I think the brightest point of this Sunday’s game was that the team finally began using Tim Rattay properly. They rolled him out, gave him an escape route, and allowed him to make things happen. I still think Rattay needs to deliver the ball to his receivers quicker, this was evident in some defenders beating the receivers to the ball. Rattay made one boneheaded pass that resulted in an interception and touchdown as the 49ers were trying to comeback late in the game. Unfortunately this is becoming typical of Rattay.
I thought the receivers had a good day, and certainly showed that they were not lacking effort. I firmly believe they will have a bigger impact if they are not waiting for the quarterback to deliver the football. Arnaz Battle really needs more play time. Even in his reverse option, he was able to make something happen out of nothing. Rashaun Woods did not step onto the field despite earlier reports by Erickson that he would get more play time.
The offensive line is far superior with Kosier at left tackle than Harris. It stands to reason then that putting Harris in the game as the 49ers were trying to rally back in the fourth quarter was as boneheaded a move as Erickson has made this season… The offensive line gave Rattay an escape route this week, and kept him on his feet more so than in past games. This was a good sign. Run blocking was also improved by the line, Eric Johnson and Fred Beasley.
Kevan Barlow continues to show he is not the answer at running back. Barlow put forth a better effort, but he hardly has proven dependable. Still Barlow’s performance was good enough to open the play action fake, and that is key to the 49ers offense.
The defensive line continued to improve in pass rushing. Lead by Bryant Young this unit is doing a fairly good job getting to the quarterback and even tipping passes. Against the run though, this unit suffered big time. Andre Carter returned to the game, and not surprisingly had a very quiet day. The linebackers had a good day pass rushing, and stuffing runs that went wide. But in coverage, and against runs up the middle they were often exposed – especially when the safeties were playing in coverage.
The defensive backs were overmatched all day. Shawntae Spencer had a decent day though, and it would have been better if not for a few plays, but with the 49ers two starting corners out, we can continue to expect this unit to struggle. The safeties were helpful against the run, but less so against the pass. The 49ers really need to solidify this group, and the return of Ahmed Plummer should be a massive help.
The special teams unit played really well. Peterson continues to be solid on his kicks, Lee had some great punts, and Dwaine Carpenter was a head hunter on special teams. Hicks made a boneheaded decision on a kickoff that left the 49ers on their 1 yard line, but other than that had a nice day. It would be great if we could see him play a little running back too.
I have to give credit to the coaches for getting the penalties down. Only 3. I have to give credit to getting the turnovers down. Only 1. But, third downs remain a problem. And perhaps worse still Kwame Harris was put in the game at a critical point. Worse still, Erickson showed poor clock management. I continue to question Erickson as a coach, a play caller and a motivator. I think he deserves credit for keeping this team in it for nearly 3 quarters of the game, but really some key mistakes on his part continue to put the 49ers at a disadvantage.