And so we're heading into the final weekend of the season. It was a rough season until Shaun Hill took the helm and guided the 49ers to back-to-back wins. It doesn't get rid of the sting of underachieving and not making the playoffs, or even improving a little bit from last season. Nonetheless, the 49ers can end the season in style this Sunday. As the Browns do not control their own destiny, a win over the 49ers is next to meaningless. However, if the Titans were to tie, the Browns would need to win to get in the playoffs. So I'd expect the Browns would give it their all...at least I hope so.
In the meantime, I posted my Defining Moment prediction for the week. It's pretty straight forward actually: The 49ers end the season with a solid win behind quality performances from Shaun Hill and Frank Gore. Head on over when you get a chance to vote for the moment. We finished second last week with 42 votes. Definitely a nice little total (first was 51 votes). Like the 49ers, let's finish off the season with a floury.
In the meantime, I thought I'd take a look at what Scouts Inc has to say about the game. The Browns have been quite the surprise this season and I personally am rooting for a Tennesee Titans loss, so that when the 49ers beat the Browns, they can still get in the playoffs.
San Francisco has simplified its passing attack because it is down to Hill, who started the season third on the depth chart. But Hill has won two in a row as the starter and simply tries to manage the game and build the passing game around play-action passes and short throws.
The Browns pass defense has improved greatly the last six weeks and have be creating turnovers. Cleveland cornerback Leigh Bodden had two interceptions Sunday and safety Sean Jones has five interceptions this season. The Browns have improved in their base Tampa 2 coverage and are being more disciplined in not giving up the deep conversions.
I'm certainly curious to see what Hill can do this week against another Tampa-2 style defense. The Browns certainly won't need to worry about the deep conversion from Shaun Hill. The 49ers have played to Hill's strengths with quick, short passes. The touchdowns he's thrown have all been on patterns of which Hill can take advantage. Slants to DJack and The Disease; a dumpoff to Gore who turned a short gain into a nice TD reception; The pass to Davis over the middle when he was one-on-one with a slower linebacker. They're not expecting Hill to drop a pass 45 yards through the air right into the arms of a streaking Darrell Jackson. If the 49ers continue to do this, Hill will continue to be successful.
The 49ers can do a lot of damage in this phase of the game against a weak Cleveland run defense. Gore is a very strong runner with exceptional balance and can get extra yards after the initial hit.
The key for the Browns will be to shed blockers. There were too many instances against Cincinnati where the interior of the entire Browns defense couldn't get off of blockers. From the defensive line to the inside linebackers, the Browns couldn't make the tackles in the run game against the Bengals.
Hill's success has coincided with the 49ers offensive line performing better AND Frank Gore having two of his better performances of the year. Coincidence? I think not. If the 49ers can establish Gore, it will certainly create openings in the passing game for Hill to pick apart.
[Derek] Anderson is capable of having a big day against the San Francisco secondary, which isn't that good. The 49ers pass defense is similar to Cleveland's pass defense -- it bends, but doesn't break for the most part...San Francisco corner Nate Clements is the leader of the secondary and will most likely be matched-up against Browns WR Braylon Edwards. Edwards is a Pro Bowl receiver this season and holds the Browns single season touchdown mark. Edwards should have a big day catching balls across the middle and on the outside.
I can't wait to see Clements match up with Braylon Edwards. I wouldn't be surprised to see Edwards make a few catches to get upwards of 60 or 70 yards, but I think the 49ers will keep him out of the end zone. The 49ers playmakers on defense have stepped up recently and I look forward to it again.
combined effort of [Jamal] Lewis and backup RB Jason Wright is very effective for the Browns in controlling the time of possession.
Cleveland has two very good guards in Eric Steinbach and Ryan Tucker and the 49ers give up 115 yards per game on the ground. The Browns will face one of the best linebackers in the NFL in rookie Patrick Willis, who is stout against the run and is able to go from sideline to sideline. But he may not be enough against the Browns...
Jamal Lewis has seen a rebirth passing 1,100 yards with 9 touchdowns. I certainly can't wait to see him get a face-to-face introduction with Bam Bam. Lewis has lost a step due to all his surgeries, and I'd expect Patrick Willis to have a couple phenomenal tackles behind the line of scrimmage this Sunday.
To close on a different note, don't forget to vote for Patrick Willis for Defensive Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week. And of course, don't forget to vote for my Defining Moment prediction.