Our staff writers break down the San Francisco 49ers Week 5 matchup, a road game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Let's dive into the keys to the game in this "Four Downs" preview of Sunday's divisional matchup, presented by SunPower.1st Down:Who will score the 49ers first touchdown?@Joe_Fann: Pierre Garçon
Garçon, as expected, has been San Francisco's most reliable pass catcher so far. His 285 receiving yards through four games has him on pace for 1,140, a number that would eclipse the 1,041 yards he posted in 2016 with the Washington Redskins. Garçon has shown the ability to make the tough catch in traffic, the acrobatic catch on the sideline and the ability to get yards after the catch. All that's missing is his first touchdown of 2017.
@KeianaMartinTV: Pierre Garçon
I'm right there with you, Joe. It's the perfect scenario for Garçon. He returns to the city he spent his first four NFL seasons. Garçon is coming off of a rather quiet game last week in Arizona with just four catches for 36 yards against Patrick Peterson. Last season with the Washington Redskins, Garçon's first touchdown of the season didn't occur until Week 5. It's the perfect recipe for the former Colt to put up the first points of the game on Sunday.2nd Down: Who is the 49ers rookie to watch?
@Joe_Fann: George Kittle
Kittle is San Francisco's clear-cut No. 1 tight end. He has 10 receptions on 14 targets for 83 yards. Kittle's 21-yard catch-and-run last week against the Arizona Cardinals set a new career-high. However, the rookie has had a costly drop in each of his last two games. In Week 3, Kittle dropped a ball down in the red zone that may have resulted in a touchdown. Another drop against the Cardinals cost the 49ers a first down. He told me he's spent extra time on the juggs machines this week in order to clean up the miscues. San Francisco needs Kittle to step up on Sunday.
We've seen an increase in trust between Pierre Garçon and Trent Taylor. The rookie has the third-most targets (19), receptions (11) and receiving yards (93) of all 49ers receivers. Last week against the Cardinals, Taylor was targeted 10 times and caught five passes for 47 yards. Taylor is becoming a fixture in the 49ers passing game, and I foresee a big game on Sunday.3rd Down: What is the 49ers key to victory?
@Joe_Fann: Scoring touchdowns in the red zone
Brian Hoyer noted this week how important it is to finish drives in the red area. San Francisco is currently scoring touchdowns on just 38.46 percent of red-zone opportunities. That ranks 29th in the NFL. Last Sunday in Arizona, the 49ers settled for five field goals and failed to cross the goal line. The missed opportunity that hurt the most was their overtime drive that made it all the way to Arizona's 5-yard line. A touchdown would have given San Francisco its first win of 2017. Instead, the Cardinals got a possession and won it on Larry Fitzgerald's walk-off score.
Penalties, penalties, penalties. There are various keys that could lead San Francisco to their first victory, but when it comes down to it, penalties have haunted the 49ers all season. Last week, the 49ers were called for 13 penalties for 113 yards. That included a costly flag that negated a 49ers touchdown. San Francisco is worst in the league with 39 penalties for 308 yards through four games. Those infractions have cost the 49ers opportunities to win games.4th Down: What is your bold prediction?
@Joe_Fann: Brian Hoyer throws for three touchdowns
The 49ers desperately need a big game out of Hoyer. San Francisco's quarterback balled out during the second half against the Los Angeles Rams, but has struggled to find consistency otherwise. The 49ers have scored a touchdown in just one game thus far. In addition to my last response, penalties and inefficiency on third downs are primary contributors to San Francisco's struggles offensively. This could be the week for Hoyer and Co. to explode against a Colts defense that ranks last in terms of points allowed.
@KeianaMartinTV:300 yards and three touchdowns for Brian Hoyer
I think Joe and I are in sync this week. It's obvious the 49ers need to find the end zone and not settle for field goals. San Francisco is will face the Colts 29th-ranked pass defense in Week 5. It's a prime opportunity for Hoyer to gain traction through the air. Indianapolis has allowed 136 points so far this season, the most in the NFL. The last time Hoyer came off of a subpar performance in Seattle, he came back and had his best game of the season that next week against the Rams. I foresee Hoyer having a big day passing for 300 yards and three touchdowns.