The San Francisco 49ers take the stage in primetime as they host the Indianapolis Colts at Levi's® Stadium for "Sunday Night Football." The 49ers look to knock the Indianapolis Colts off their high after a 31-3 win against the Houston Texans in Week 6, while also earning their first win at home this season. Heading into Sunday night with a must-win mindset following their Bye week and a three-game losing streak, the 49ers have an opportunity to right their wrongs against the Colts.
Here are four areas of focus for the 49ers in Week 7:
1 - Back at Quarterback
After Jimmy Garoppolo injured his calf playing against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4, the quarterback dedicated his Bye week to his recovery. Now, after a week of practice, head coach Kyle Shanahan described Garoppolo's readiness to start on Sunday at 100 percent.
Garoppolo has completed 78-of-118 passing attempts (66.1 percent) for 925 yards and five touchdowns for a passer rating of 96.9 so far this season. He has also registered 15 rushing attempts for 26 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Sunday's game is an opportunity for Garoppolo to get out front and establish his leadership of the team. Not only relying on the 49ers signature run game, but completing deep passes and keeping the cool he found earlier this season while in the pocket is an essential key to a 49ers victory at home.
Wet weather conditions for the matchup against the Colts only draws more importance to ball security on offense. Garoppolo and the 49ers will need to take all measures in account to avoid turnovers and limit incomplete passes.
2 - Finding a Rhythm
With only two wins so far in the season, the San Francisco team must consider what went wrong and how to get back on track.
"When you look at the pros and cons and where we're sitting today, our list of wrongs is not that long. I know a lot of teams have a lot of things going on right now, but us, it's nothing we can't handle," veteran offensive tackle Trent Williams said. "We got all the talent we need in house, we've just got to put it together on Sunday."
Although not long, the list of wrongs includes finding a rhythm on offense and sustaining scoring drives. In fact, the 49ers are second in the league in red zone scoring percentage, taking it home 90.91 percent of the time they cross the 20-yard line. Passing this threshold will require the 49ers to execute their performance on third down conversions while also limiting penalties.
"When we're at our best is when we can get into a rhythm," Garoppolo said. "I think when the run game, passing game are working together, get a couple easy ones, get the play-action game working, I think when all of those things are clicking and we can get into a rhythm that's when we're at our best."
3 - Maintaining a Dominant Defense
A definite plan of attack for San Francisco will include stopping the Colts run offense. Running back Jonathan Taylor recorded single-game season highs with 145 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 14 carries in Week 6 against the Houston Texans. And with the return of All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, the Colts offense has gotten even more lethal heading into Sunday night.
"If you're not where you need to be, in the right fit, (Taylor) can take it to the house in a heartbeat," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. "Everybody has to be disciplined in the proper gap and swarm and tackle. He's tough to get down."
Yet the signature of the 49ers powerhouse defense has not wavered so far this season. San Francisco currently ranks sixth defensively overall, only allowing 329.8 yards per game this season.
"Our defense is starting to catch our stride the past few weeks and I really think we can be the top defense in the league for the rest of the year," defensive end Nick Bosa said on the 49ers Unscripted Podcast.
Bosa's 5.0 sacks in 2021 are the most by a member of the 49ers in Weeks 1-5 of a season since since Bryant Young in 2005. Bosa and the rest of the star-studded defensive squad that includes Arik Armstead, Dee Ford and Fred Warner will have to stop the momentum that a Carson Wentz-led Colts team creates.
4 - Securing Turnovers
The Colts have notched the fourth-most takeaways in the NFL through six games with seven fumble recoveries and five interceptions. Defensively, the 49ers have only two takeaways with Dre Greenlaw's pick-six against the Detroit Lions and Dontae Johnson's forced fumble against the Arizona Cardinals.
"We have to get more turnovers. We have to take it away to give our offense the ball, and that's our goal every time we go out," Ryans said.
The 49ers defense has been consistent at attacking the ball and letting it loose. However, the focus is on securing turnovers and creating more opportunities for the offense to score. With a rainy forecast up ahead for "Sunday Night Football," it only makes turnovers more unpredictable.
"If it takes rain for us to get the ball, I'll be fired up," Ryans said. "Of course the ball becomes more of an issue in the rain when it comes to handling it. Rain or no rain, we've got to get it out."
Wentz has been playing smart football as of late. Just a year removed from a league-leading 15 interceptions, Wentz has notched just one interception through six games at the lowest interception rate in the league. The 49ers, who currently rank 29th in the league in turnover differential, will be challenged in attempting to throw Wentz off his game in Week 7.