Alex Smith is making some progress at quarterback. He has an arm, he makes pretty good decisions, he is confident, not afraid to stretch the field and at the very least, and most of all, he is not worse than Tim Rattay. Despite the turnovers, the dropped balls, the tunnel vision when he begins to run, Smith is a step in the right direction. The 49ers do of course need to give Smith some more weapons, they need to open up the offense just a step further to give Smith the ability to make a play or two. Right now, Smith is on such a short leash that I believe the 49ers are actually prohibiting him from having success.
Frank Gore is a better back than Kevan Barlow. Gore is better in pass protection, better with the ball in his hand, and more explosive. Yet Gore sees less time on the field. It doesn’t make sense, especially when Barlow is flat out missing blocks in pass protection that result in Smith getting hammered.
Brandon Lloyd made another superlative catch on an under thrown long ball. Lloyd made the finger tip grab at his ankles far down field. Another highlight reel catch. Johnnie Morton was helpful in run blocking, and made a few decent grabs. The rest of the 49ers receivers (who were far down the depth chart) were all but useless.
It is no surprise that the offensive line is in such disarray that Smith rarely had three seconds to throw the ball. I hate to call out Jeremy Newberry for his performance, but his head was clearly keying the defense on the snap count, and that just made protection and run blocking all the harder. As usual the tight ends were nowhere to be found.
The defensive line had one of its quietest games of the year. They did little if anything productive. Linebackers were practically silenced. Andre Carter and Brandon Moore had a few plays, but given the lack of depth everywhere at linebacker, this group was far more ineffective than it has been throughout the season. The defensive backfield was interesting. Bruce Thornton seemed to hold his own, but Shawntae Spencer was abused at defensive back. It seems he has come down with a bit of Jason Webster syndrome, unable to turn his head a look for the ball in two consecutive games.
The coaching staff is doing ok given what they have to work with. They are doing their best to protect Alex Smith, but need to open the play book just a bit more. Beasley is seeing a little more play time, but not enough. The 49ers are not using him as a weapon (which he is) either. Gore should be seeing more play time than Barlow. Defensively the 49ers don’t have the talent to match up with most teams in the NFL right now. It is a sad reality, but it is the truth. Teams will continue to go long and rack up the points until the 49ers can get healthy at defense, and that may not even happen this year.
It is a sad reality, but the 49ers may not win another game this season. Not because the coaching staff is incompetent, or does not prepare the team, but rather because the team simply does not have the talent to compete. What Nolan and the staff should be doing is evaluating every player. They need to see who refuses to quit, and who does have enough talent to play in this league. They also need to focus on developing Smith every week.