Heading into Week 5, the San Francisco 49ers will be playing the Indianapolis Colts on the road. In the continuing series, "Ask the Expert," this week the 49ersHub is proud to present Colts' expert, Larra Overton.
Larra is a Sports Reporter for FOX59 and CBS 4 in Indianapolis. She's also a track and field analyst for ESPN and sideline reporter for the Big 10 Network. Make sure to go ahead and give her a follow on Twitter @LarraOverton!
Since she covers the Colts on a daily basis, the 49ersHub is excited for the opportunity to get to speak with her about this upcoming matchup.
1. In the Indianapolis Colts' offense, who do you feel is a great matchup and can exploit the flaws in the 49ers' defense?
Unfortunately for the Colts in recent weeks, they haven't shown the ability to exploit the flaws on any defense, especially in regards to second halves with the offense failing to sustain halftime leads. The run game has sputtered at the times it has most needed production. T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief have yet to find consistency with Jacoby Brissett. Brissett's most reliable target (despite some uncharacteristic drops of late) had been Jack Doyle, who will be out Sunday with a concussion. Brissett will also have Ryan Kelly at center for the first time this season, so there's little cohesiveness between the center-QB tandem going into Sunday. It will take a complete Colts offense to walk away with a win, and we have yet to see that thus far. With Frank Gore facing his former team, I think he has to be effective early and set the tone for the Colts, and for the rest of the offense to rise to the occasion.
2. The Colts have a lot of new names on defense this year, from the draft and free agency, do you think San Francisco is better off designing their game plan around the run or the pass?
Revamping the defense was a huge area of emphasis for the Colts this offseason, and we have seen flashes from the new additions especially Jon Bostic and John Simon. Carlos Hyde presents a very tough task for the Colts defense. An emphasis on the rush will challenge the Colts still new-look defensive line. What's been a struggle for the Colts defense thus far is getting everyone firing on all cylinders and play consistently, especially in the second half. For the 49ers, they could easily exploit the Colts' lack of endurance and their tendency to let leads quickly evaporate. Penalties have been an Achilles heel and if they start to play undisciplined, it will provide opportunities for the 49ers offense. Malik Hooker, Rashan Melvin and Matthias Farley proven to be threats in the secondary and will make it tough on Brian Hoyer. I'd think that San Francisco has to utilize Pierre Garcon given his comfort level on this field and his familiarity here. He had some great seasons in Indy, so the 49ers should capitalize on that.
The Colts have given up the most big plays in the passing game in the league through the first four weeks, and that has been an emphasis for Ted Monachino throughout this week, especially after the Seattle shellacking. Likely that the 49ers will capitalize on the Colts’ weakness in that area by utilizing Trent Taylor.
3. 49ers' fans really wanted their team to draft S Malik Hooker in the first round, but somehow he fell all the way into the Colts' lap. What's been your first impressions of him through these five weeks?
Malik has been outstanding and leads the team in INTs through the first four weeks, despite being somewhat limited in the preseason. His raw athleticism has been impressive from the beginning. He seems to have hit the ground running since he got healthy. And he's challenged the other guys around him. Rashaan Melvin said that Malik has elevated the competitiveness of the secondary, which paid dividends for Melvin with two picks vs. Cleveland. Malik's instinct and ability is quickly being proven and he is breathing life into that unit.
Malik is the first Colts rookie to record interceptions in three consecutive games since 1984 (Eugene Daniel). And that’s considering the significant amount of time he missed leading up to the season recovering from injury. Malik was absent all spring, most of training camp and all but one preseason game. So now, he just has to sustain that early season success and stay healthy.
4. Every year, it seems like Chuck Pagano is on the hot seat, if this year doesn't go well, do you think new GM Chris Ballard is looking to get rid of Pagano and bring in his own guy next year?
Anytime a new GM comes in, you always know he has a list of "his guys" that he would like to bring in given the opportunity. It seems that Pagano and Ballard have established a good rapport thus far and that Ballard has clearly laid out his expectations. So much at this point hinges on when Andrew Luck returns to game action and the impact he has on the season. If Luck plays in the coming weeks and the Colts still produce a losing or even season, that could likely mean change coming in the coaching staff.
5. The last question is always a score prediction! Give me a winner and score for this Sunday's matchup?
Oh man, putting me on the spot here! The Colts certainly have a sour taste coming off the Seattle game. I expect Jacoby Brissett to find a groove with T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, and Frank Gore certainly wants this win over his former team. Also, with the franchise celebrating Peyton Manning this weekend with the statue unveiling at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Ring of Honor and his jersey retirement, the Colts will want to post a win. Colts 24-21.
Thanks again to Larra for taking time to answer these questions with us. Make sure to give her a follow @LarraOverton for info on the Colts and check out the game to see if her prediction is right!