The SF 49ers face the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend in a game, though early in the season, has major implications on the lifeline and direction of the 49ers for the 2014 season. Coming into the game the 49ers are 1-2 and have not shown the defensive dominance that has been a staple of the recent teams’ success.
On offense, the 49ers, too, have been impotent in the second halves of their first three games. With the addition of two new receivers and a more mature, healthy, and experienced receiving corps, the 49ers thought they had enough weapons that would eliminate, or at the very least reduce any scoreless droughts. They quickly have adjustments to make. The 49ers beat an unorganized Cowboys team in the opener, then, lost to the Bears and Cardinals, 28-20 and 23-14 respectively.
Against the Bears the 49ers turned the ball over four times with Colin Kaepernick throwing three interceptions. The defense allowed four passing touchdowns, three in the fourth quarter while the team had 16 penalties for 118 yards, surely a recipe for disaster.
The 49ers improved against the Cardinals. With no turnovers and a 14-6 halftime lead, the 49ers looked to be back on course but again, uncharacteristically, went on to allow two, third-quarter passing touchdowns and a fourth-quarter field goal to the pesky Cardinals team which kept them out of the end zone for the entire second half.
The 49ers have had the lead in every game going into the third quarter. However, against the Bears and Cardinals the 49ers watched the lead whittle away with poor, ineffective second-half performances. In three games, the 49ers have scored only one field goal in the second half.
This week, the Eagles march into Levi’s Stadium sporting a 3-0 record with two gifted running backs, LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Each, as double threats, are capable of catching the ball out of the backfield and are both quicker than lightning carrying the ball on the ground.
“They have a huge challenge covering those guys out of the backfield. They’ve got a challenge tackling those guys too,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said referring to his linebackers’ duties.
“They’re both home run hitters, very explosive and elusive.”
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly implements a no-huddle offense which makes matters more complicated, if not impossible, for the 49ers to prepare a comprehensive strategy on defense.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, gauging from the 49ers past performances of the first three games, knows they have their work cut out when they see the Eagles on Sunday. “They have a lot of clubs in their bag on defense,” Roman said.
“With three down linemen, they mix in either a 3-4 defense or mask a 5-2 with the defensive ends moving up on the ends of the line,” Roman added. “It’s tough and they’re very skilled athletes, and have improved with young strong players.”
When asked the reason why the 49ers were having trouble scoring in the second half Roman, much like Commissioner Goodell did at his press conference this past week, answered without really answering.
“It’s all in the film. When you go back and look at the film, all the answers are there.”
Whatever is meant by that you can deduce that better decision making by a host of people both on and off the field will be the answer to whether the 49ers are looking at a 1-3 start or climbing back into contention in the NFC west, only four weeks into the season. In, arguably, a division which is considered the toughest division in the NFL, the 49ers, facing adversity, will have to prove they are headed back to the top of the division where more meaningful games are yet to be played.