that have one loss between them this season, and games that nobody gave the Titans a chance at winning.
While both games were even close entering the fourth, the reality is that this was due to the defense, not the offense. The Titans find themselves at a crossroad in their season as another loss will drop them below .500 and all but end any chances they have of playing in the post season. This contest will come down to how well the Tennessee Titans play defensively, as their offense has not been the same since Locker went down.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
The 49ers offense won a game with the pass, more with the run and just last week used a combination of both, to put up points up against a very good Cardinal defense. If able to have balance this week, they will run away with this one. Tennessee is more then capable of turning the 49ers into a one dimensional offense though as they have been fantastic against the pass this year.
They enter this game ranked 10th and should have no problem bottling up a San Francisco offense that is still tied for dead last in passing yards per game. Cornerback, Alterraun Verner is tied for the league lead with four interceptions and will spend most of his afternoon on Anquan Boldin, but the Titans will have to keep a close eye on Vernon Davis who is the 49ers biggest mismatch and the key for San Francisco’s balanced attack.
Despite what happens with the pass, if the 49ers continue to run the ball, and make sure Frank Gore is involved, they will move the chains. The Titans are allowing on average 111.2 yards per game on the ground, which puts them 18th in the league, and will have no answer for a physical 49ers running game. Even if Tennessee is able to slow down the run to start the game, eventually they will wear down. Their offense does not figure to put together long time consuming drives, which will catch up to the defense eventually.
The Titan defense would be in a much better position if their offense could score points. It’s unlikely the Tennessee defense can manage a shutout, which is the only way they win this game. They will be able to limit the 49ers passing game, but not the ground game, which will pay dividends in the second half and lead to a San Francisco win.
When Tennessee Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
Without their starting quarterback, the Titans still have running back Chris Johnson, whose speed makes him a nightmare in open space. Unfortunately, the loss of Locker has affected the running game and after totaling 256 yards through the first three weeks, Johnson has rushed for 50 in the past two.
As a team the Titans are still over 100 per game, but are facing a 49er defense that has back Patrick Willis and usually stingy against the run. If nose tackle Glenn Dorsey is unable to play, the 49ers are still sitting pretty as Johnson is a small quick back who is not going to do his damage with inside running. Johnson will need production from Fitzpatrick and the passing game which has been missing in action as of late.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, in his two full starts this season, has thrown four interceptions and a single touchdown. The lone touchdown was a 49-yard screen pass to Chris Johnson with the back and his blockers doing most of the work. Fitzpatrick has shown some chemistry with receiver Kendall Wright, who has 11 catches for 143 yards in those two games, but nothing to show that the offense can consistently put together drives. With no consistent passing game, the entire hopes of the offense rest on the big play ability of Johnson, who will have the two best inside linebackers in the NFL, Willis and NaVorro Bowman chasing him around.
If 49ers Execute They Win
Any team that loses their starting quarterback, is going to be hard pressed to get a win. Working in the Titans favor is that Fitzpatrick is not awful, and they have a defense and running back that make them formidable. Still, they are playing a 49ers team that is on a roll and playing well on both sides of the ball. If the Titans can get some big plays from the offense, then they will keep this one close, but if the 49ers play their brand of football and avoid bonehead errors, even at home in a must win game, Tennessee does not win with a back-up running the show.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
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.