Trick or Treat Bronco fans. On Halloween, the San Francisco 49ers will play host to the Denver Broncos across the pond for the NFL's 2010 International Game in merry old England. Cheerio, Pip-Pip and all that rot. The Niners are 1-6 and they sit in the basement of the NFC West division. After opening the season with five straight losses, they managed to beat their crosstown rivals, the Raiders. The Broncos are 2-5 and are reeling from a decimation by that same team. Denver blew an opportunity to contend in the AFC West and rebound from some tough losses at the hands of a couple of the league's best teams in Indy, Baltimore and the Jets. Both the 49ers and Denver Broncos are coming off losses and will be heading to the United Kingdom to sort their season out. There's nothing like a Road Trip to cleanse the spirit, but you can't run away from your problems.
The game will be played on Sunday, October 31 at Wembley Stadium in London at 1:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. UK). CBS will provide live television coverage in the United States. The TV announcers will be Dumb and Dumber, I mean Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf. Check here to see if it will be telecast in your area.
Wembley Stadium is a football stadium located in Wembley Park, in the London Borough of Brent, England. It opened in 2007 on the site of the previous 1923 structure. The 90,000 (86,000 for American Football) capacity venue is the second largest stadium in Europe, and serves as England's national stadium. The playing surface, or pitch, is Desso GrassMaster, a sports field made up of 100% natural grass reinforced with synthetic grass fibers.
Designed by Foster and Partners and Populous, Wembley includes a partially retractable roof. A signature feature of the stadium, following on from the old Wembley's distinctive Twin Towers, is the 440 ft high Wembley Arch. With a span of 1,040 ft, this steel arch is the longest single span roof structure in the world. It is the largest stadium in the World with all seats under cover. There are 2,618 toilets, or "Loo's" as the blokes call them.
The Weather forecast for the game calls for highs in the mid-50s, with a 60% chance of precipitation.
Injuries and external factors
QB Alex Smith suffered a separated left shoulder in the 2nd half last week and is Out for 2-3 weeks. David Carr played terrible in his stead and doesn't have Mike Singletary's confidence. So Troy Smith has gotten the nod and will attempt to lead the offense. This is probably the best option for the 49ers, because Carr looked like a deer caught in the headlights during the Carolina game.
C Eric Heitmann is Out with a neck injury.
LB Ahmad Brooks (Knee) practiced in full on Thursday after missing Wednesday's session with a knee injury.
TE Vernon Davis (Ankle) missed practice the last two days with an ankle sprain. The 49ers are being cautious with a knee injury that Davis suffered during the preseason and exacerbated in Week 6. If he can't play Sunday, Delanie Walker will take his place. Still, Davis is walking without a limp and his practice absence appears to be precautionary. He is a nice deep threat and has scored a TD in 4 consecutive games. The Niners would miss his prescence.
CB Nate Clements has been slowed by a contusion to the side of his ankle two weeks ago against the Raiders. The Panthers seemed to attack Clements last Sunday and he struggled in the game. He practiced on a limited basis this week.
RB Anthony Dixon (Hamstring) was Limited in practice.
San Francisco's Offense is ranked in 31st in points (16.1), 20th in Total yards (312.6), 16th in Passing yards (220.3) and 28th in Rushing with 92.3 per game. They are 36.4 % (35/96) on 3rd down conversions and 5/7 (71.4%) on 4th down tries. The Niners O-Line shares a similarity with the Broncos. Both have two Rookie starters on them. Consequently, both teams have had trouble running the ball.
The San Francisco Quarterbacks are starter Alex Smith and backups David Carr and Troy Smith. Troy is the one we will see in London, so we shall look at him. Troy Smith is a former 5th round pick out of THE Ohio state University. The former Heisman Trophy winner spent the last three years with Baltimore, where his only two starts came as a rookie in the 2007 season.
He completed 34-of-63 passes for 388 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions this preseason with the Ravens. He was also sacked nine times.
