49ers-Titans: What to watch for
Seeking the 500th regular-season win in franchise history, the San Francisco 49ers (4-2) take on the Tennessee Titans (3-3) in Nashville Sunday at 1 p.m. PT.
The 49ers beat up the Cardinals last week for their third consecutive victory, while the Titans have lost two straight with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. Returning starter Jake Locker is a promising 3-1 with a 99.0 passer rating.
Here are a few things to watch for on game day:
QB’s vs. Top Ten D’s
Locker has tossed six touchdowns with zero turnovers, while the 49ers have intercepted eight passes while allowing just seven passing touchdowns.
The 49ers’ ninth-ranked defense is third in the NFL with 61 points off turnovers, but the Titans 10th-ranked defense is right behind them, in fourth place with 59 points.
Meanwhile Colin Kaepernick has thrown five interceptions and lost four fumbles. He faces Jim Gray’s 4-3 base scheme with 3-4 sub packages for the first time.
Locker hasn’t seen a Vic Fangio defense since Oct. 30, 2010 at Washington, when he was intercepted twice and sacked three times in a 41-0 loss to Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal.
The quarterback who doesn’t turn it over will win this one.
San Francisco’s former Swiss Army knife is off to his best career start with the Titans, hauling in 20 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns through six weeks.
The speedy tight end will likely draw coverage underneath from All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis who returned to action against Arizona after missing two games with a groin injury.
Earlier in the week, Willis said he’s unable to get to fifth gear, so the two friends going at it is a key matchup.
Walker has notably dropped only one pass in 29 targets this year after dropping eight with the 49ers in 2012. Walker totaled 14 regular-season drops during his seven seasons with San Francisco.
Willis knows his history and will go for the strip at every opportunity.
TJE against the run
With Glenn Dorsey (hamstring) unlikely to play and Ian Williams (broken ankle) on injured reserve, ex-fringe player Tony Jerod-Eddie (6-foot-5, 301 pounds) will make his first career start as the third 49er to start at nose tackle in six games.
The defensive line is thin and untested rookie Quinton Dial was promoted to the 53-man roster on Saturday for backup duty. But the job of stopping the run and filling the A-gaps belongs to Jerod-Eddie, who the Titans are sure to run at with Chris Johnson.
Opposing Jerod-Eddie will be rookie Brian Schwenke (6-3, 314) who is also making his first start.
If Jerod-Eddie can control Schwenke consistently enough to warrant a double team, then inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis can close the gaps and stuff the run.
The 49ers have a 499-415-14 all-time regular-season record. … The game will be broadcast live on FOX and kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT.