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San Francisco 49ers

49ers vs Texans Preview – Let’s Get This Party Started

Jesse Oehler

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© Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers will travel to Houston on Sunday for their week 14 game against the Houston Texans. Coming off a confidence-building 15-14 victory on the road against the Bears last week, the Niners have a chance to get back-to-back victories for the first time this year. The Texans have gone 1-4 with quarterback Tom Savage since the unfortunate injury to rookie phenom Deshaun Watson in November, and are in a tailspin since his injury, rapidly slipping out of playoff contention.

Each of these teams’ situation has changed significantly in recent weeks, primarily due to switches at the quarterback position. In light of that, one much exercise caution when comparing and contrasting 2017 team trends. Nevertheless, there are some interesting team and individual match-ups to explore in this game. The 49ers are more than capable of coming away from this one with a win, and here’s how they can do it.

Neutralize the Texan’s Pass Rush:

If the 49ers must face the Texans’ potentially devastating pass rush, this is the time to do it. The Texans are banged up along the defensive line, missing both JJ. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, who are both out with injury. San Francisco will still have plenty to contend with, as the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney is a monster on the field, with 9 sacks this year, in addition to 18 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.

Take a tour of the turnover factory:

Since taking the reigns as the Texans’ starting quarterback, Tom Savage has seemed confused as to who he is actually supposed to give the gall to, having thrown six interceptions and losing 7 fumbles in six starts. The Texans are -8 in turnover differential, even worse than the 49ers’ lowly -5 differential. The 49ers should win the turnover battle in this game, as they give the ball away less (18 total giveaways against the Texans’ 23) and rank comparably with the Texans in takeaways (13 to Houston’s 15).

Continue to Improve Upon Recent Success:

The 49ers finally dominated in time of possession last week, and they will need to do so again this week in Texas. The Texans have been decent in this area, controlling the ball for 31:00 per game this year. The team converts nearly 39% of their 3rd down attempts, and ranks 11th in team rushing with 117 yards/game. Reversing these trends will be key to San Francisco’s success. The 49ers looked like a new team last week, were excellent on 3rd down and kept their defense fresh. They also got a couple sacks last week against the Bears, and  look to improve on that, as the Texans gave up 4 sacks last week vs. the Titans and allowed Tom Savage to be knocked down 9 times.

Touchdowns, not field goals:

This one is obvious, as the 49ers went 0/5 in the redzone last week. I see no reason for this to continue, as Jimmy Garoppolo gets more comfortable in the offense, and continues to gel with his playmakers. The team will get this issue tightened up sooner rather than later, as red zone success comes down to accurate execution in condensed spaces.

Win Receiving match-ups on both sides of the ball:

  • One undercover area where the 49ers could find success is throwing to tight ends. They had some big gains with Garret Celek and George Kittle last week, and Houston has given up 722 yards and 7 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year.
  • With Marquis Goodwin and Trent Taylor suddenly capable of putting up simultaneous 100 yard games, slowly improving pass protection and ‘Jimmy G’ at the helm, the 49ers have the potential to blow this thing wide open through the air.
  • The Texans have few receiving options outside of DeAndre Hopkins (though he is quite enough for any secondary to deal with). Hopkins has 77 receptions for 1084 yards and 9 touchdowns on the year. After Hopkins, the Texans’ receiving threats drop off notably, though big-play threat Will Fuller, who is hoping to return this week from a rib injury, is always dangerous and boasts 7 touchdowns on 19.2 yards per reception this year. Gone for the year is former 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington (hamstring injury, surprise!), and the next most prolific receiver on the team is Lamar Miller with 31 receptions for 309 yards.

As with last week, if the 49ers come into this game with a balanced attack, play mistake free football (for God’s sake, get the penalties under control), control the pace of the game and convert in the redzone, they will come away victorious.

 

Writer for Locked On 49ers, father and lifetime 49ers fan. Former football player, house builder and server of coffee. A globetrotting wannabe musician, Jesse has tuned in to 49ers games from Mexico, Germany, Belize and many places in-between.

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