After splitting a 2 game road trip, the San Francisco 49ers come back home to Candlestick this Sunday for an afternoon match up against the 2-2 Buffalo Bills. The last time these two teams faced each other was in 2008 when the 49ers went to Buffalo and won 10-3.
As for much more recent activity for these two, the 49ers are coming off a huge shutout win on the road over the Jets 34-0 while the Bills are recovering from a loss to the Patriots 52-28 despite the fact the Bills had a 21-7 lead early in the 3rd quarter. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had a mixed performance last week with 4 TD Passes coupled with 4 Interceptions. Meanwhile, 49ers QB Alex Smith had the same number of TD Passes as Interceptions thrown as well with the number, however, being Zero.The 49ers ran for 245 rushing yards as a team and all three of their offensive TDs were scored on the ground.
Going against the Bills, that ground and pound philosophy shouldn’t be deviated from that much. The Bills are not much better than the Jets in terms of a rush defense. They have allowed an average of 137 yards per game while rushers are getting 4.9 yards per carry. In fact they allowed 247 rushing yards in their recent loss vs. New England.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have gotten back to their running ways after a slight detour when visiting Minnesota. The 49ers are third in the league in rushing so far averaging 167 rushing yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. While Frank Gore has carried the ball more than anyone, the rushing attack has been almost split down the middle between Gore and the other players. The 49ers have used Gore very efficiently this season.
Who else runs the ball? Who doesn’t run the ball? RB Kendall Hunter has had his few carries in each game so far and he has been an effective rusher much like Gore. But the 49ers have been the kind of team to try a reverse here or there to moves the sticks. Three different WR’s ran with the ball just this last weekend. While he might not call them trick plays, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman will use them here and there.
“I don’t look at them as trick plays, they’re just football plays,” Roman said. “The rules are the rules and you work within the rules. So, I don’t know that we have trick plays. They’re what I like to call mixers. You might want to mix in from time to time.”
The passing game for the 49ers took a bit of a hit this last weekend. QB Alex Smith threw the ball 21 times for 12 completions. I wouldn’t look for Smith to be throwing that much more vs. the Bills. Buffalo might be a weaker defensive passing team than the Jets but the 49ers are likely going to try and steer away from overthrowing the ball like they did in the one loss to the Vikings.
What has been a consistent problem for Alex Smith is getting sacked. 12 sacks so far this season including the two sustained last weekend. It’s likely going to be a problem against the Bills with DE Mario Williams rushing the QB from the right side. However, it has been Buffalo’s Defensive Tackles racking up the sacks for that defense. Kyle Williams leads the team with 3.5 sacks and Marcell Dareus has 2 sacks. I’m sure that San Francisco offensive line has been studying a bit more for just for them.
As for the Bills’ offense, they seem like a balanced team with an emphasis on the run like the 49ers. The Bills are right behind the 49ers in rushing yards averaging 158 rushing yards a game and 5.1 yards per carry. RB C.J. Spiller has run for 341 yards so far this season and is averaging 8.1 yards per carry. But Spiller hasn’t seen a lot of carries the last couple of weeks because of a shoulder injury.
While he might see more action at Candlestick, this could be the wrong team to try and work him back into the offense. The 49ers are allowing only 79.5 yards per game on the ground and only 3.2 yards per carry. While the team did have trouble against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings run game, they still kept Peterson under a 100 yards rushing and limited him to 3.4 yards per carry. Whether the 49ers will see more of Spiller, RB Fred Jackson or Tashard Choice, the ground game of the Bills will be affected.
When it comes to throwing the ball, Buffalo’s QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has had some trouble but has had success as well. He’s thrown 7 picks this year but also 12 TDs. He throw’s under 60% but he’s only been sacked 4 times. The fact that he has thrown for more than one TD in each of the first four games this season says that Fitzpatrick can be a good QB.
The 49ers pass defense has done more than an adequate job against Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford and they should be able to handle Fitzpatrick. The 49ers are allowing just under 200 passing yards per game so far which is 5th best in the league. However they struggled a bit against Christian Ponder of the Vikings which gives some cause for concern. Ryan Fitzpatrick has some skill as a passer and 49ers defensive coordinator Nick Fangio is aware of his abilities.
“He’s a good player,” Fangio said. “I think he’s a competent NFL quarterback. He makes good decisions. He gets a quick read on the defense. He gets the ball out pretty quick. He’s only been sacked four times in four games.”
What can the Bay Area and Western New York expect from this weekend’s games? The Bills have had success scoring this year averaging nearly 29 points a game. However, a lot of that has come against teams not known for their defense. Look for the Bills’ run game to be slowed down in San Francisco leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to score while the 49ers’ offense will ground the ball through the Buffalo defense by any means necessary.
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Written by Daniel Trucios