Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers Keys to the Game

Written By Bob Cunningham On Saturday, December 19, 2009

Parker had to be the hero last time these teams met.

The Eagles are rolling right now, and after beating a division opponent by racking up an impressive 45 points, must be feeling pretty good about themselves. Unfortunately, this game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers has "trap game" written all over it.

The 49ers are a team that, in my opinion, has underachieved this season. I thought that after the showing they put on with then-interim head coach Mike Singletary last year that they would come out and challenge the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West.

They haven't done that this season, but they certainly have the ability to stick with anyone in this league -- as evidenced by the beating they laid on the Cardinals last week. Singletary will have his players hyped up to the idea of playing spoiler, so they're just the kind of dangerous team that the Birds cannot afford to overlook.

So let's look at what the Eagles must do to afford an untimely let-down this Sunday.

Put 22 Eyes On Frank Gore at All Times

When Frank Gore gets more than 20 carries in a game, the Niners are an astounding 6-0. Given that they're only won six games, it makes sense to figure that they're key to winning any game is to feed Gore.

That stat makes it very obvious what the defense must do and that's stop Gore. However, it's much easier said than done. Gore is a guy who runs with an attitude and will lower the boom on you Earl Campbell-style if you don't hit him properly. Then, just when you think he's going to run you over, he'll just outrun you to the corner and he's gone.

He's one of the most underrated players in the entire league. For a guy to do the things he's done and not get put in the discussion with guys like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, and Steven Jackson is an absolute crime.

It's the Eagles' job, however, to make sure the East coast viewing audience doesn't get a chance to see him shine in Philly.

They do that by tackling. Again, it sounds much easier than this defense has made it look. The amount of times we've just seen a shoulder get thrown at someone's chest or an arm tackle at about the same height has been disgusting.

These guys are professionals, but I could go to my local high school game and see better tackling.

Stick, wrap, and drive. It's not a difficult formula for a good tackle but it seems to be lost on this team. It's something I've always complained about during the Reid era and that's the lack of focus put on the fundamentals. It doesn't matter if you're six years old or getting paid $6 million this year, a team can't win games with missed tackles.

I'll end my tangent with this: if the Eagles try to tackle Gore the way they tried to tackle Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon, they won't get beaten in the Linc -- they'll get embarassed.

Don't Let Vernon Davis Have a Free Release

It's something I've complained about Chris Gocong since day one and it's just getting worse as the years go by. He doesn't touch the tight end off the line -- at all. He lets these guys have a free release and then is confused when they're behind him, wide open in the seams.

Tight ends have destroyed this defense all year, and that's the reason why. I'm not saying that I think that's the reason, I'm telling everyone that this is the reason. Gocong refuses to hit anyone at the line, and these tight ends are far too good nowadays to allow that.

The word around the NovaCare complex is that Moise Fokou will be splitting time with Gocong and taking the majority of the passing downs, but it's not going to matter if Fokou sticks with the trend. He's got to get in Davis' face and be physical with him. It's the only way to stifle a great tight end -- which Davis has become this season.

Hit him at the line, cause frustration for him and Alex Smith and I guarantee it will lead to more sacks and will result in the 10th win of the season for this team.

Use a Three-Man Rotation and Find the Running Game Early

It's probably going to be snowy in Philly when the Niners come to town, so it should work in the Eagles' favor. Playing in Philly as opposed to San Francisco should certainly have this team ready to play in the cold and use it to their advantage.

Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case. With this spread-out, wide open attack that the Eagles employ, the snow could actually benefit the Niners who are undoubtedly a step ahead of the Eagles as far as talent at the running back position goes.

LeSean McCoy is making great strides, but he's not Frank Gore. Leonard Weaver can do a lot of good things, but again, not Frank Gore. However, the two of them together could come very close to being able to do about the same things.

But I believe that a three-man rotation at running back could be extremely beneficial to this offense. I've been a big proponent of getting some more playing time for Eldra Buckley and I'm not about to back off of that stance in Week 15. It's time to see what this kid can do with 8-10 carries.

Put Leonard Weaver in front of him and that could be a package that no one on the other side of the ball wants to get in front of. Buckley is a smaller and more compact back (think Maurice Jones-Drew size -- maybe an inch taller) that can really be a pain for a 6'1 linebacker to tackle because he's already so low to the ground.

Add in the battering ram that is Leonard Weaver in front of him and you could have some literal headaches for the Niners defense.

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