Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Colts

Taking a look inside the 49ers and Indianapolis Colts and Sunday's game between the two teams at San Francisco's Monster Park.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:05 PDT

SURFACE: Grass

TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Armen Keteyian

SERIES VS. COLTS: 41st meeting. The Colts lead the series, 22-18. The series originated in 1953 and the teams met twice annually through the 1969 season. Since then, the two franchises have met six times (1972, 1986, 1989, 1995, 1998, and 2001). San Francisco has won five of the last six meetings, including a 40-21 decision at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on November 25, 2001. The Colts' last appearance in San Francisco was on October 18, 1998 with the 49ers rallying from a 21-0 second-quarter deficit to post a 34-31 victory at 3Com Park.

2005 NFL RANKINGS: Colts: offense 17th (16th rush, 15th pass); defense 20th (12th rush, 21st pass). 49ers: offense 30th (31st rush, 28th pass); defense 32nd (19th rush, 32nd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers' main goal is to protect rookie QB Alex Smith in his first start, which comes against a defense that has allowed a league-low 26 point through four games. Look for San Francisco to leave a tight end behind to help in blocking Colts DE Dwight Freeney and for Smith to take a lot of three-step drops and be moved out of the pocket to utilize his mobility. San Francisco is averaging a league-worst 23:12 in time of possession, but that might improve only because their defense will struggle to stop the Colts offense from scoring at will. The 49ers' secondary has been decimated by injuries, which means the Colts will have enormous mismatches any time they go to three and four receiver formations.

FAST FACTS: Colts: Are 19-7 on the road under coach Tony Dungy. ... Dungy played safety for the 49ers in 1979, his final season as a player. 49ers: Have won seven of the past eight meetings. ... S Tony Parrish has started the first 116 regular-season games of his career, second all-time among defensive backs to Herman Edwards (135).

PERSONNEL NEWS

COLTS

-- LB Gilbert Gardner has been upgraded from doubtful for this week's game. Gardner has been nursing a high right ankle sprain since the Colts' final preseason game at Cincinnati. A final decision on his availability won't be made until the weekend, but it appears as if he will be held out for one more week as a precaution.

--- CB Nick Harper is expected to start Sunday despite a sore shoulder. Harper, who has not missed any practice time this week, initially felt some pain after the Tennessee game. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday.

--- RB Dominic Rhodes has returned to practice and is expected to be available for the game. Rhodes has been recovering from a bruised left shoulder.

--- DT Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns remains hopeful of playing against the 49ers. Burns suffered medial collateral ligament damage to his right knee in the Colts' opening preseason game with Atlanta and underwent minor surgery in August. He returned to practice this week.

--- S Joseph Jefferson will miss the San Francisco game as he continues his recovery from a turf toe injury. Jefferson has missed the last three games./p> --- RB James Mungro remains sidelined with a sprained right knee. Mungro was injured against Jacksonville three weeks ago.

--- TE Ben Utecht is not expected to return to practice until next week at the earliest. Utecht is recovering from bruised chest and ribs that he incurred against the Jaguars.

--- DE Josh Thomas is expected to be available for the 49ers game. Thomas has seen light practice this week as he rests a sore right knee, sitting out Wednesday's workout but returning for Thursday's session. He underwent surgery on the knee last season.

--- LB David Thornton returned to practice Thursday and will start against the 49ers. Thornton has been held out of Wednesday workouts the last three weeks in order to rest a sore groin.

--- S Gerome Sapp will be available for the 49ers game. Sapp has been nursing a sore shoulder, but has not missed any practice time this week.

49ERS

--- SS Tony Parrish has been Mr. Reliable for the 49ers' secondary since he came to the team in 2002. Parrish has started all 116 regular-season games of his NFL career, including the first four with the Bears. Since 2001, Parrish leads the NFL with 25 interception.

--- DT Bryant Young ranks seventh among active players with 75.5 career sacks. Young is the only remaining player from the 49ers' last Super Bowl championship team. He was rookie in 1994 when the 49ers last won a title. He currently leads the NFL with six sacks.

--- 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 is questionable against the Colts due to a right hamstring strain. Peterson was hurt Sept. 24 against the Cowboys and 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.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

COLTS

After starting the 2005 season with a 4-0 record and coming off a 31-10 road win over AFC South rival Tennessee last week, it might be easy to expect the Indianapolis Colts to show some complacency heading into Sunday's game.

After all, the Colts have been one of the NFL's premier franchises over the past several seasons, while the 49ers are currently in the middle of a wholesale rebuilding project. San Francisco will bring a 1-3 record into this week's game.

But if anyone expects Indianapolis to overlook the 49ers, think again.

"I think we have the right approach understanding that it's early in the season and records don't really mean a whole lot," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said this week. "Everybody is in this thing right now and when you watch (San Francisco's) games individually, you see a team that could have easily be 3-1 or 4-0 at this point. That immediately grabs our attention.

"We have had a very business-like approach all season and the key to that is to keep having good weeks of practice. We probably had one of our best weeks of practices last week and we need that again this week. We need to try and go out there and take care of business. But we know that it's on the road, it's a long trip out there and it will be a tough place to play."

The 49ers' lone win this season came in the season opener against a heavily-favored St. Louis Rams team. Several Colts players have pointed to that victory over St. Louis as a prime reason to take San Francisco very seriously.

"They've played pretty well at home, but I think that most teams should. That's a pretty natural concept," the Indianapolis quarterback said. "Everybody wants to defend their home turf. They've scored like 29 points a game at home. They've scored more touchdowns than we have this year."

49ERS

The 49ers announced Saturday that cornerback B.J. Tucker has been signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

The 49ers had a spot on the 53-man roster following the trade of LB Jamie Winborn to the Jacksonvile Jaguars for an undisclosed draft pick on Friday.

Tucker (5-10, 188) was originally a sixth-round draft pick by Dallas in 2003 out of Wisconsin. He was waived by the Cowboys following training camp before being signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad, where he finished the season.

After being waived by Pittsburgh in June of 2004, he remained out of football until being signed by Seattle and then allocated to NFL Europe in February of 2005. He joined the 49ers practice squad in early September.

Another former Dallas cornerback castoff who joined the 49ers' practice squad in mid-September - second-year player Bruce Thornton - was signed to the 53-man roster last week and played against Arizona.

Because of injuries to Johnson and veteran Willie Middlebrooks, Thornton may find himself in the starting lineup against the Colts. In any event, both Thornton and Tucker should be prepared to see time in a secondary that has been ravaged by injury.


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