Rain, rain -- here to stay

January 20, 2012, 2:23 am
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The dark clouds that loomed over the 49ers practice facility Thursday made head coach Jim Harbaugh downright giddy. Admiral Halsey once said, If youre going to fight in the North Atlantic then youve got to prepare in the North Atlantic, Harbaugh said enthusiastically to the local and national media. Theyre anticipating some rain on Sunday. We wont know until Sunday morning until we can check the sky. But excited that we may get some rain today in practice to help us prepare for the ballgame Sunday.
The rain, and two days to practice in it, is welcome to a coach who thrives on preparation and details. The 49ers near perfect season has been accompanied by near perfect weather. They only game they experienced a slick field was their 23-7 win over Arizona at home on November 20. Rain pelted the Bay Area leading up to the game, but the skies cleared by game time and the conditions weren't unbearable by any standard. The forecast for the NFC Championship is more ominous, and the 49ers have already accounted for it in their game planning. You try to play the game in your head all week and when you have bad weather you start picturing that field all mudded up and you start going through contingencies in your mind, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. Theres no doubt. You have to. As far as it affects me and play calling, added defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, it will be what I see out there. As far as what the effects of the field actually are.Fangio will let each of his defensive players decide which type of cleats he prefers to wear. He admits many of the players dont like the longer cleats in muddy conditions because it slows them down. But Tom Rathman doesnt appear to be leaving the debate open for the running backs. Anthony Dixon told CSNBayarea.com that his position coach told the group to wear their inch cleats. Rathman spent eight seasons playing on the same field the current 49ers use, and won two Super Bowls in that span, so Dixon and his teammates have no reason to doubt him. A wet field will certainly be an issue for them and other skilled positions as well.I think the receivers probably have an advantage on the defensive backs because they know where theyre going. And the defensive backs have to react so if the footings poor, advantage offense, Roman said. On the same token, running backs cant hit a hole or make a cut like they normally would, so advantage defense. It works both ways."Roman also feels the pass rush is negatively affected by muddy turf. But both teams have to play through the same conditions. So it still comes down to which team prepares and plays better. The field condition, this and that, the tide, said defensive end Justin Smith. It really doesnt matter. They are going to run ball, they are going play action thats what they do. They arent going to change who they are at this point of the season.And neither are the 49ers. Though they hope to be better at this colder and wetter point of the season.