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Five Things: 49ers at Eagles

Posted Sep 30, 2011

Though they’re members of different NFC divisions, the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles have become recent rivals. Sunday’s meeting at Lincoln Financial Field marks the fourth consecutive year the two teams have squared off in the regular season. The Eagles have won those three previous meetings, but the 49ers are optimistic about their chances on Sunday, especially coming off a 13-8 road win in Cincinnati. Here are five things to look for when the teams meet once more.

1. Stop Vick

Keeping Michael Vick out of the Eagles starting lineup would be the prudent thing to do. The banged-up quarterback needs to rest his injured right hand. At least, that’s what head coach Jim Harbaugh said jokingly to reporters this week in Youngstown, Ohio. “We can’t count on that,” said Harbaugh with a grin, “so we’re going to have to prepare for him.” The funny soundbite was aired on Sportscenter this week, adding more attention to an important matchup for both teams. According to former Philadelphia quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, Vick has been hit to the ground 45 times in three games. The talented quarterback has already suffered one concussion this season, before injuring his non-throwing hand last week in a loss to the New York Giants. The 49ers defense is determined to put together a good showing against one of the league’s top play-makers and dangerous threat for the NFL’s second-best rushing attack. “Michael Vick is a tremendous player,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “We all know he’s a play-maker and can make a difference in the game.”  But that doesn’t mean the 49ers will be in awe of the Pro Bowl quarterback. “For us, it’s not something I’m looking any more into than the previous games,” Willis added. “To me, It’s Sunday and the team we’re playing. It’s a team that stands in the way of where we’re trying to get to and that’s our focus. It’s a big game this week because it’s this Sunday.”

2. Gore’s Health

Running back Frank Gore has yet to put together a 100-yard performance this season. The Eagles have the league’s 30th ranked rush defense. You’d assume Gore would be licking his chops this week to play in Philadelphia, but the veteran back is coming off an ankle injury that hampered him last week against the Bengals. Rookie Kendall Hunter scored his first rushing touchdown and could be more involved in the game plan last week after demonstrating excellent burst off the ball late in the game. Gore was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but offensive coordinator Greg Roman was optimistic about getting the 49ers star running back involved against the Eagles. “Hopefully he’ll be full speed Sunday,” Roman said. Second-year back Anthony Dixon, who has one carry for six yards, could also see more action if Gore’s not 100-percent. Whoever carries the ball for the 49ers will face a Philadelphia Eagles defense that has made two lineup changes to its defense this week. Reports out of Philadelphia indicate rookie linebacker Casey Matthews and second-year safety Kurt Coleman have been replaced by Brian Rolle and Nate Allen, respectively.

3. No Sacks

The 49ers began the season by not allowing a single sack in a 33-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks, but have since allowed 11 sacks in their last two contests. The 49ers offensive line struggled with communication last week, according to Roman, and will have to address those issues in a hurry against an Eagles defense that has 12 sacks this season. Roman said all of those sacks have come from Philadelphia’s defensive line, a talented group in its own right. Free agent addition Cullen Jenkins has 4.0 sacks at defensive tackle, while the team’s two ends, Jason Babin and Trent Cole have 4.0 and 3.0 sacks, respectively. It’s certainly a tough test, but one the 49ers are ready for. The 49ers made a lineup change in the second half last week when versatile lineman Adam Snyder replaced Chilo Rachal at right guard. This week, Roman said the player who practiced best would get the start against the Eagles.

4. Green Akers

David Akers was an institution for the Philadelphia Eagles. The five-time Pro Bowler returns to Philadelphia to face his former team, in what figures to be an important game for the 13-year veteran. Well, maybe not so crucial to Akers, who is treating it like another Sunday. “Maybe I’m crazy,” Akers said, “But I just kind of look at it like a regular game. Obviously I’m going back to my home, that’s where my house is and all that. … It’s going to be a little different being on the sideline without the green on my helmet, but I think for the most part I’m focusing on having a good game.” Akers still remains one of the best in the business. With his two makes last week in Cincinnati, he now has 301 career makes. Akers has made all seven of his field goals with the 49ers and has connected on at least one in every game.

5. Business Trip

It’s one thing to enjoy the serene atmosphere of Ohio for a week. It’s another thing to capitalize on the comfort, by making it a perfect 2-0 road trip. That’s exactly what the 49ers aim to Sunday. The team will be looking for consecutive road wins for the first time since 2006 when they beat Seattle (12/14) and Denver (12/31). Furthermore, a win on Sunday would be the first time the team won consecution 1 p.m. kick-offs on the East Coast since 2001. It’s never easy for West Coast teams to win early contests on the East Coast, but the 49ers aim to make it happen and staying in Ohio this week was an attempt to ensure that it happens.

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