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A Game The 49ers Can Be Proud Of - By Bryan Hersh Nov 20 2005

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It would be presumptuous to say that the 49ers have turned the corner, especially in light of the fact that the team lost this weekend, but at the very least the 49ers can be proud of the way they played for only the second time this season. Scoring two more touchdowns than they did in the past month (where they had zero), the 49ers actually looked like a football team facing one of the leagues top teams – the Seattle Seahawks. The game did not come cheaply though. Frank Gore injured his groin in pre-game warm up. Bryant Young suffered a high ankle sprain and knee injury during the game. Kevan Barlow suffered a concussion. And Ken Dorsey re-injured his ankle.

The game was certainly one of the 49ers best performances in a long, long time. The coaches called a strong game, that gave the players – and in particular the quarterback an opportunity to make plays. The players, for the most part executed, and a few 49ers even stepped up and had big games. Ken Dorsey was 18/29 for 249 yards and a TD. Brandon Lloyd was 7 for 119 and a TD. Lloyd also had a long pass interference penalty called that kept the chains moving, but did not show up on the stats. He also made a ridiculous one handed grab on a potential TD catch but was ruled out of bounds (the refs blew this call if you ask me, at the very least it should have been pass interference, but from the views I saw, Lloyd was shoved out of bounds while in the air). Lloyd had a highlight reel day – as per normal, making a one handed 44 yard, diving grab. His touchdown catch also took a whole lot of effort. It should be noted though that Lloyd did drop an easier potential touchdown. Maurice Hicks saw plenty of action with the injury to Barlow. He had two big runs, and one touchdown that pulled the 49ers to within a two point conversion from sending the game into over time. Other players that stepped up included Jason McAddley who made a key first down catch on the team final scoring drive. Terry Jackson picked up two big chunks of yards when the 49ers needed him too also.

The offensive line had a very up and down day. Kwame Harris continues to be over matched and is called repeatedly for penalties. The rest of the line did a decent job, and was aided by Dorsey’s guts in the pocket. Certainly having Anthony Clement on the bench was an improvement. Jones came in handy at tight end. Ken Dorsey really commanded the offense well. He kept the chains moving and gave the defense some time to rest on the sidelines. Dorsey had a few bad tosses, but only one was potentially fatal. He may have had the best performance of any quarterback for the 49ers this season. Arm strength was not in question as he routine zipped the ball to exactly where it had to be. Two areas he can improve on are 1) seeing the whole field, and looking around not just at his primary receiver, and 2) not putting quite so much air under his deeper passes. Regardless, Dorsey played well – not well enough for a quarterback controversy, but probably strong enough for the 49ers to consider not giving up on him just yet.

The defense as true to form was lead by Julian Peterson, Andre Carter and Derek Smith. Bryant Young was a key force until he suffered his injury. Hopefully, Young will be back on the field next week. Carter had one sack, and Peterson had one pass defended where he dropped from the line of scrimmage back into the deep safety position. It was a huge play that really featured his speed. Cornerback Bruce Thornton had a pretty good game. He was overmatched at his position but likely broke even on the day – which is not his best game yet, but was hardly reason to give up on him, Thornton almost picked off a pass on a well called cornerback blitz as well.

The defense clearly benefited from being able to rest a little bit on the sidelines. It keyed off the team’s emotions and forced two or three situations where the Seahawks went three and out, giving the 49ers offense an opportunity to rally back and try and win the game. If there is one thing this defense has, it is a never quite attitude, and that will please coach Nolan.

Joe Nedney was clutch on special teams. He kicked four field goals on four attempts. Punter Andy Lee continues to perform well, as does long snapper Brian Jennings (who is even getting down field to make tackles these days). Rasheed Marshall was ok on his returns, but did fumble away once.

The coaching staff did an excellent job this game. Somehow they got the 49ers in position to at least tie one of the better teams in the NFL today. Of note, the offensive play calling was far superior to what we have seen in recent weeks. The team started off with a play action pass, something we have not seen much of this season and continued to use the play action to its advantage. Screen passes, draw runs, and other more imaginative offenses – including a three back formation gave the 49ers an opportunity to actually move the ball this week. Ken Dorsey was given the green light on offense and the 49ers tried to stretch the field. It did not lead to a win, not every play was executed properly, but for the first or second time this season the 49ers looked like a compose football team that was ACTUALLY PLAYING TO WIN. That in its self was a step in the right direction. The defensive play calling was also improved. Despite having more injuries (Bryant Young and Tony Parrish) the coaches moved the personnel around, and called the right plays at the right time. Again, not every play was executed properly, but enough were to give the 49ers a chance to win this game. The team had the red jerseys in place to make the plays, and often they did.

I cannot say that the 49ers have turned the corner already. It is too early to say so. But this was finally a step in the right direction, a sign that the coaches can call a good game, a sign that some of the team’s young talent may have futures in this league, and a reason to be excited for the next game against the Titans.

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