The San Francisco 49ers continued to trend downward last week with another loss. Though it was a tough loss to New England at home, there were a few positives to take from that game. The 49ers were able to find holes in the Patriots defense and run the ball somewhat effectively. That performance gives San Francisco hope for earning a few more wins this season, and one can come this week.
Week 12 presents the Miami Dolphins to San Francisco. The Dolphins are riding a five-game win streak. Miami has found a running game as of late. Yet, Miami’s opponents this season have beaten the Dolphins in almost every major offensive category. In fact, Miami’s defense has given up 30 first downs through penalties alone this season. The 49ers can hope to keep pace with Miami by following these three keys to victory, one of which is stopping the run.
San Francisco 49ers Week 12 Keys To Victory
Stifle Jay Ajayi
Jay Ajayi has been a huge part of the Dolphins winning run. Ajayi has averaged 4.4 yards per carry in the last three games. He also rushed for over 200 yards in back-to-back weeks versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. Ajayi brings a load at 6’0″ and 229 pounds. The key to shutting down Ajayi for the 49ers is to play disciplined defense. They must know their assignments and stay in their zone. It will be difficult for the 49ers to just “load the box” and put eight men upfront to stop the run. This leaves them vulnerable to mid-field routes and quick passes from Ryan Tannehill.
The Dolphins cannot get too aggressive with the blitz. If they guess wrong and blitz the wrong gap, Ajayi could break through the secondary and take one to the end zone. The 49ers defensive line must fight not to be pushed back and shed their blocks. Tackles for loss will put the Dolphins offense in long yardage positions, and force them off the field quickly.
Pressure Ryan Tannehill Consistently
Many people in the football world have been waiting for Ryan Tannehill to reach his potential. To this point, Tannehill continues to be an average NFL quarterback. The fifth-year pro has never had a completion percentage above 66.4%. When he is pressured in the pocket, that percentage drops to just under 38%.
The 49ers defensive line must take advantage of this fact. San Francisco cannot afford to blitz linebackers and leave the middle of the field open. The defensive line has to use stunts and raw power to force their way into Tannehill’s face. Getting into Tannehill’s head early and consistently applying pressure will eventually lead to miscues. The Niners will need to force an interception or forced fumble in this game. A severely pressured Ryan Tannehill will inevitably make that mistake.
Neutralize Dolphins Defensive Front
An essential part of success for San Francisco’s offense to work is being able to run the ball. Running the ball allows a team to control the flow of the game. The key to a successful running game versus the Dolphins is neutralizing their defensive line.
Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips have been wreaking havoc this season on the interior line. Joe Staley and the 49ers offensive line must rise to the occasion. They have to play fundamentally sound and open holes for Carlos Hyde.
Colin Kaepernick must also do his part by getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Quick releases are not Kaepernick’s strong suit. He will need to keep a mental clock in this game, and he may find himself doing quite a bit of running. Short passes and sideline routes will do well to negate the Dolphins pass rush and should tire Miami’s defense in the second half.