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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


Week 5 Preview: 49ers’ Keys to Victory Against the Colts

Bret Rumbeck
Oct 8, 2017 at 5:48 AM


It's another exciting Sunday of professional football, with your San Francisco 49ers traveling to play the Indianapolis Colts for a Week 5 barnburner.

The 49ers are winless through the first quarter of the season, losing three of four games by a combined total of eight points. While the offense refuses to put the ball in the end zone, the 49ers' defense continues to place the team in winning situations.

Today, the 49ers are 1.5-point underdogs, with many football experts across the nation expecting a low scoring affair. It's a winnable game for the 49ers, but the team will need a few elements to combine for a victory.

The 49ers Win If…


Once again, the defensive line wins the battle in the trenches. On paper, the 49ers' front four have already won the game, and they haven't stepped into the air-conditioned comforts of Lucas Oil Stadium. According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts' offensive line has given up 48 pressures and eight sacks this season.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas played his best game as a professional last week against Arizona. He had five tackles – two for loss – one sack, four quarterback hits, and was pushing his opponent into the backfield throughout the game. Thomas needs to continue to build this week and find ways to beat Colts' left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

The soft underbelly for the Colts is the interior of their offensive line. Unfortunately for the Colts, they will face one of the top interior defensive linemen in the league: 49ers' defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.

There are times where it's not fun to see a stronger player embarrass a weaker one; however, Gentle Reader, we've passed the point of pity. Our sorrow has one cure: Buckner obliterating the Colts' interior line, shutting down running lanes for running back Frank Gore, and knocking quarterback Jacoby Brissett into the rubber pellets of the field turf.

Overall, a dominant force up front is going to cover up the biggest problem with the 49ers' defense: the secondary.

More high-quality play from special teams. Earlier in the week, Pro Football Focus ranked the 49ers' special teams as the best in the NFL. For a moment, we'll ignore kicker Robbie Gould's success with field goals and focus on running back Raheem Mostert and wide receiver Trent Taylor.

Mostert's strong preseason earned him a spot on the 49ers' regular season roster. He's been playing special teams and averages one tackle per game. He's also forced two fair catches on punts. These are minuscule factors in a game that we all miss, but ripple out to feed the team's overall success.

Taylor has been returning punts for the 49ers and averages 11-yards per return. It doesn't sound like much, but there is a big difference starting a drive at your 15-yard line versus stating at your 26-yard line. I still think Taylor is due to break a long run, possibly returning a punt for a touchdown today.

Brian Hoyer plays like a professional. It's been a long week for Hoyer. Scratch that; it's been a long season for Hoyer. We all know the 49ers brought him in as a bridge until the team can find its future superstar quarterback.

Right now, Hoyer looks like a rickety plank bridge over a deep canyon. His poor play adds gallons of rocket fuel to an unstable quarterback situation and a rabid fan base. He's missing throws and open receivers, showing little understanding of head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Today's game is a make-or-break afternoon for Hoyer. The offense needs him play his absolute best football and start leading successful touchdown drives down the field. As much as I don't want to see rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard thrown into this mess, Hoyer will find himself holding a clipboard if he cannot run the offense with efficiency.

The 49ers Lose If…


Cornerback Rashard Robinson gets exposed. Last week, the Arizona Cardinals found the massive rock of kryptonite that lurks in the 49ers' defense. It's Rashard Robinson. Despite keeping quarterback Carson Palmer on the run, Palmer threw the ball Robinson's way with success.

Now, Brissett is no Carson Palmer. But it doesn't change the fact that Robinson isn't an exceptional defensive back. Brissett doesn't have to complete a pass to Robinson's receiver; he needs to get Robinson to continue to commit ill-times pass interference penalties downfield. Those errors let the Colts' offense keep moving with little effort.

The 49ers don't kick a field goal. Of course, I want the 49ers' offense to put up 35 unanswered points before halftime, and only see Gould come off the bench for PATs. That would make my job today much more comfortable, and the Bloody Mary taste just a bit better.

Right now, a 49ers' offensive touchdown seems as likely as a significant bill to pass both chambers of Congress. Therefore, we have to continue to rely on Gould's kicking leg to methodically tack on a prime number at the end of each 49ers' drive.

The defense fails to get a touchdown. If Hoyer can't find the end zone, but Gould's field goals keep the 49ers within striking distance of the Colts, then the defense must get a pick-six or a scoop-and-run fumble returned for a score.

Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong came up with a key interception last week, and I think Armstrong or linebacker NaVorro Bowman can come up with an interception of Brissett today.

If not, safety Jimmie Ward has returned from his hamstring injury and is playing great football. He could be the player who intercepts Brissett at midfield and finds a clear path to the end zone for an easy six points.

Last week, I thought the 49ers could sneak a win past the Cardinals. I'm betting on them again today to beat the Colts 13-7.

I'm covering today's game for the 49ers Webzone, so keep it tuned to our Twitter and Facebook for in-game comments and analysis. Additionally, I'll be going live on the Webzone's Facebook page at halftime for a short report.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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