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Top 10 Spotlight: 49ers vs. Colts

Posted Sep 20, 2013

49ers.com ranks the top 10 storylines to track in the upcoming matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.

The 49ers return to Candlestick Park this week for a non-conference game against the Indianapolis Colts. The matchup is full of notable reunions. First and foremost, the game is highlighted by Jim Harbaugh’s first matchup against his former college quarterback, Andrew Luck.

We rank the top 10 storylines to track in this 49ers-Colts matchup.

10. Davis Reunion
Vernon Davis has never faced his brother, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis, in any sport. The Week 3 family meeting for the Davis brothers is not a guarantee just yet. Davis suffered a hamstring injury against Seattle and has been held out of practice this week. Davis is officially listed as questionable to play. The 49ers tight end leads the team with two touchdown catches and is a key component to San Francisco’s passing game. Vontae is one of Indianapolis’ starting cornerbacks and is eager to compete against his brother should be healthy enough to play. Davis told reporters he’s letting his hamstring rest and hopes to be cleared in time to play.


9. Injury Watch
Besides Davis, the 49ers had a longer than usual turnout on this week’s injury list. Eric Reid (concussion) was limited in practice all week and is also questionable for Sunday’s game. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Reid was looking good in recovering from his injury. The first-round pick has two interceptions in two games, but needs to pass the NFL’s final concussion test to be cleared to play on Sunday. Elsewhere, defensive tackles Justin Smith and Ray McDonald nursed injuries this week. Smith (shoulder) is probable, McDonald, (two injured ankles) is questionable. For the Colts, starting strong safety LaRon Landry (ankle) has been ruled out. Indianapolis has four wide receivers listed as probable on this week’s injury report: Reggie Wayne (shoulder), T.Y. Hilton (groin), Darrius Heyward-Bey (ribs) and David Reed (quadriceps).

8. Pass Pros
Both offensive lines will need to protect their respective quarterbacks who can make plays both inside and outside the pocket. The Colts have allowed seven sacks in two weeks, tied for seventh-most in the NFL. The 49ers, on the other hand, have allowed five sacks in two games, putting them in a tie for 14th among the NFL’s 32 clubs. The Colts have already lost one starter for the season. Left guard Donald Thomas was carted off the field last week in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. He tore a quad tendon in his right leg and was placed on Injured Reserve. In his place, the Colts will likely on rookie Hugh Thornton to face the powerful left side of the 49ers defensive line.

7. Dorsey Up Front
With Ian Williams being placed on Injured Reserve this week, it’s Glenn Dorsey’s turn to handle the nose tackle responsibilities in San Francisco’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Dorsey fared well in his fill-in duty last week. He posted five tackles and a sack. The 49ers chose not to sign an extra nose tackle this week to be Dorsey’s backup. Instead, the team is relying on second-year defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie to be a part of the five-man rotation. With the extra roster spot, the 49ers added fullback Owen Marecic, a former Stanford two-way player who could make his debut on San Francisco’s special teams units.

6. Featuring Boldin
Anquan Boldin went from NFC Offensive Player of the Week to a one-catch outing in Week 2. Boldin remains as one of the most physical receivers in football, but was unable to get involved in the passing game against Seattle. The 11-year veteran is still a key in the 49ers plan of attack. With Davis’ availability up in the air, Boldin’s production will be key against a Colts secondary without its starting strong safety. Boldin likes to go over the middle and could do that often this Sunday.

5. Wayne's World
Reggie Wayne is probable this week, but he’s been the model of consistency for the Colts offense. The 13-year veteran has 13 receptions for 142 receiving yards and one touchdown this season. He also remains as the unquestioned leader of Indianapolis’ offense. Wayne’s production is always key to Indianapolis’ success. The 49ers have to account for Wayne’s crafty route-running on Sunday. In addition, second-year playmakers Hilton, and tight end Coby Fleener have emerged as Luck’s two other favorite targets.

4. Ground Game
It’s no secret the 49ers want nothing more than to have a big rushing game this Sunday. Colin Kaepernick is the team’s leading rusher. Frank Gore has averaged 2.0 yards per carry this season and has made his biggest impact in blitz pickup situations. Gore, however, remains patient and positive about the state of San Francisco’s running attack. The 49ers will face former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky this week, San Francisco’s coordinator from 2007-2010. The Manusky factor is worth monitoring, he also signed two former 49ers defensive linemen Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean Francois. The return of those three men to San Francisco adds another reunion factor to Sunday’s game.

3. No Luck
Harbaugh has more knowledge on this week’s quarterback than any other starting signal-caller in the NFL. As a whole, the 49ers have nothing but respect for the Colts second-year quarterback. San Francisco starting cornerback Carlos Rogers praised Luck for already becoming one of the elite pocket passers in the NFL. Back at Stanford, the 49ers coaches used to find the best way to highlight Luck’s skills. On Sunday, the very same coaches will look to attack the very few weaknesses in his game. Pass rush against the Colts is key. According to Harbaugh, starting linebacker Aldon Smith will play on Sunday. Smith leads the 49ers with 3.5 sacks.

2. Richardson's Arrival
The Colts made a major splash this week by acquiring running back Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns. Indianapolis will waste no time with their shiny new toy. Richardson a former No. 3 overall draft pick, will suit up for his first game with a new team. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano referred to his new running back as a “rolling ball of butcher knives.” He’s also expected to have a firm grasp of the Indianapolis offense. Colts coordinator Pep Hamilton learned his offensive system from current Browns coordinator Norv Turner, who previously worked with Richardson this offseason. The new running back should have a good idea of Indianapolis’ run game and pass protection schemes.

1. The Big Payback
The 49ers are coming off a 29-3 loss. Back-to-back defeats have never happened in the Harbaugh era. Every time the 49ers have been defeated, they’ve found ways to overcome a setback and get right back on track. The Colts present a challenge, but the 49ers are focused on overcoming last week’s divisional loss. Justin Smith spoke to the team at the end of Friday’s practice about continuing to push for sustained success. The defensive captain’s message was well received. How it translates to the field will be known late Sunday afternoon.


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