Niners game plan

Niners game plan, matchups to watch and injury impact for Sunday's encounter with the undefeated Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco's Monster Park.


The 49ers have so many problems across the board, it's difficult to know where to start. Rookie quarterback Alex Smith gets his first career start, and it's imperative that the team do everything to protect their $49.5 million investment. Since tight end Steve Bush is of no importance to the passing game, having caught just two passes for 11 yards, you can expect him to help the 49ers' left tackle against Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney. Banged-up left tackle Jonas Jennings might not be able to play, so Anthony Clement is likely to start and rookie Patrick Estes could see action, too. The 49ers have to put Smith in a position to succeed with a lot of three-step drops and plays designed to get him outside the pocket. No telling what other unconventional plays you might see with Smith at quarterback. After all, Smith ran a gimmick spread offense while at the University of Utah. Defensively, the 49ers have to put some pressure on Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who has not been sacked this season. The 49ers' secondary is an absolute mess. Defensively, the 49ers had only 18 available players in the second half of their game last week against the Cardinals. Fifth cornerback Willie Middlebrooks, among the team's final cuts this summer, could be in line to get a starting assignment against the Colts, but he missed practice all week. The more receivers the Colts can put on the field, the more impossible it will be for the 49ers to match up with them. The 49ers have surrendering 368.3 yards passing per game, and opposing quarterbacks have compiled a 109.3 passer rating. The 49ers' best player through the first four games has been defensive end Bryant Young, who will likely start receiving more attention from opposing offenses.


--- 49ers cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer secondary, playing without Week 1 starters Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph and top backup Derrick Johnson, vs. the Colts receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley, who will present all kinds of matchup problems for the 49ers.

--- LT Anthony Clement, a natural RT who looked out of place last week against the Cardinals, vs. DE Dwight Freeney, perhaps the best pass-rusher in the league.

--- QB Alex Smith, the rookie getting his first career start after taking over for Tim Rattay, vs. Colts pass defense, which has recorded 15 sacks and four interceptions this season.


--- FB Fred Beasley was scheduled to undergo an MRI examination to reveal the extent of an injury to his left ankle. Beasley said the ankle has bothered him for weeks. Beasley said he would not know anything until the tests are completed.

--- CB Derrick Johnson will not play Sunday because of a thigh strain. Johnson had a 78-yard fumble return for a touchdown in his first start last week against the Cardinals.

--- LB Julian Peterson returned to practice Friday for the first time since being injured in the Sept. 24 game against the Cowboys, but he still is questionable to play Sunday because of a right hamstring strain. Peterson did not play in last week's game.

--- WR Arnaz Battle is questionable with a right knee strain, and it does not look as if he'll be ready to play Sunday against the Colts.

--- CB Willie Middlebrooks was held of practice again Friday and remains questionable for the Colts with a groin strain.

--- C Jeremy Newberry will not practice this week but should start Sunday. He is hobbled by a chronic knee problem.

--CB Ahmed Plummer opted for arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle last Thursday and will not play this week. He has a chance to return Oct. 23 when the 49ers face the Redskins.

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