You may have read that headline and thought I had some grand insight into stopping the Colts prolific passing attack. In reality, I'm not all that sure what the 49ers can do. We've had plenty of discussion in the FanPosts Q&As on each site, but I thought it was a topic worthy of pulling out for a little expanded discussion.
The 49ers are somewhat fortunate in the fact that Donald Brown won't be on the field. Joseph Addai is a very solid running back, but he's struggled a bit this year (3.3 ypc), while Donald Brown was snapping off some of the bigger runs. Mike Hart (0 carries) and Chad Simpson (6 carries) would appear to be the two replacements that might spell Addai on occasion. This is big because the Colts do enjoy using the play action on occasion, so maybe this will cut the effectiveness of that down a little bit.
However, even with a potentially limited rushing attack (if at all) there is the always potent Colts passing attack. Of course, first you're talking about a current big 3 of QB Peyton Manning, WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark. Joseph Addai is a very capable receiver out of the backfield. Now they're adding in some young weapons like Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. We don't know what either will do long term, but Collie is looking especially good early on.
So if you're the 49ers, and your offense remains questionable in terms of scoring points (yes Smith had a good half, but it's too soon to tell how that extrapolates out), what do you do to at least keep the score reasonable and give you a puncher's chance?
This is definitely a post for our new Colts readers to comment on. In the Stampede Blue Q&A I posted, there was one particularly interesting comment. Others can feel free to clarify or counter this. I've shortened it to the pertinent portion:
The deep safety approach generally works (to some extent) against Manning
...Now while it limits the big plays, it does not stop Manning, of course, as he says "fine, I’ll take the 5-15 yarders all day." Last week is an example, along with 2006, 2006, 2007….. The trick is then for the D to step up and stop a pretty slick passing game, and for our guys to not drop balls. But as always, if you force a team to make ten short plays instead of one huge one, there is always the possiblity of a fumble, INT, penalty to kill drives….
I've been sitting here thinking about the 49ers defense, and I'm just not sure what personnel and formations to utilize. The Colts offensive line has done great work keeping Manning on his feet, but you still need to attempt to apply some heat. You give Manning all day and you could double every receiver and he'd still find an open guy.
It's especially interesting that the 49ers will now be deploying Dashon Goldson with the green dot for the transmission of plays. This is particular pertinent this week given Peyton Manning's proclivity for calling so many plays at the line of scrimmage. It helps having a safety observing the entire field for making adjustments, but is it possible having somebody new doing it could lead to some wasted timeouts when the defense is not getting aligned quickly enough?
In the end, how would you defend the Colts offense? Bring extra blitzers and pray your DBs can handle the receivers 1-on-1? Play a deeper defense and give up the dink and dunk stuff underneath like we've seen them do before? Make no adjustments and play them like anybody else?