Since the final schedule was released and after the Philadelphia Eagles finished their Christmas shopping 5 months early, I have been asking myself, "What is going to take for the 49ers to beat the Eagles on the road?" Capping off a two-game road trip, the 49ers should have some legitimate concerns playing the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
It begins with the 49ers continued offensive line struggles, as they face a pass rushing tandem of Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin, who are both currently tied for second in the NFL with 4.0 sacks each. The word around the rumor mill is that versatile offensive line vet Adam Snyder may assume the duties at right guard in place of the constantly under-performing Chilo Rachal.
The concerns continue when we start breaking down the Eagles receiving corps, which can score points with some of the best offenses in the league. The group, led by Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, will face a completely remodeled secondary still finding their identity. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Jackson and Maclin combined for 250+ receiving yards on the day against them.
And it continues...
The San Francisco 49ers are without their prized free agent acquisition in wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who is still sidelined after a minor knee surgery. The Niners will be relying on Michael Crabtree as the number one receiving threat against a team that is showcasing three Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie.
The problem with relying on Crabtree is that Alex Smith and him haven't been on the same page since the receiver joined the 49ers, and it is unlikely that they'll make up for two years in one game against the Eagles.
And yet another player for Philadelphia that the 49ers will have to account for is Lesean McCoy, who is having a career year so far despite the shaky offensive line he plays behind. All this season, McCoy has displayed his ability to turn a potential loss of yards into a top five highlight. The 49ers front seven will be put to the test as they try and contain McCoy. Safety Donte Whitner will factor in to locking up McCoy, and will need to have a big game taking away the deep man as well.
So, we've gotten this far and still haven't mentioned the ringleader of that high-flying circus in Philadelphia, Michael Vick. Vick clearly isn't having the kind of season he had last year, and is struggling with injuries. Right now, Vick is dealing with a contusion on his non-throwing hand, a knicked tongue and a week old concussion. It is still to be determined whether or not he'll get the start Sunday, as he is having difficulties receiving the snap from center.
And while he is still a threat, if Vick does start, he will be the key to knocking off the Eagles at their own house. Even though the odds are stacked against San Francisco, it is very possible for them to come away with a win. What they need to do against Philadelphia is simple: Attack!
The 49ers need to play like they're invincible, like they have nothing to lose. The offense needs to attack Philadelphia's linebackers with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. And the 49ers defense needs to attack Vick, really giving him something to complain about to the referees. The New York Giants played fearless and didn't buy into the hype, and despite their list of injuries, managed a win against the Eagles last week.
We can't hold back against Philadelphia; if we don't play to win, Philadelphia will chew us up and spit us out. The front seven needs to get to Vick often and early, putting him on the ground. He is the centerpiece to that offense, and if he is removed or rendered ineffective, the Eagles will fall.
The 49ers defense is blue collar and has seen tougher days than the Eagles have in recent years. They have been in their fair share of slobberknockers, building up a callus that this new pretty-on-paper Eagles team just doesn't have. This could be the edge that the 49ers could use to put them over the Eagles; much like how the Raiders took down the Jets or the Bills against the Patriots.
The Niners play the good teams close, and under Jim Harbaugh, we may start coming away with 'W's in these matches. Look for the 49ers to finally open things up against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 4.
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