I watched the game film on Troy from last season. He played the entire 4th quarter in mop up during the Week 14 mauling of the Lions. He went 2/3 sor 10 yards passing and ran a naked Bootleg 15-yards for a touchdown. He has trouble with his accuracy when he rolls left and will try to force the completion at times.
Wednesday was the first time Smith has thrown a pass in practice with the 49er 1st team offense. Remember, he's only been with the team for 7 weeks. That lack of familiarity means a simplified game plan.
The 49er Wide Receiver corps begins with Michael Crabtree (28 Receptions, 332 yds, 2 TD) and Josh Morgan (20 Rec., 238 yds, 1TD). It also includes versatile Ted Ginn Jr.(5 Rec., 68 yds, 13.6 avg.), Dominique Zeigler (8 Rec., 88 yds, 11.0avg.), Jason Hill and Rookie Kyle Williams.
Running Back Frank Gore shoulders 40% of the San Francisco Offense. He has 135 carries, 573 yards, a 4.2 avg. but only 1 TD this year. He also has 37 catches for 341 yards and 2 TD's. Brian Westbrook was signed to spell him and diversify the backfield, but hasn't seen too much action. Anthony Dixon is the Rookie learning behind them. The Fullback is Moran Norris
Tight End Vernon Davis (32 Rec., 422 yds, 13.2 avg.) is the leading receiver for the Niners. Delanie Walker (7 Rec.,65 yds. 9.3avg.) and Rookie Nate Byham are the backups at Tight End. Byham was considered one of the best blocking tight ends in the 2010 NFL Draft, has 5 Rec. for 27 yards.
The starters on the Offensive Line are LT Joe Staley, LG Rookie Mike Iupati (you-PAH-tee), C Davis Baas, RG Chilo Rachal and RT Rookie Anthony Davis. Barry Sims and Alex Boone are the backup Tackles, Adam Snyder is the swing-man at Guard. Tony Wragge and Eric Heitmann are the 2nd and 3rd options at Center. This group has allowed 14 Sacks to their quarterback, six by Anthony Davis.
Defensively, the Niners rank 24th in points against (23.1), 13th in Total yards against (321.9), 15th in Pass Defense (215.7) and 15th against the run (106.1). They have 13 Sacks and allow opponents a 40% (38/95) conversion rate on 3rd down. The 49ers' defense has been fairly solid against the run this season, but opposing teams with speedier RB's have had success starting their runs up the middle and then bouncing them outside.
On the Line, Justin Smith (32 Tackles, 2 Sacks) and Isaac Sopoaga (11 TKL) are the Defensive Ends and Aubrayo Franklin (21 TKL) plays at the Nose position. Their backups respectively, are Ray McDonald (7 TKL, 1 INT), Ricky Jean Francois (8 TKL, 1 SK,1 FF) and Demetric Evans (6 TKL).
The Outside Linebackers for San Francisco are Manny Lawson (22 TKL, 1 INT,1 SK,1 FF) and Parys Haralson (20 TKL, 3 SK). Ahmad Brooks (13 TKL, 1 SK) and Travis LaBoy (15 TKL, 3 SK) are in the rotation. Patrolling the Inside are Takeo Spikes (35 TKL, 1 INT) and leading Tackler Patrick Willis (58 TKL, 1 SK). Rookies Navorro Bowman (21 TKL) and Keaton Kristick are their understudies.
In the Niners backfield, Shawntae Spencer (16 TKL, 2 INT, 1 SK) and Nate Clements (38 TKL,2 INT,1 SK,2 FF) are the starting Cornerbacks. Tarell Brown (13 TKL), Rookie Phillip Adams (6 TKL) and William James (6 TKL). Spencer has been excellent in coverage this year and usually covers the opponent's speediest receiver. Rookie Strong Safety Taylor Mays (25 TKL, 1 FF) became the starter in Week 4 and hasn't relinquished it. Fellow Rookie Chris Maragos backs him up. The Free Safety is Dashon Goldson (40 TKL). Reggie Smith (6 TKL) and C.J. Spillman are the backups.
