The 49ers’ 5 keys to beating the Houston Texans

John Madden certainly knew how to preach football, from his coaching career in the Professional Football Hall of Fame to his Emmy-winning broadcast days.

Following his death on Tuesday at the age of 85, here are two of Madden’s offensive principles from a 2016 interview, as they will certainly be factored into the 49ers’ home final on Sunday against the Houston Texans. .

No. 1, by Madden: “It’s a quarterback league. You have to have a quarterback. If you don’t have a quarterback, it’s an uphill battle all the time.

N ° 2: “I think you have to be able to spin the ball. To be able to run the ball, you must have a lead blocker. It’s hard to have a (rusher) there and have a powerful racing game.

These two principles are not mutually exclusive, and they are essential for the 49ers to bounce back from a Dec. 23 loss in Tennessee, where Jimmy Garoppolo injured his thumb.

With Garoppolo ill, the 49ers must have a quarterback ready to lead them, and Trey Lance is expected to get his shot, 12 weeks after his only start of an otherwise calm rookie season. (Garoppolo was listed as questionable on Friday after not training all week.)

The 49ers love to run, they expect them to rely heavily on that against the Texans, that Lance uses double-threat talents to complete an ever-capable stable of running backs.

The stake is a wild card.

The 49ers (8-7) can clinch a spot (likely the sixth of seven seeds in the NFC) by winning this game and their Jan.9 trip against the Los Angeles Rams (11-4). The quickest path to the playoffs would be a 49ers victory on Sunday, coupled with an earlier loss by the New Orleans Saints (7-8) to the Carolina Panthers (5-10).

More convoluted scenarios exist, especially if the 49ers are upset by the Texans (4-11). Here are five ways to get back to the earnings column:


As Madden said, the need to run is critical, even more so at this time of the season, not necessarily because of the weather, but to reduce potential turnovers in the passing game.

The 49ers love to run to control the clock. Coach Kyle Shanahan likes to aim for 30 runs in a game, sometimes 40, as does the goal in a Nov. 15 win over the Rams (44 carries, 156 yards) and their next game (42-171 at Jacksonville) .

“In the running game, I expect us to go out there and play Niner football. Few teams handle the ball like we do,” said George Kittle.

This game plan could certainly require a transport parade of over 40 people. Don’t expect the 40s to come from Lance, who ran 16 times and walked away with a sprained knee early on, an Oct. 10 loss in Arizona.

“How you help a rookie quarterback is definitely relying on the running game,” said defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who referred to the Houston attack with rookie Davis Mills – but he did. The same goes with Lance (and any quarterback, for that matter).

Elijah Mitchell can be let go after a three-game hiatus. Then again, that might not be the wisest thing, not with Aaron Donald and the Rams looming next week, and not after just a week of limited training on his suspect knee.

Thus, the 49ers could, yes, mix Lance, but they could also always curl up Jeff Wilson Jr. with Deebo Samuel, the latter being their leader in receptions (70 for 1,247 yards) and also in touchdowns (seven). The Texans are allowing 141.3 yards per game. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers bring in more.

“If you can’t have a powerful racing game, then where do you dominate? Madden said in that December 2016 interview. “Somewhere in the game you have to take control and say, ‘I’m taking over,’ and this place has always been with the offensive line and the running game.”


Is Garoppolo, as brave as he can be to play in pain, really a better option against an outclassed 4-win team? Probably not, although no one can be sure what Lance is ready to handle in January football.

It’s an inviting opportunity for Lance to come back to school, after not throwing a pass since that 17-10 loss to the Cardinals. He will be home. It will have all the best linemen and targets possible. He’ll have a 19th-ranked pass defense (239.7 yards) to beat.

The 49ers wanted Lance to learn from the shadows this season, with the help of linebacker Fred Warner.

“At the start of the season, working on the scouting team, he was playing a little bit safer, using his legs a lot just for running, didn’t want to throw an interception,” said Warner. “I had to pull him to the side and say, ‘Look, Trey.’ First of all, we weren’t getting the work we needed to defend the balls on the pitch, and you saw it on game day.

