Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Jets

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's inter-conference clash between the 49ers and New York Jets at Monster Park in San Francisco, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact and personnel updates from both camps.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:05 Pacific
SITE: Monster Park in San Francisco
SURFACE: Grass
RECORDS: Jets 8-4, first place in AFC East; 49ers 4-8, second place in NFC West
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)

SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 8-2. These teams haven't met since 2004, when the Jets ground out a 22-14 victory at home to go 5-0. In that game, Curtis Martin had 111 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. On Sept. 21, 1980, RB Clark Gaines set a team record for New York that stands 28 years later, with 17 receptions in a 37-27 loss to San Francisco. Gaines is now a regional representative with the NFL Players Association. The last time the teams played at Candlestick was the 1998 season-opener, a memorable 36-30 game the 49ers won on Garrison Hearst's 96-yard touchdown run in overtime.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers' 28th-ranked secondary has a difficult task at hand. San Francisco has just 22 sacks, and will have a tough time getting to Jets QB Brett Favre. Favre is doing a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly and is utilizing a lot of screens to get the ball into the hands of his receivers who are excellent in the open field. The Jets' receivers don't get much separation deep, but the 49ers have to be careful of big plays after shorter catches. Center of success: The 49ers hope C Eric Heitmann has as much success against Jets NT Kris Jenkins as the Broncos' Casey Wiegmann did last Sunday. Jenkins is the centerpiece of the Jets' fourth-ranked run defense that will take aim at RB Frank Gore. Under interim coach Mike Singletary, the 49ers are doing a better job of staying focused on Gore to compensate for the lack of downfield playmakers. Specialties: Due to several injuries, WR Isaac Bruce and RB Michael Robinson are being considered to return punts for the 49ers. Need to know: Favre is 8-0 lifetime in the regular season against San Francisco. ... The San Francisco offense is second in the NFL with 53 plays of 20-plus yards.

BY THE NUMBERS: 42.2 -- The percentage the 49ers' defense has allowed the opposition to score touchdowns from within the red zone. The 49ers rank fifth in the NFL in that statistic. 4.7 -- Yards per carry for RB Thomas Jones, who leads the AFC with 1,088 yards rushing and is fourth in the NFL in that category. That's the highest average in Jones' NFL career and over a yard more than the 3.6 he averaged last season.

QUOTES TO NOTE
"I hate (the term) spoiler. What it says is that you're team is not going anywhere. I don't have anything against a team that I don't want to see them in the playoffs because of us. But whichever team we're playing, we want to win because we want to win." -- 49ers interim coach Mike Singletary
"We're going to get (the 49ers') best, so we have to play our best. We're not good enough yet to think that we can play average and get away with it." -- Jets QB Brett Favre

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers exacted certain parts of their game plan with precision against the Buffalo Bills last week in pulling off an upset victory. Look for them to do many of the same things. Namely, they want to establish themselves as a power team. They ran the ball five consecutive times to open against the Bills, and that seemed to set a tone for the game. Coach Mike Singletary seems to have imposed his will on offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has long favored a high-risk, high-reward kind of offensive approach. Singletary wants the 49ers to be a physical team. He believes they do not have the margin of error to be turning the ball over as much as they did earlier in the season. So the 49ers will try to run the ball with Gore, and that should enable play-action passes to open up with efficient quarterback Shaun Hill. He has done a good job of utilizing Isaac Bruce and second-year player Jason Hill. Defensively, the 49ers can't allow the Jets to strike with the big play. It again will be an emphasis to not allow Jets receivers to get behind them in the secondary.

JETS GAME PLAN: With dry weather and mild weather in the forecast, expect Brett Favre to get a much firmer grip on the ball than he did in the rain-swept loss to Denver. If his receivers are finally able to get some separation that will lead to some downfield throws against a San Francisco defense that doesn't blitz all that much. Running back Thomas Jones, who topped the 1,000-yard plateau against Denver, keeps doing his thing and Leon Washington makes some big plays in the return game after being held in check in the last two games. On defense, the Jets should be more aggressive than they've been in recent games, to get some pressure on QB Shaun Hill. Meanwhile, they hope the run defense returns to form after a subpar outing against Denver and prevent RB Frank Gore (926 yards) from reaching the 1,000-yard plateau this week.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--- 49ers C Eric Heitmann vs. Jets NT Kris Jenkins - Heitmann is putting together a solid season but has trouble matching up against large bodies. Jenkins is a 350-pounder who is putting together a strong season and is gaining support as an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Casey Wiegmann, Denver's 285-pound center, did a good job last week against Jenkins, which helped enable Denver's Peyton Hillis to rush for 129 yards, although part of the problem for the Jets was the Broncos' zone-blocking schemes.
--- 49ers RG Chilo Rachal vs. Jets LE Shaun Ellis: Rachal showed great improvement in his second NFL start last week against the Bills. Ellis leads the Jets with seven sacks.
--- 49ers WR Isaac Bruce vs. Jets CB Darrell Revis: Bruce has put together two solid games in a row with QB Shaun Hill at the controls. Revis, a second-round pick, gives up 13 years in experience to Bruce. Revis has been the best and most consistent player for a struggling secondary, and had four pass breakups against Denver. Bruce, in his 15th NFL season, isn't the player he once was, but his six touchdown catches this season are the most he's had since 2004, and he is averaging 16.0 yards per reception.
---- 49ers LB Patrick Willis vs. Jets RB Thomas Jones: Willis leads the 49ers with 145 tackles. Jones has been a force with more than 1,000 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
--- 49ers FS Mark Roman vs. Jets QB Brett Favre: Roman does not have an interception in nearly two full seasons. Favre has thrown 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
--- 49ers DE Justin Smith vs. Jets LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson: Smith has done everything well for the 49ers this season. Ferguson has surrendered just 2.5 sacks in 12 games this season.
--- Jets TE Dustin Keller vs. 49ers FS Mark Roman. Keller is fast becoming Brett Favre's favorite target, and with seven receptions against Denver, he now has 27 catches in the last four games. Keller can be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, as he is too physical for defensive backs yet also too fast to be covered by linebackers.

