By Gabe Schapiro
This Sunday the San Francisco 49ers (2-2) will look to build off of their road victory last week when the Houston Texans (2-2) come to Candlestick Park.
As was the speculation leading up to last Thursday’s game, following two bad losses the 49ers reverted back to the ground-and-pound style they are best known for, and throttled the St. Louis Rams, 35-11. Frank Gore had his first big game of the season, gaining 153 yards and a touchdown on just 20 carries. In a team effort, they ran for a total of 219 yards. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t flashy, but he managed the game well and avoided any big mistakes. On the defensive side NaVorro Bowman was the standout, more than making up for the absence of Patrick Willis, tallying six tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass deflected.
On the flip side, the Texans are fresh off of a crushing loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Houston dominated for much of the game and carried a 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Seattle rallied late, however, and completed the comeback thanks to Matt Schaub’s third pick-six in as many games.
Following consecutive losses the Texans will be looking to regroup, much like the 49ers were last week, and they could very well present a tougher task than what San Francisco saw in the St. Louis. While he is prone to mistakes Shaub remains a solid quarterback when they don’t ask too much from him. The real weapons to fear on offense, however, are running back Arian Foster and top receiver Andre Johnson, both of whom have been among the leagues best for years. Johnson has been nursing some injuries this year, but both are coming off of very strong games last week. As a unit they have compiled the fourth most yards, but have only scored the 18th most points.
On defense they are led by the three-headed monster of J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and Whitney Mercilus. The disruptive force has accounted for eight and a half sacks this season, and will present a challenge for the 49ers offensive line. As a whole their defense has the odd distinction of having allowed the second fewest yards, but the ninth most points on the year.
As they did last week, look for San Francisco to try and establish the running game early and often, and limit the risks Kaepernick has to take. While Houston’s defense has been strong, stopping the run has been their Achilles heel, having allowed the tenth most rushing yards per game. With Kaepernick still having few weapons at his disposal, he may struggle in the passing game.
On the injury front, Patrick Willis is still recovering from his groin injury, and is expected to be a game-time decision. Vernon Davis has been limited at practice this week, but mostly as a precaution, and is expected to be active. In another blow for the depleted receiving corps, it was revealed this week that Quinton Patton suffered a fractured foot in the win over the Rams. It is not yet clear how much time he is expected to miss. The best news of the week is that offensive lineman Joe Staley is fine after momentarily fearing a serious ankle injury.
Finally, the 49ers also made a few minor roster moves this week. QB B.J. Daniels and FB Owen Marecic were waived, and QB John Skelton and LB Jermaine Cunningham were both signed.