Gary Plummer played 12 NFL seasons, including four years with the San Francisco 49ers. The former linebacker was also a member of the 49ers Super Bowl XXIX championship team, and has been the team's radio color analyst since 1998. 49ers.com will catch up with Plummer every week this season to find out what he believes will be the keys to the 49ers upcoming game. Enjoy his first "Points of the Game" column of the 2010 season which breaks down the keys to the 49ers first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.Key to 49ers Offense vs. Colts Defense**
I would say the biggest key for the 49ers offense is protection. The Colts have two of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL in Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney; both are coming off Pro Bowl seasons. It will be a big test for the reshuffled 49ers offensive line. There are two rookies on there in left guard Mike Iupati and right tackle Anthony Davis… talk about getting thrown into the fire. These guys will have their work cut out for them.
But it will be a test for this line as a whole. Not only do you have the two new rookies, but you have David Baas now playing center and Joe Staley missed a lot of games last year too. So I think this line will be a good opening challenge for the group this Sunday. A good performance against the Colts bodes well for the upcoming season.
The Colts are good up front, which is a positive because now we'll see how this 49ers offensive line will hold up against some really good competition. Obviously the keys to the offense will change some as the reserves get in there, but for the 49ers starters, I really think the guys along the offensive line are going to play a major factor in how well the offense plays as a whole in Indianapolis.
Key to 49ers Defense vs. Colts OffenseBecause you're going against Peyton Manning and a dynamic passing corps, communication is the key. The Colts offense is probably further along than any other offense in the preseason because it has been the same offense for as long as Peyton has been there. Usually you are expecting very basic things in the preseason, but because the Colts have so many returning guys and it is the same offense, the 49ers defense will have to be on their toes. They have to keep talking and communicating to make sure they're in position to make the plays that are there to be made.
That shouldn't be a problem for the 49ers. This is the third year with Greg Manusky as the defensive coordinator, so I think the guys are all on the same page. That starting unit should be very familiar with each other by now. But it has been a while since these guys played in a live game, so everything is going to seem a little fast at first – especially with Manning at quarterback. A good way to judge the defense is to see how many communication breakdowns take place on the field, if any.
Key to 49ers Special Teams
Especially in this first preseason game, I look forward to seeing guys that are going to emerge as coverage players and core special teamers. There is always a guy or two who makes it every year because of his special teams ability. It is going to be paramount for those guys to not wait to show up in the third or fourth preseason game; they have to do it this Sunday. A lot of times when you have two similar guys fighting to make the squad, it will come down to which one of them can contribute more on special teams.
I know most people are would have expected me to say I want to see the kick returners, but I think those guys who do the dirty work on special teams are equally as important.
The Player to WatchI mentioned these guys before, but I can't wait to watch Davis and Iupati. They are very important to the success of the 49ers offense this season, so I'm ready to see what they can do. The pieces are all in place at the skill positions, but the offensive line struggled at times last year. This is their opportunity to put an early stamp on what the offensive line is going to be this season and for years to come. If they can play well Sunday, that's a great sign for the team.
I was really surprised at how athletic Iupati is from what I've seen so far in training camp. He looks like he'll be a guy who is not only physical at the line of scrimmage, but the type of guy who also has the athleticism to get to the second level. And with a guy like Frank Gore in the backfield, that is very important. Hopefully he will be the type of pulling guard who can help spring a big run.
Coaching Point of the Game
I know Coach Singletary talked about wanting to win every game, even in the preseason and I think that's the right attitude with this team. It has been a few years since there was sustained success with the 49ers, and I believe it is smart for Singletary and his staff to instill that winning mentality at the start of the preseason.Being that it is the preseason, the coaches absolutely know guys are going to make mistakes. But they want the players to make those mistakes at 100 miles per hour, full speed. I think the coaches just need to remind the guys that they have to go all-out whenever they're on the field. There won't be much game-planning, so the 49ers coaching staff needs to tell those guys to play fast and play within the scheme.
This is the first opportunity for the team to live up to its expectations. The pieces are in place, so I will be waiting to see if they live up to the hype. This team is now under the spotlight. The expectation is there, just like it used to be with the 49ers – people think the 49ers are going to win the West. Some people can't handle that kind of pressure. But I think this team has the kind of guys that not only can handle that pressure, but the kind of guys who thrive with it. I look forward to seeing how they handle that first test; we'll see how it unfolds on Sunday.
To hear more from Plummer, tune in to the 49ers pregame radio coverage from Indianapolis on 107.7 KSAN/FM "The Bone" starting at 7:00 a.m. with kick-off beginning at 10:00 a.m.