INJURY IMPACT

49ERS:
CB Nate Clements has a slight fracture of his left thumb. He missed most of practice this week and is questionable for the game, though the 49ers hope to have him available to play while wearing a splint. WR Josh Morgan (groin) took part in full practice at the end of the week and there is a chance he could return for Sunday's game. He has already missed three games. S Dashon Goldson (knee) returned to limited practice this week, and could miss his sixth game with a partially torn MCL in his left knee. WR Arnaz Battle (foot) went through limited practice early in the week, but he appears questionable to return to action on Sunday. KR Allen Rossum (ankle) did not practice early in the week, but has yet to be ruled out of action for Sunday's game. S Michael Lewis (abdominal strain) did not practice early in the week, but the club expects him to be ready for action.

JETS: LB David Harris (groin surgery) is getting closer to returning, and the Jets certainly could use him. Harris, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, is excellent in coverage over the middle, and teams are exploiting the Jets in that area. Plus, savvy veteran David Bowens, who has started the last five games in place of Harris, is an excellent pass rusher. If Harris returns, Bowens could be used more in that role. SS Eric Smith, who left the game against Kansas City on Oct. 26 with some apparent post-concussion problems, has missed five games but also is getting closer to returning, and he practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. At first, there seemed to be no real drop-off to backup Abram Elam, but Elam allowed two touchdown passes against Denver and teams are exploiting him downfield. Smith is solid in coverage for the most part. Backup TE Bubba Franks (hip) is off the injury report but still hasn't played since Oct. 19. The Jets likely held him out against Denver because of the rainy conditions, but he should be ready to go in dry weather at San Francisco. Without Franks, the Jets have been using offensive linemen as extra tight ends in running situations, because rookie Dustin Keller's blocking still is suspect, although he is improving. But if Franks returns, the Jets won't have to telegraph their intention to run so often by putting lumbering linemen in as extra tight ends.

PERSONNEL NEWS

JETS


--- DE Shaun Ellis was charged with possession of marijuana, driving without insurance and speeding after a highway traffic stop Saturday morning in Hanover, the Jets have confirmed. It is believed to be a first offense, which would mean that Ellis would be placed in the NFL's substance-abuse program. A second infraction would result in a four-game suspension. A team spokesman said Ellis will play Sunday at San Francisco.

--- P Reggie Hodges has averaged 41.8 yards gross and 38.2 net in eight games since taking over as the Jets' punter. Hodges would be eighth in the AFC in net punting average if he had enough punts to qualify.

--- RB Thomas Jones was named the AFC Player of the Month for November. He led the conference in rushing yards (556) and rushing touchdowns (seven) last month as the Jets went 4-1. Jones has topped the 100-yard mark in three of his last four games and is leading the AFC with 1,088 rushing yards through 12 games.

--- LB David Harris (groin surgery) is expected to return after missing five games. Coach Eric Mangini said he's "pretty optimistic" that Harris will play Sunday. If Harris is back, that would free up veteran David Bowens, who has been starting in his place, to do more situational pass rushing. Bowens has been effective in that role.

--- SS Eric Smith (lingering effects from concussion) practiced Thursday on a limited basis and could play at San Francisco, although it doesn't seem very likely.

49ERS

--- CB Nate Clements, who has played in 124 consecutive games with 116 consecutive starts, is questionable with a slight fracture of his left thumb.

--- WR Arnaz Battle is expected to be available to play Sunday after sustaining a mid-foot sprain on Oct. 26. Coach Mike Singletary said if Battle plays, the club will probably ease him back into the lineup. Battle returned to full practice Thursday for the first time since his injury.

--- CB Donald Strickland, who had his best game of the season last week against the Buffalo Bills, is expected to get the start Sunday against the Jets if Nate Clements is unable to play. Either way, Strickland will see significant playing time in the team's substitute packages.

--- OT Barry Sims, a veteran who started six consecutive games before exiting the lineup with an ankle sprain, is likely to see some action Sunday against the Jets at right tackle, coach Mike Singletary said. However, Adam Snyder will remain the starter at right tackle, Singletary said.

--- S Michael Lewis returned to full practice after practicing lightly on Wednesday. Lewis ranks third on the team with 84 tackles. He has broken up six passes on the season.



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