Watching the San Francisco 49ers (2-2) pass-rush this season has seemingly been non-existent. A huge blow to the team as the NFL’s most feared pass-rusher in the game, OLB Aldon Smith was suspended for the first nine games of the season, it made DC Vic Fangio’s job that much harder as he tries to generate a pass-rush. A team in desperate need of answers they may have found it in their rookie fifth-round pick (No. 150) OLB Aaron Lynch.
The best pure pass-rusher on the team outside of OLB Ahmad Brooks at the outside linebacker position (Smith omitted), Lynch replaced OLB Corey Lemonier in the nickel package last week which easily translated into quarterback pressure. What’s that? The 49ers pressuring the quarterback? That’s right! Lynch was relentless in that department last week as I tweeted:
#49ers OLB Aaron Lynch had BEST pass rushing grade according to PFF with +2.5.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 29, 2014
And despite Lynch unable to record a sack, it was his presence that garnered high-praise as he consistently sped up Eagles QB Nick Foles ticker in the pocket. And with Lynch going up against last year’s first-round pick LT Eric Fisher this time around, look for Lynch to get those sacks as he should create havoc behind the line of scrimmage. According to Pro Football Focus, Fisher has the worse pass blocking grade on the team with a -4.1. Combine that with DE Justin Smith lining up on that side, and you have a real problem on your hands. Look for both Lynch and/or Smith to record at least one sack on Sunday as they force Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) QB Alex Smith into making bad decisions.
Smith making bad decisions? Yes. While 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh went on record today saying that Smith is not a “game manager” but rather a “football player,” I believe his true colors will show as Fangio will dial-up a near bullet proof game-plan where he attacks Smith early all while taking away those short-to-intermediate check-downs.
Smith is not known to throw passes longer than 15 yards, in fact, Smith did NOT attempt a single pass over seven yards in his game against the Miami Dolphins. And with 49ers OC Greg Roman familiar with his strengths and weaknesses, look for Smith to fail as he will throw at least two interceptions on Sunday.
All three of Alex Smith’s interceptions this season have been intended for teammate WR Donnie Avery on passes over 19 yards. And all three have been intercepted by safeties. So who will benefit on Sunday? Look for FS Eric Reid to be the benefactor as he will likely provide help over the top, as Avery is Smith’s go-to-guy deep. A Pro Bowl player who has yet to record an interception at Levi’s Stadium, look for him to get his that day as I predict him to finish with a stat line around six tackles, one interception and two pass break-ups.
With the 49ers looking for their second consecutive win, they will first need to bring that stingy defense as Fangio should have them dialed up and ready to go all while forcing a bad work day for Smith in his homecoming.