Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Jaguars

The 49ers have been atrocious on the road, which is where they'll be again Sunday in the middle of their first three-game road trip since 1991, and rookie QB Alex Smith must lead the way by keeping better focus and holding onto the football after fumbling six times in his last two road starts.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers head onto the road for their second of three consecutive games away from San Francisco's Monster Park. The 49ers have been atrocious away from home, getting outscored 216-68 in those six games. The 49ers have to do a better job of dealing with adversity than they've done in their previous road encounters. In every road game, there has been a short stretch of action that has killed them. Last week against the Seahawks, they gave up a TD pass, fumbled the ball back to the Seahawks and yielded another TD pass all in the first 22 seconds of the second quarter to watch a 7-3 deficit balloon up to 21-3. QB Alex Smith has to take care of the football. He has been unable to get a good handle on the ball in his previous two road starts, fumbling six times. He must get off to a good start and then keep that focus throughout the game if the 49ers are going to be competitive. Also, he has to get some help from the run game. Kevan Barlow has not experienced much success this season, as his 3.3-yard average attests. Barlow's two biggest plays of the season have been wiped out due to penalties. The 49ers always seem to find a way to negate anything good that has happened for them. But Barlow won't even be playing Sunday because of a knee injury, so the 49ers might get a different look from rookie Frank Gore in what's expected to be his first NFL start. Defensively, the 49ers have not put together a consistent pass rush for a long time. The onus is on Julian Peterson and Andre Carter to put some heat on Jaguars quarterback David Garrard and not allow him to sit back in the pocket and pick the 49ers secondary apart. Through the first 13 games, the 49ers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile a 99.9 passer rating. When an enemy quarterback has dropped back to pass, it has resulted in an average 8.4-yard gain. The young secondary of cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Bruce Thornton and safeties Ben Emanuel and Keith Lewis has to do a better job of communicating and cut down on the number of blown assignments. Rookie Derrick Johnson will be given a start this week over Thornton, who still probably will start again anyway after Spencer was hurt late this week in practice.

JAGUARS GAME PLAN: On paper, it looks pretty basic for Jacksonville. The Jaguars should be able to do what they want against a 49ers team that is ranked last in both offensive and defensive yardage and is allowing loads of points while not scoring very many themselves. On offense, Jacksonville will try to run both Fred Taylor and Greg Jones and then try to attack the 49ers secondary with some deep passes from David Garrard to Jimmy Smith. On defense, the Jaguars figure to have eight or nine in the box to stop a weak San Francisco rushing game that will be without starting tailback Kevan Barlow, and then on passing downs, they'll come after rookie QB Alex Smith, who has nine interceptions and nine fumbles in just six games. If it sounds like a simple plan, that's because it is. If only preparing for all opponents could be this easy.


--- 49ers' passing game, which has been held under 55 yards in three of Alex Smith's four starts, vs. the Jaguars' pass defense, which ranks eighth in the NFL and has recorded 40 sacks.

--- 49ers LT Adam Snyder, a rookie who has shown a lot of promise after moving into the starting lineup, vs. RE Paul Spicer, a sixth-year pro who is tied for the team lead with 7.5 sacks.

--- 49ers RT Kwame Harris, who has been much better as a run blocker than in pass protection, vs. LE Reggie Hayward, who is tied for the Jaguars' lead with 7.5 sacks and has a team-high 50 quarterback pressures.

-- 49ers ROLB Andre Carter, who has not shown much of a pass rush this season, vs. LT Khalif Barnes, a rookie who has started nine games this season.

--- 49ers CBs Bruce Thornton and Derrick Johnson vs. WR Jimmy Smith, who leads Jacksonville with 55 receptions for 836 yards and six touchdowns.

--- 49ers' pass defense, which is allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw at a 99.9 rating, vs. QB David Garrard, who threw for 250 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions last week against the Colts.

-- 49ers RBs Frank Gore and Maurice Smith vs. Jaguars run defense. The Jaguars will bring up eight or even nine players into the box to stop the run and force Alex Smith to pass.


49ERS: DE Bryant Young (right knee) returned to practice Wednesday and looks as if he'll be back in the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Jags. He has missed three games with tears to the MCL and meniscus cartilage. ... RB Kevan Barlow (left knee) is out for Sunday's game due to a bone bruise. ... FS Mike Adams (left knee) is questionable for Sunday's game after missing last week's game with a sprained MCL. Adams might not be able to play, but he definitely should be ready to go Dec. 24 against the Rams. ... CB Ahmed Plummer (left ankle) will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in late September. ... WR Arnaz Battle (right knee) will not play this week because of a stress fracture. ... C Jeremy Newberry (right knee), FS Tony Parrish (left leg), LT Jonas Jennings (right shoulder), LB Jeff Ulbrich (left biceps), CB Mike Rumph (foot), TE Eric Johnson (foot) and WRs Derrick Hamilton (left knee) and Rashaun Woods (thumb) are on injured reserve.

JAGUARS: The Jaguars are playing a backup quarterback and a backup center, but David Garrard and Dennis Norman had no problem with the exchanges against Indianapolis. They worked together earlier in the year on the scout team. The Jaguars don't expect to have QB Byron Leftwich back this year, and C Brad Meester is on injured reserve, so Garrard and Norman will have to lead the offense. CB Rashean Mathis is probable with a broken finger but is expected to play. He played with the injury against Indianapolis and while he had trouble covering Marvin Harrison, it's uncertain if the injury was a factor.

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