Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR color commentator Gary Plummer previews the 49ers opponents every week of the 2009 season on 49ers.com. For this week's "Points of the Game" column, Plummer breaks down the 49ers Week 13 opponent – the Seattle Seahawks.**I think the 49ers definitely need to build off last week's second half performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They picked up six sacks in the second half alone. To do that again, the defense has to stay aggressive. Obviously, you have to be aggressive on the field, but you can also be aggressive in your play calling. And I think the entire defense including the staff, played more aggressively.
I think having Takeo Spikes back on the field made a big difference. It would have been nice if he would have pulled off that interception. That would have been great. But the tight end did a nice job of keeping him from getting the takeaway. Spikes was a big play guy last year for the 49ers defense with three consecutive games with interceptions. He had a bunch of sacks and a few forced fumbles too. He's been playing hurt, but it would be nice down the stretch to see him flash some of that play making ability.
The rotation of Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, and Ahmad Brooks, is paying dividends in my eyes because those guys are fresher. When you look around the league, specifically at teams who are having success, most teams are having success by rotating pass rushers in and out of the game.
I liked the pressure that the 49ers front seven put on Jacksonville, but I also enjoyed seeing what Dre' Bly did in his first start at cornerback. That's the reason you see guys playing 10-12 years in this league. They may not be as fast or as explosive as they once were, but they are just so much smarter. Bly has seen it all. With him being out there at that starting position, I think it gives a lot of people confidence knowing that he's going to take care of his business.
Often times we've heard Mike Singletary say during training camp that competition makes people better, well, Tarell Brown can't be happy he lost the starting job. But, he's playing an awful lot of snaps in the nickel and dime. That competition is still there, he wants his job back. If that's what makes him focus more, than that's a good thing. Bly just has an advantage on the mental side of the game and it will force Brown to focus more in the future. I love that competition that's going on at that position.
When you look at the 49ers offense and how they match up with Seattle this week, you have to talk about Frank Gore, who had a brilliant performance the first time these teams met.
There's been some talk of whether or not Gore fits a spread offense and I want to silence those questions.
Gore is a great football player.
To play well in a spread offense as a back, you're going to need good hands. Well, if memory serves me correct Gore did lead this team in receptions a couple of years ago. He's had a couple of good years catching the football throughout his career. And also, you have to be able to help out in protection. In my opinion, there's probably not another back in the NFL better at blitz pickup than Gore. Those are two huge qualifiers in talking about a back in the spread offense.
You also have to have great vision running out of a spread offense. You have to have tremendous acceleration. For Gore, check, and double check. He has both of those talents. Having said all that, I vehemently and respectfully disagree with those opinions that Gore doesn't fit in a spread offense.
The 49ers offense can take another step this week by winning one-on-one matchups. They'll see them frequently because teams will blitz them repeatedly. You have to be able to win those matchups. I think right now, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis have done that very well.
I'd also like to see them continue to evolve out of the shotgun. Again, people think that offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is being sensitive because he doesn't want to be told that he's running a spread offense. Well, he's correct. It isn't the spread offense.
The spread offense is not run with two tight ends, two receivers and a back. That personnel group is often a running formation for many teams in the NFL. The 49ers are just fortunate enough to have a tight end who might be the fastest guy on the team in Vernon Davis and a tight end in Delanie Walker, who used to be a wide receiver. Having them really creates mismatches for opponents.
I expect the 49ers to continue to evolve and especially in that aspect of their offense, because it gives Raye options depending on how the defense chooses to play it. If the defense goes nickel against it, because they respect the receiving skills of those two tight ends, then it gives you an advantage with Gore in the running game. If they want to play base personnel because they are worried about the running game out of that formation, then you have the advantage with one of the tight ends lined up on a linebacker and the other on a strong safety. Both are great matchups for the 49ers. I think we'll continue to see that formation more and more.
I think the unnoticed aspect of this game is the 49ers punt return struggles. They've struggled so much that you might as well just start putting punt blocks most of the time. Obviously, it's a big play in the game, but it forces teams to stay in and block a little longer. The irony is when you have a block on instead of blocking for your returner, and they see that the 49ers doing it every time, they're going to stay in for an extra second or so. That time could free up the return man and the 49ers need to get that going.
Field position could be a big factor in this game.