The Kicker for the Niners is Joe Nedney. He is 7 for 8 (87.5 %) with a long of 51 yards this season and has made all 12 Extra Point attempts. He has made 26 kickoffs with 3 touchbacks. His kickoffs land at the 6 yard line on average and the 23 returns have netted 21.8 yards per run back. The Niners cover their kickoffs well. This isn't surprising since Kurt Schottenheimer is their Special Teams Coordinator.
The Long Snapper is Brian Jennings and the Holder is Andy Lee
Lee also handles the Punting chores. He has Punted 40 times with an average of 46.1 yards and a net of 37.4 yards. His longest punt in 2010 is 60 yards. He has placed 14 of those inside the 20 with 3 fair catches and 5 touchbacks. 26 of Lee's punts have been returned for an average of 9.6 yards. Andy has a tendency to hit line drive Punts. When he does, the opposing team gets decent returns. When he makes good punts, the coverage unit is very good.
Kyle Williams is the primary Return man but has an injured finger. Ted Ginn is the No. 2 guy and will be the return man until Williams' finger fully heals. Josh Morgan is the 3rd string KR and Phillip Adams backs up at the PR spot. Ginn's numbers are 11 Punt Returns with an 8.8 average, a Long of 20 yards and 3 Fair Catches. He also has returned 12 Kickoffs an average of 27.5 yards with a Long of 61.
The Niners coverage unit has downed 4 Punts inside the 10 yard line. Navorro Bowman leads the team with 7 Special Teams Tackles. Tarell Brown has 5.5, Delanie Walker has 5, Anthony Dixon 4, Taylor Mays 4, and Manny Lawson 4 Tackles.
THE LAST 2 GAMES
49ers 17 Raiders 9
The 49ers finally got their first win in WEEK 6, beating the Oakland Raiders 17-9 in a penalty-ridden game. San Francisco held Oakland to three field goals and countered with two 2nd-half touchdowns through the air. San Francisco committed 11 penalties for 143 yards and Oakland had eight penalties for 60 yards of their own. They both went long stretches without moving the ball and struggled even to complete passes for much of a game that was played through a steady drizzle into the second half.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked field goals of 27, 24 and 40 yards for the Raiders.
The Niners took the lead in the 3rd quarter when QB Alex Smith made a 32-yard Touchdown pass to WR Michael Crabtree. The Raiders cut the lead on a 40-yard field goal. The 49ers pulled away after Smith found TE Vernon Davis on a 17-yard TD pass. Alex Smith went 16 of 33 for 196 yards in his 1st turnover-free game of the season. Frank Gore ran for 149 yards, including a 64-yard scramble that set up Davis' touchdown.
Panthers 23 49ers 20
In WEEK 7, Richard Marshall intercepted backup David Carr with just over a minute left, and John Kasay kicked a 37-yard field goal with 39 seconds remaining to give the Carolina Panthers a 23-20 win over the 49ers. San Francisco opened the game with a touchdown in four plays, the key play being a 53-yard pass to Vernon Davis. The teams exchanged field goals, then Carolina tied the game with QB Matt Moore connecting with David Gettis for an 18-yard score. The Panthers took the lead in the 3rd quarter with Kasay's 55-yard field goal. The Niners got the lead back in the 4th quarter with Joe Nedney's 38-yard field goal and Ray McDonald's 31 yard pick six.
Moore hooked up with Gettis again for another TD pass. Then, with Alex Smith out with an injured left shoulder, Carr threw into double coverage and Marshall intercepted it at the Carolina 43. Moore then found Brandon LaFell for 35 yards to set up Kasay’s winner.
The 49ers succeeded in stopping Carolina's Running game. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for just 73 yards, but Matt Moore put up 308 yards on them through the air. The Panthers seemed to be attacking CB Nate Clements, who was listed as questionable on the injury report with an ankle bruise. Clements has been particularly susceptible to double moves this season.
Frank Gore had a second consecutive 100 yard rushing game, but the offense bogged down in the red zone at key points and the Panthers just blitzed repeatedly after Carr entered the game. The 49ers, who had 11 penalties, also had to shuffle their offensive line when Adam Snyder replaced Chilo Rachal (stinger) in the 1st quarter. LT Joe Staley left briefly with the same injury, and San Francisco managed just 282 yards.
