Sports Out West

49ers Week 7 primer: Clash with the Titans

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The 49ers are playing good, although not always pretty, football right now as they bring their three game win streak into Tennessee for a clash with the struggling Titans. The Niners have scored 30 points or more in each of the last three contests which is a first under head coach Jim Harbaugh. They scored 30 or more in back to back games twice in 2012 but were never able to continue the trend the following week. Can they make it four in a row against the Titans?

Recent History

It’s been a while since the 49ers have beaten the Tennessee Titans. You’d have to go back to 1999 when Jeff Garcia made his first career start and was throwing passes to Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens to find the Niners last win in this matchup. The game was actually a significant one in 49ers’ history as it was the week after Steve Young‘s career ending concussion forced him off the field for good. The 24-22 win would put the 49ers at 3-1 that season. They would go on to lose 11 of their next 12 and finish the season 4-12.

More recently, the two teams met in 2009 when Chris Johnson led the Titans to a 34-27 victory. Johnson was in the midst of a 2000 yard rushing campaign and his 135 yards and two touchdowns paced the Tennessee attack. The game was in reach for the 49ers into the fourth quarter before Cortland Finnegan picked off an Alex Smith pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Smith had three interceptions on the day and threw the ball 45 times which is tied for the second highest amount of attempts in a game for the quarterback so far in his career.

The teams also met in 2005 when the 49ers took a 14-9 lead into halftime before three third quarter Steve McNair touchdown passes gave the Titans the lead en route to a 33-22 win. The starting quarterback for the 49ers in that game was Ken Dorsey who was throwing to the likes of Brandon Lloyd, Terry Jones, and Johnnie Morton. Good times.

Players to watch

Eric Reid is having a huge impact in his rookie year.

The 49er safety leads the team with three interceptions and was Johnny-on-the-spot on a huge fumble recovery that changed the momentum in San Francisco’s Week 6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He is also tied for second on the team with five passes defended. He will play a big role in the Titan’s game as he paces a defense that has forced 10 turnovers during the team’s three game win streak.

Chris Johnson is averaging less than two yards per carry over his last three games. He has 37 rushes for only 71 yards during that span and hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown all season. The Titans should make it a point to get Johnson involved early in this one as the Niners are beat up on the defensive line. The San Francisco defense has given up over 100 yards rushing in four of six contests this season and are not the brick wall run stoppers they once were.   

Game changing factor

The Titans, they are having trouble scoring since Jake Locker went down with an injury. They have 23 points via the offense over the last two games and need backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to step up as Locker is still unlikely to play. Fitzpatrick has been sacked six times in that two game stretch and has four interceptions. While he’s played against two of the tougher defenses in the NFL in the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, things won’t get any easier against the formidable San Francisco unit. Without their starting quarterback, Tennessee looks nothing like the team that began the season 3-1. 

Stats to know

When the 49ers get Vernon Davis the ball down field, good things happen. Davis is averaging 18.4 yards per catch this season and already has touchdown receptions of 20, 35, 61 and 64 yards. In Week 6, Davis was targeted 11 times (his high on the season) and caught eight of those passes. His 180 yards receiving marked a career high for the tight end and were more yards than quarterback Colin Kaepernick had thrown for in any single game over the last four weeks. Davis also leads all 49er receivers in yards per game with 80.8.

Bottom line

While the Titans played the Seahawks tough in Week 6, they are still a struggling team right now. A backup quarterback and non-existent running game will not go very far in trying to defeat a 49ers’ squad that is starting to find themselves after a tough start to the season. Look for the 49ers to control the tempo in this one and continue to be opportunistic on defense. San Francisco should stay on their roll and run their win streak to four with a trip to London looming.

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images 

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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.