The first four weeks of the season have seen the 49ers secondary squaring off against everybody from Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams and Larry Fitzgerald to Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne and Terrance Copper. In spite of last week's performance, the 49ers secondary remains a strength in my opinion. With that in mind I thought we'd take a look at the biggest matchup of week, along with some other important matchups.
Matchup of the Week
Nate Clements vs. Randy Moss: As interesting as I think Walt Harris and Wes Welker is, the matchup everybody will be watching is 6-4 super-freak Randy Moss vs. 6-0 Nate "Lockdown" Clements. Clements has been money well spent and prior to Brady going down, Randy Moss slipped into the rejuvenation machine. However, both the principals face some problems this week.
Nate Clements will be hoping and praying the pass rush steps up this week. As good as he is, if even a guy like Matt Cassel gets enough time, eventually he'll probably find Moss. Maybe it won't happen early on, but eventually Clements will get worn down. On the other side of the ball, aside from the opening week, Matt Cassel has struggled to develop a rapport with Randy Moss. Raiders and VIkings fans are probably wondering when he'll repeat his behavior in those cities.
Patriots pass rush vs. 49ers offensive line: The Patriots pass rush managed next to nothing two weeks ago versus the Dolphins and witnessed Chad Pennington absolutely pick them apart. It was helped in great part by a great running game, but either way Pennington was 17/20 for 226 yards. Given the number of sacks JTO has suffered thus far, a full game on his feet would really be quite nice.
49ers pass rush vs. Patriots offensive line: One thing I've noticed is that Ray McDonald has been especially quiet up to this point. He's made plays but he hasn't been the impact guy I thought he would be at the beginning of the season. Any thoughts on what has kept him from blowing up for the 49ers? Aside from McDonald, I'd expect we'll see a bit of Tully Banta-Cain for the first time. He had some good performances in the preseason garbage time so who knows what we can expect. I do know that Parys Haralson and Roderick Green need to bring the speed off the outside and get Cassel frazzled as early as possible. If they can get Cassel hearing footsteps early it will make their job all the easier.
49ers receivers vs. Patriots secondary: One interesting advantage might be the injury of third corner Lewis Hobbs Sanders who has missed all of practice this week. If they're short on cornerbacks, a healthy 49ers wide receiver corp could potentially do some damage. Arnaz Battle is coming off probably the best game of his career and a chance to face a rookie like Terrence Wheatley.
49ers running game vs. interior of Patriots defense: As Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams showed last week, this defense can be run upon. I'm sure Belichick has the defense prepped for Frank Gore, but Gore brings enough talent to overcome such gameplans if he gets enough touches. The Patriots interior includes the likes of Vince Wilfork at nose tackle, Tedy Bruschi and Jerod Mayo at inside linebacker and hard-hitting Rodney Harrison at strong safety. I include Harrison because of the support he can bring in the run game. Aside from some ugly blocking against the Seahawks, the offensive line has opened up just enough space for Frank Gore to squeeze out some sizeable runs. A solid running game is absolutely, positively essential to protecting JTO.