The Broncos are 6-6 against the 49ers. The last regular season match-up was Week 17 in 2006. The Broncos lost at home 23-26 in Overtime.
This game marks the 49ers first regular season game at Wembley Stadium, but the third overall as the team played preseason games at the historic stadium in 1988 (vs. Miami) and 1992 (vs. Washington).
The last time San Francisco visited Wembley, they beat Redskins 17-15 (8/16/92).
Vegas has San Francisco by 1 point.
The View from the Cheap Seats -- By Brian Shrout
I'm not going to bore you all with a reiteration of statistics that Kirk has done a very concise job of conveying. Rather, I'm going to give you my impression of the Forty-Niners -- I've watched parts or all of each of their games because one of my friends is an avid San Francisco fan -- by sharing the story of John Adams. No, I'm not talking about the former US President. Rather, this John was one of my closest friends during high school. He was also, arguably, the smallest kid in our school. Needless to say, he was one of the most picked upon. John never backed down in the face of the teasing and hazing. He was not afraid to take on anyone, anytime, anywhere. If it was verbal sparring, he gave as good as he got, and often won the battle of wits -- John was a great deal smarter than most of the people in our school. When it came to a physical confrontation, John absolutely would refuse to back down. It didn't matter if he was going to get his butt kicked, he refused to give in just because someone was bigger or meaner or whatever. Once the confrontation was started, John wouldn't stop until he was forced to by someone else intervening. He would often get in close, wrap himself around his opponent and hang on for dear life until his adversary gave up out of frustration.
San Francisco, in the games that I've watched, have reminded me of John Adams. They don't give up. It doesn't matter the odds, or the talent differences, or whatever. The 49ers play from opening whistle to final gun. They keep coming at you. If they turn the ball over, they come out on the next drive and try it again. If they fall behind, they claw and scrabble and scrape and try to get themselves back into the game. Denver will be forewarned not to take the 49ers lightly. The Broncos will need to play with the same intensity that they showed in the Tennessee game, and in the New York game (minus the last couple of minutes). I believe they took the Raiders lightly and got their butts whooped. San Francisco will be coming out ready for a fight. The Broncos better be ready to give it back to them.
THE BOTTOM LINE
San Francisco is in their second full year with Mike Singletary as the head coach. The 49ers are trying to build upon their 8–8 season in 2009. They got behind against the Seahawks and Chiefs, held their own against the Saints, Falcons, Eagles, Panthers and toughed out a win against the Raiders. Those teams are a combined 21-19. San Francisco has also lost 4 games this season by three points or less. They may be 1-6, but they are only 0-1 in their division. There is still time for them to have a winning season. They even have a chance to win their division, as Seattle is in 1st place with a 4-2 record.
The San Francisco 49ers biggest problem is at quarterback. The blame fell to the Offensive Coordinator, but firing him didn't help matters. Alex Smith is in way over his head, and hasn't shown the talent to lead this team back from the points he keeps spotting the opponents. The running game isn't the problem despite the low team average. Frank Gore has a 4.2 average per carry. It doesn't help when you are forced to pass to catch up. Sure there's an issue with the two rookies on the O-Line, but that unit is only giving up 2 Sacks per game.
I think we will see a lot of Frank Gore mixed with some rollouts and Bootlegs on Sunday. Troy Smith is a mobile QB, having a 40 Time slightly slower than Vince Young. You saw how the Broncos dealt with Vince. They held him to 173 yards passing, 1 TD, and one 18 yard run. The thing that scares me though, is the Broncos traveling on Friday and San Francisco having all week to adjust to the time change.
It isn't "tricky" to figure out that the Denver Broncos have no excuse not to win this game. To stop the bleeding, they must stop (the) Gore. All I really want to know is, which side is going to show up disguised as a football team.
Wouldn't it be a "treat" for the Broncos to be that team?