Sports Out West

49ers Week 3 primer: With a little bit of Luck, Niners can return to winning ways

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The San Francisco 49ers are looking to get back to their winning ways after an embarrassing loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The team returns home in Week 3 to face a young Indianapolis Colts team that may have taken a bit of a step back from last season’s surprising 11-5 squad. Was the Seattle game just an aberration or a sign of bigger problems in San Francisco?

Recent history

The 49ers have dropped the last two games they have played against the Colts. They lost a tight 18-14 affair at Indianapolis in 2009 and were blown out at home in 2005, 28-3. The 2005 game was significant because it was the first start for then rookie quarterback Alex Smith. It wasn’t a pretty beginning as Smith threw for only 74 yards and was picked off four times as he spent the day throwing to likes of Johnnie Morton and Steve Bush. The last time the 49ers beat the Colts was actually in 2001 when Peyton Manning threw four interceptions of his own in 40-21 49er win.

Maybe the most intriguing recent history between the two teams has nothing to do with the NFL, but what happened on the campus of Stanford University in 2009 and 2010. It was during that time the current 49er head coach, Jim Harbaugh, was busy molding the current Colt quarterback, Andrew Luck, into one of the most pro ready college prospects the league has seen. The teacher and the pupil have both become incredibly successful in their young NFL careers and should continue to be major players as their respective teams help shape the landscape of the league for the next decade.

Key players

Frank Gore is off to one of the worst starts is his career as he has carried the ball 30 times for only 60 yards over the first two games. Kendall Hunter is also struggling and has 17 yards on seven carries. When you consider Hunter had a 23 yard run in Week 1, the stats look even worse as his other six carries have produced negative six yards. The 49ers need to inject some balance into the offense and getting Gore and Hunter involved and back to being effective will be crucial for the 49ers going forward.

For the Colts, Luck is always the central point of their team but the speedy T.Y. Hilton could prove to be a tough cover for San Francisco. Hilton averaged 17.2 yards per catch last season and has the big play ability to beat the 49ers secondary if the offensive line gives Luck enough time. Tarell Brown, who is the 49ers’ best corner, will most likely be matched up with Reggie Wayne which means Carlos Rogers or Nnamdi Asomugha may have to deal with Hilton. Rogers and Asomugha have struggled at times so far this season and the Colts may be able to exploit this matchup.   

Game changing factor

The 49ers are nearly impossible to run on for any player not named Marshawn Lynch. The Colts are coming into this game without their starting running back Vick Ballard who was lost for the season with a torn ACL. They still have Ahmad Bradshaw but he has been brought along slowly after offseason foot surgery. Donald Brown is another option but the former first round pick has been a disappointment in his Colt career. If the Colts can’t keep the 49er defense honest and hit a few big runs, it could be a long day for Luck. The wild card here is the addition of Trent Richardson who the Colts traded a first round pick in 2014 to the Cleveland Browns to acquire on Wednesday. It’s hard to believe Richardson will be up to speed in just a few days but one would think the Colts will mix him in on a certain number of snaps.

Stats to know

In 18 regular season games, Luck has a 12-6 record and has been as clutch as any quarterback in the league during that time. He has led eight game winning drives and has five fourth quarter comebacks. The eight game winning drives are the most in NFL history through any quarterback’s first 18 games. If the Colts find a way to stick around with the 49ers and the game is tight late, things could get interesting at Candlestick.

Bottom line

The 49ers are coming off of one of the worst losses in the Harbaugh era after being embarrassed the Seahawks. The 49ers have never lost two games in a row under Harbaugh and will be out to prove the Seattle game was a fluke. As San Francisco returns home, the Colts will be facing an angry team that is out the prove a point. Not a good scenario for a team that struggled to beat a poor Oakland Raiders squad in Week 1 and lost to the Miami Dolphins at home in Week 2. The 49ers should get back to their winning ways as they begin a stretch of three out of the next four games at home.

 Photo Credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a staff writer for 49erswebzone.com and 49ersgab.com. He is also a contributor to Yahoo! Voices.