Colts-49ers matchup No. 2: Willis vs. Richardson

Harbaugh expects Aldon Smith to play Sunday

Colts-49ers matchup No. 2: Willis vs. Richardson
September 20, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Running back Trent Richardson rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Colts matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at Candlestick Park

49ers LB Patrick Willis vs. Colts RB Trent Richardson

Tale of the tape
Willis (52): 6 foot 1, 240 pounds, seventh season, Mississippi
Richardson (34): 5 foot 9, 225 pounds, second season, Alabama

Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said newly acquired running back Trent Richardson will see plenty of action Sunday against the 49ers.

“We did not bring him in here, OK, to be the water boy on Sunday," Pagano said. "So he’ll be ready to roll.”

And the 49ers have every reason to believe Pagano.

[RELATED: 49ers-Colts matchup No. 3: Gore vs. Angerer]

“He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s got a good stiff-arm, he’s a move-the-pile kind of guy,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “But he also has got some shiftiness, too, where he can bounce it outside or inside. And he’s comfortable running it inside or outside.

“They’ve tossed it to him a few times in Cleveland. They have the toss play at Indianapolis and they have a very similar running game at both places, so I think it will be a pretty seamless transition, as much as it can be, for a guy that just got there.”

Richardson has experienced just two practices with his new team, but he’s already received plenty of attention from the 49ers. The defense began looking at film of him on Thursday morning -- the day after the Cleveland Browns shipped Richardson to the Colts for a first-round pick in the 2014 draft.

Richardson is certain to come face-to-face on several occasions with 49ers middle linebacker Patrick Willis, who earned trips to the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons in the league. Willis is one of the key players on a 49ers run defense that has held the opposition to just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt through two games.

“It’s our job to be ready to play against whoever’s in the game,” Willis said.

The Colts lost starting running back Vick Ballard due to a torn knee ligament in practice last week. Ahmad Bradshaw has 91 yards rushing on 22 carries (4.1), and Donald Brown has 30 yards on seven attempts.

“Whether he’s in there a lot or if it’s Bradshaw or Brown, we just have to be ready to play good defense,” Willis said of Richardson.

The No. 3 overall pick of the Browns last season, Richardson rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie. The Colts will want to create balance on an offense that already features quarterback Andrew Luck, one of the game's young stars.

And, now, Indianapolis believes they have just the man to run the ball. Willis expects the Colts to want to begin getting a return on their investment right away.

“He’s a good runner,” Willis said. “He’s a tough, downhill, physical runner. And you got to be ready to swarm up against him.”

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