Fearless Prediction: 49ers-Eagles
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: FOX (Dick Stockton, Charles Davis, Laura Okmin)
KEYS TO THE GAME: 49ers TE Vernon Davis is of particular
concern to the Eagles. He’s QB Alex Smith’s favorite target over
the middle, and opposing tight ends have caught a combined 70
passes in Philadelphia’s past 10 games. San Francisco featured more
of RB Frank Gore on Monday night, and the result was far improved
play overall from the offensive line. The Eagles have a
quick-strike offense, but they have to be wary of the 49ers’
improving pass rush after San Francisco relentlessly battered Kurt
Warner. It’s imperative for the Eagles to utilize RBs LeSean McCoy
and Leonard Weaver on the ground and in the short passing game to
avoid constant third-and-longs.
FAST FACTS: Smith is the first 49er to throw multiple
touchdowns in four consecutive games since Jeff Garcia in 2003. …
Weaver is averaging 6.8 yards per touch over the past seven games.
- LB Patrick Willis is making a case for NFL Defensive Player
of the Year with an impressive all-around season. Willis leads
the 49ers with 147 tackles, according to the coaches’ film
review. He has 13 tackles for loss and four sacks to go along
with two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
- LT Joe Staley is expected to return to action Sunday against
the Philadelphia Eagles after missing the past six starts because
of a knee injury. Barry Sims has played well since taking over
for Staley on the first series of the 49ers’ Nov. 1 loss to the
- QB Alex Smith appears to be getting closer to winning the
team’s starting job for next season. “I think he will continue to
improve as he gets more familiar with planning the game itself
within the constraints of the offense,” 49ers offensive
coordinator Jimmy Raye said. “I would think, for this
organization, that he would be their quarterback in 2010, yes.”
- TE Delanie Walker, who has gotten more action in recent
games, did not practice Thursday because of an ankle injury.
Walker has 13 catches for 163 yards this season, but has only
been featured in recent games as the 49ers have gone with more
- RB Frank Gore, coming off a 167-yard performance against the
Arizona Cardinals, returned to full practice after reporting a
toe injury. He should be fine for Sunday’s game against the
- WR Kevin Curtis was a full participant in practice for the
second straight day and probably will see his first action Sunday
since Week 2. He has been out with a knee injury.
- WR Jeremy Maclin, who has a partially torn plantar fascia in
his foot, didn’t practice Thursday and isn’t expected to play
Sunday against the 49ers.
- RB Brian Westbrook, who has missed six of the last seven
games after suffering two concussions, practiced on a limited
basis Thursday but isn’t expected to play Sunday against the
- TE Brent Celek practiced on a limited basis Thursday after
missing Wednesday’s practice with back soreness. He played
through it last week and probably will attempt to do the same on
- LB Akeem Jordan likely will rotate at middle linebacker with
Jeremiah Trotter again on Sunday. Jordan missed four games with a
hyperextended knee before returning last week. Once his knee is
close to 100 percent, he’ll likely return to his regular
weak-side linebacker spot.
Inside The Camps
The 49ers have reason to feel good about how young defensive
players Ahmad Brooks and Dashon Goldson are improving late in the
Brooks has risen recently to become one of the team’s top
pass rushers, while Goldson has shown tremendous improvement over
the past month of the season.
Brooks, who did not play a snap for the 49ers last season
after being claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals,
recorded three sacks Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals. He
now has five sacks for the season.
“Patience is a virtue, and I’ve been very patient,” Brooks
said. “It’s time to let the dog loose. It’s time to get the cage
open and show what I’m capable of doing.
“I’ve been here since last year and been doing everything
the coaches ask me to do, and everything is paying off because I
don’t complain about it.”
Goldson had the best game of his professional career on
Monday, as he recorded two forced fumbles and an interception. He
also pried the ball loose from Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald
to prevent a long touchdown pass.
Goldson is second on the 49ers with 100 tackles. He has
three interceptions, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a
sack on the season. And the 49ers feel good about his ability to
affect change during the course of a game.
“He’s got some range,” 49ers defensive coordinator Greg
Manusky said. “That’s why we drafted him where we did. He did a
good job making plays on the deep ball and coming up and filling
(gaps) in the run game. He’s had some good games the past couple
Wide receiver Kevin Curtis is expected to see his first game
action in nearly three months Sunday when the Eagles host the San
Curtis, who caught 77 passes for the Eagles in ’07 after
signing with them as a free agent, missed seven games last season
with a sports hernia and has been out since Week 2 this year with a
knee injury. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in late
He returned to practice on a limited basis two weeks ago but
has been a full participant this week. With Jeremy Maclin expected
to miss the game with a torn plantar fascia, Curtis likely will be
activated. How much he’ll play remains to be seen.
Reggie Brown and Jason Avant will rotate at the starting
wide receiver spot opposite DeSean Jackson in two-wide receiver
“There’s a plan for Kevin,” offensive coordinator Marty
Mornhinweg said. “So we’ll go about it like that with a plan. I’m
sure Andy (Reid) has talked to him. I’ve talked to him. And so I
think he’ll be effective within that plan.”
Curtis probably won’t play more than seven or eight snaps on
Sunday as the Eagles try to ease him back in.
“You know how we do that with a man that hasn’t played for a
period of time,” Mornhinweg said. “We’re going to do it in a
certain way. The communication is critically important between him
and the trainers and the head coach and me. So we have a plan and
those plans can change depending on how he’s feeling.”
PREDICTION: Eagles 26-20