Let me paint a situation for you. You're a big game hunter, you've killed a few big cats, but nothing quite as fierce as a lion. You're currently out hunting a lion who has been on a murderous rampage. You're feeling pretty confident, when all of a sudden the lion leaps from concealment, knocking your gun out of your hands. The lion then proceeds to rip you apart. That really sucks for you, doesn't it? Well, that is the situation most people are expecting to happen when the Niners go into Detroit on Sunday. However, it is quite possible that an alternate situation happens, where the hunter says heck with this, drops his gun, and proceeds to rip the lion apart with his bare hands. After the jump, I will explain why the alternate situation is the more likely one.
1. Greg Roman, Brad Seely, Vic Fangio, and Jim Harbaugh
You have to remember, we have an offensive co-coordinator who learned from a CIA guy. He can and will find and exploit Detroit's weaknesses. Heck, if we're going with the CIA side of things, I may as well say that he'll use Alex Smith like an unmanned drone aircraft: sitting back and picking off the Lions pass by pass. Funny thing is, that's probably what will happen. Detroit's defensive line has been one of the best in the NFL this year, and until last Sunday they were playing without Nick Fairley! So expect our running game to be a non-factor, and expect Smith to pass a lot (likely out of the shotgun if things get too ugly).
Brad Seely wears glasses. Some people say this is to make him look more scholarly. The truth however, is that he wears glasses to shield normal human beings from the extraordinary intelligence shining from his eyes like laser beams. In short, he does genius stuff on special teams (the way we line up for kick-offs for example) and coaches one of the best special teams units in the NFL. This will play a big part in this game. If our offense has good field position, we'll only need to move the ball a short way before David Akers can kick a field goal. 3 points could well be the deciding factor in this game. Field position also makes a difference in that Calvin Johnson is at his most deadly when in the red zone. Keep him out of the red zone for as long as possible and you give yourself a good chance at winning.
Vic Fangio is a stone-cold serial killer who eats opposing offensive coordinators for his mid-day snack. He flat-out out-coaches opposing teams. In fact, our whole coaching staff does. Stafford and Johnson don't have a prayer. I'll explain why in number 2.
Jim Harbaugh is a coach who hates to lose more than just about anything. He finds ways to win. It may be ugly, but he does everything he can to give his guys the opportunity to win. Remember, this is the guy who had Toby Gerhart throw a touchdown pass. This is the guy behind Andrew Luck's beheading of a USC defender. This is a guy who took one of the biggest, baddest coaches in his division, flogged him around the block, kicked him in his manhood when he cried out for mercy, and calmly shoved the guy's words back at him when asked "What's your deal?" at the end of it.
2. De-clawing the Lion
Calvin Johnson can rape Chuck Norris AND get away with it. Calvin Johnson is a beast, yes we know, blah blah blah. Forgive me while I go puke out the window of the optimism train. We face "beasts" all the time. We also leave said beasts crying for their mothers when we are through with them. Fitzgerald didn't do diddly-squat against us. Neither did any of Philly's weapons. Neither have any of the running backs that we have faced. We faced the scary Peyton Manning and made him look like a practice-squadder. In fact, I've never seen Manning look so lost and confused as he did when he faced our defense. Remember too, that was when our defense wasn't even as good as it is now!
So how do we stop Johnson? Well I imagine Carlos Rogers will see a lot of him. One thing Rogers seems to do well is watching a lot of film. That my friends, is the key to stopping the Lions. If you watched the Bucs game, you'll have noticed that it looked like our defense was calling their plays and our corners were running the receivers routes. I didn't actually watch the game (was performing in our last matinee for a musical I was in), but others have said that and I saw it myself from watching the 18 minute highlight video on Youtube. However, I didn't need to watch the game to know that. All I have to do is to know the 49ers coaches. They are manically obsessed with with watching film and preparing for their opponents. If we know the Lion's plays, Goldson, Whitner, Willis, and Bowman will be there to lay their guys out all game long. It doesn't matter if Johnson can out-jump everybody as long as we have someone taking him out while he's coming down. Jahvid Best will be a non-factor just because of how good our run defense is. Short passes will be a non-factor because of Whitner, Willis, and Bowman who are just plain scary within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. That leaves Stafford with having to wait several seconds for deeper routes to emerge. That gives the Cowboy, the Ape, the Sandwich Gangsta, Big Mac, and Brooks enough time to do their thing. I have no doubt that Johnson will catch a few, but it will end up being a non-factor. Our D-Line and LB's can take care of their RBs, QB, and TE's. Culliver can handle Burleson or Titus Young no problem. That leaves Whitner, Goldson, and Carlos Rogers to beat up on Calvin Johson. In the end though, I don't think Stafford will make it through the whole game. I really don't. So stop talking to me about Calvin Johnson and the scary Lions offense. Most importantly, remember this...
EVEN WITH CALVIN JOHNSON THE LIONS WENT 0-16 IN 2008!
After our defense finishes slaying the lion, that leaves Alex Smith and our offense to pick apart the bones. The Lions front line is pretty darn scary, I'll admit. but we have been operating with basically 7 offensive linemen. That should help in wearing them down. If their pass-rush proves to be a problem, look for a healthy dose of screens to Gore and Hunter, and slants to Kyle Williams. The Lions secondary really isn't that great. Look for Alex Smith to have a big day. The key here will be the performance of our wide receivers. If Williams, Crabtree, and Ginn are having problems with dropping balls or getting jammed at the line of scrimmage, things could get really ugly really fast. That would bring it down to a scrappy fight to the finish. If it comes down to it, I'm pretty confident in Akers and Ginn with their play on special teams to decide the win for us.
Quote of the Week
There is a video that I would very much like to post here because I feel like it fits this game perfectly. However, it's so much about God that I'll leave it out. Just a bit too glaring to be included here. However, I will quote part of it:
"In about 5 minutes we head out for the warmup. I want to say two things. Number one I love you and I'm proud of you. I wouldn't trade this season for anything in the world. Secondly, you're about to play the biggest team we've ever faced. They're strong, fast, and undefeated...so far.
We weren't supposed to have a winning season, but we do...We aren't supposed to be here, but we are. So if there is anything in you that says this is a losing effort, throw it out.
Who'll go fight the giants with me?" -Coach Grant Taylor ("Facing the Giants")
In a fanpost I wrote at the beginning of the regular season, I predicted as good a season as 10-6, 11-5 for the Niners. At the time, most people thought I was nuts (or just too bold, too soon). Not to brag or anything, but what say you now? I've posted a music video below that does quite well summing up how I feel about the 49ers right now.