Also, just for him, I was like, ‘Listen, this is your opportunity to take risks and grow in this part of your game. Take a chance. See if you can place the ball in tight spaces. Can you throw running and pass on the field? “”

Lance nodded and delivered what Warner called “crazy play” with passing passes just over the fingertips of defenders. This game shouldn’t require anything crazy. (Security Justin Reid, a Stanford product and brother of former 49ers starter Eric Reid, is in hiding in the Texans’ high school.)


Last time at Levi’s, the 49ers defense stopped two sets of Falcons at the 1-yard line. Atlanta converted just 1 of 5 red zone opportunities to touchdowns, like the Cincinnati Bengals the week before against the 49ers.

Overall, the 49ers’ red zone defense ranks 13th (55.6% conversion rate) and, better yet, sixth in goal-to-go situations (60.7%).

This is important because the Texans will surely see the plan for attacking the 49ers: throw it deep, hope for completion or a penalty, then steal points to at least keep pace.

Davis Mills, the Texans rookie quarterback via Stanford, is the NFL leader with a 113.2 rating in the red zone. He threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions inside his opponents’ 20-yard line.

Security Jimmie Ward’s spotting report on Mills: “Quick release. Not afraid to throw those deep roads. Has the arm to do it, trusts his receivers, does not hesitate, from what I have seen.

To keep Mills from breaking through the red zone, the 49ers need Nick Bosa and the pass rush to smash the pocket, then hope for the best of their cornerbacks. Josh Norman and Ambry Thomas have started the last three games with poor results. Dontae Johnson and Deommodore Lenoir are other options, but the 49ers have so far ignored their visit.


How did the Texans end an eight-game losing streak and win at a site in Tennessee where the 49ers just lost? Five take-home wins have helped Houston’s cause, the same number he forced in the previous game, a 17-9 loss to the Dolphins.

“They’re always around the ball and hitting it,” said tight end George Kittle. “We’ve always said turnovers are our kryptonite, the thing that keeps our attack from being what it should be. We are focusing on these guys are good at getting the ball out. They had several games with five (take away). It is very impressive.

The 49ers are 5-0 when they don’t commit any turnovers. Garoppolo’s two interceptions helped torpedo them in Nashville, after they won 5 of 6 with very efficient, safe and productive ball handling.

Garoppolo has lost three fumbles, a tag team, this season, and the next man is Samuel with two.

It’s one of Samuel’s few flaws this season. He played brilliantly to earn his first Pro Bowl nod. His four 150-yard receiving games are just short of Antonio Brown’s 2017 NFL record.


Barring a playoff miracle, the 49ers won’t host a playoff game as a wild-card team.

“I actually thought about that this week, how at the start of the year we kind of had this monkey on our backs, where we lost a bunch in a row at home and Levi’s was starting to get frustrated with it. us, which is understandable, “Bosa said. “Then I realized we had some really good home games. I would really like this to continue. I love coming out of the tunnel and hearing the fans.

These could be the last home cheers for several 49ers, and while that could include Garoppolo, the team’s ownership is believed to be ready to raise his $ 24million salary next season if necessary, either out of necessity. quarterback or poor market conditions.

Free agency starters: Wilson, Laken Tomlinson, DJ Jones, K’Waun Williams, Josh Norman, Marcell Harris, Jaquiski Tartt and Tom Compton (as well as injured starters Jason Verrett and Raheem Mostert).

If called, it would mark Lance’s first home start. He only played one last year in the state of North Dakota, due to a COVID postponing the season.

Speaking of the state of North Dakota, the Bison were ranked No.1 in 1966 when a young San Diego State Defensive Coordinator sat on a bench outside the locker room playing. prepare games to shut down the NDSU. Al Davis then sat down and began an introductory conversation with this coach – Madden, whose death will prompt the 49ers and all teams to take a break for a moment of silence before Sunday’s games kick off. .

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