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First Defeat - By Bryan Hersh Sept 20 2005

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It did not take long to determine the 49ers were in trouble. McNabb was flushed out of the pocket, and he effortlessly hurled the ball to a wide open Terrell Owens. It was hardly last touchdown McNabb would throw on Sunday, but it was about the last time the 49ers would bring pressure. All this on the first Eagle offensive possession. As high as the team was after last weeks win, they crashed easily that hard this pat week.

The Eagles of course, are not the Rams. They are a defending champion team. Could the 49ers have really expected to beat them? Well of course, otherwise there would be no point in playing the game. But more likely they could use this game as a measuring stick, and clearly the 49ers do not measure up.

The team problems are as easy to identify today, as they were in the off-season. The team lacks depth everywhere, particularly on the offensive line and at cornerback. The team cannot generate enough pressure without blitzing, which leaves the defensive backs hopelessly exposed. The offense cannot stay on the field long enough to give the defense a break. The team lacks a true quarterback and a true running game. But at least is appears to have some sort of coaching staff.

There were certainly a share of good plays on Sunday too. Owens had the lights nearly knocked out of him, Amey and Hicks are solid on special teams. Carpenter and Jackson contribute in this area too. Battle can actually do something with the ball in his hands, and Lloyd can make the tough grab. Spencer may be emerging as a solid corner, but he canít match up against Owens (who can?). Rumph is adjusting well to safety, and Julian Peterson is downright fast. Marques Douglas really looks like a good addition to his team. So despite being beat by 39 points, there are silver linings.

In spite of this game there are several issues that I have yet to wrap my head around. Rattay cannot play under physical or emotional stress. His roll right, rainbow left pass is the perfect example of that. This is not something I see changing over time, as he makes bad decisions under pressure and throws the ball to receivers in such a way that prevents them from making plays on the ball. What is it Nolan and Co hope to gain from sitting Smith on the bench? Do they simply not want him to get pounded? Or is this team in for another wasted first round draft pick. Rattay, as I have said since last season, should not be the starter for this team.

The team continues to try and repair the offensive line, and revive the running game. Yet there was Beasley sitting on the sidelines for almost the entire second half. Not only could he have helped with run and pass blocking, but he could have tried to run and catch the ball too.

The team continues to be unable to generate penetration without the blitz. But why not put a little more pressure on McNabb? The one time they did actually sack him, he fumbled. He was injured and the team did not go after him. Now donít get me wrong, I do not want the injury to get worse, I would not wish that on anyone, but if he is healthy enough to step on the field, than the 49ers should have been attacking his weak point, in this case, that was his chest, and the 49ers did not. There was no pressure.

The offense is not able to give the defense a rest, and as such defensive errors compound. This is similar problem to what was seen all season, and it comes down to third downs. There is a time when the team has to stay on the field and get off the field, depending on whether that is offense or defense, and so far Ė even last week, the 49ers have not been able to prove that.

What it all comes down to, is that this 49ers team needs to re-think how it is going to approach the future games. The team needs to consider how it will address these fundamental issues. I do not expect Nolan to change quarterbacks this week. That would be the wrong message to send emotionally. Rationally though, it would be best to cut losses as soon as it is possible. I expect this trend to continue, and I expect Smith to start after another two poor Rattay performances. As for the other key issues, I would expect the 49ers to get Beasley back on the field. I would expect them to get back to aggressive defenses, because anyone could see, sitting back against a mobile quarterback is as bad as putting him on the run when you such a shallow defensive backfield.

 
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