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49ers Electrified By Chargers - By Bryan Hersh OCt 16 2006

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I just wanted to let everyone know, that a very special podcast – that includes an in-depth interview with former 49ers PR director Kirk Reynolds is now posted on the site. This is a ‘must listen’ interview for any 49ers fan, and I am happy that 49ers Paradise can bring this to you exclusively. The show is compatible with Windows/PC or Apple computers, and no MP3 or iPod is needed to listen to the show, just follow the podcast links on 49ers Paradise, or click here http://www.49ersparadise.com/podcast/podcasts2006-2007/podcast-oct162006.mp3

Losing is never fun, but losing when a team scores twice as many points as you did makes things particularly bad. Despite this, I feel better after this loss than I did after the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Why you ask? For a number of reasons:

The offense did not look flat, and the play calling was top notch. I really felt that despite playing one of the best defenses in the league the offense played well. The team fell behind early which meant Frank Gore was more involved in the passing game than in the past, and the lack of running meant the team lost its balance, but that was out of need. In the early stages of the game the 49ers went score for score with the Chargers, and managed to move the ball in an OK way for most of the first half. The second half of the game the 49ers offense had a much harder time – but that was in a large part because the Chargers knew that the 49ers were in a passing situation almost every down. The Chargers also were able to bring more efficient pressure on Alex Smith as the game wore on.

Alex Smith continues to grow up in front of our very eyes. His one interception came on a batted pass – it was more bad luck than a bad throw. Outside of that he threw two dart touchdown passes, and in general put the ball in places where only the receivers could make plays on the ball. Smith’s pocket presence is also improving, but there is no doubt in my mind that the offensive line needs to do a better job protecting him, particularly his blind side. Smith is also showing he is becoming more comfortable with his mobility, but could still use opportunities to run more often. Perhaps the most impressive pass Smith threw was an incomplete pass, when he tossed the ball away after a back side screen was read by the Chargers defense. Smith moved right to try and stretch the play, but when nothing materialized he appropriately through the ball away. Norv Turner is also giving Smith more opportunities to go to a second read particularly in the redzone, and Smith is benefiting from this as well. I continue to believe that Smith has to become more comfortable changing the play at the line of scrimmage to capitalize on certain defenses, or to prevent busted plays.

There is not a whole lot else left o say about the offense. 19 points against one of the best defenses in the league is not bad. The receivers did their job, the running backs theirs, I guess really the only other issue is the offensive line. The line played adequately but there is no doubt it needs a guy like Larry Allen to help win over the trenches. Smith’s backside is often left exposed and Kwame Harris may be the most penalized player in the league. I expect that Allen and Jennings will be back after the bye week, and I won’t be surprised if their return shakes up the offensive line a little.

The defenses performance was an absolute joke. The play calling was highlighted by an incorrect scheme with incorrect players that matched up reserve linebacker TJ Slaughter on the explosive Antonio Gates. Needless to say: “Touchdown”. Why no one called a time out on this play I really don’t know. The defense was struggling to determine if it should blitz and leave its corners exposed, or not blitz and suffer the wrath of letting receivers run around the defensive backfield for five seconds. Schematically this was a very poor game on defense.

The defensive backfield remains a big concern for this team. With Walt Harris out with a hamstring injury, Sammy Davis was forced into a starting role. Both he and Shawntae Spencer were inadequately matched up against the Chargers’ receivers. When Davis left the game with an injury, and Chad Williams and Marcus Hudson and BJ Tucker saw more game time – well, needless to say it was open season for the Chargers.

Safety Mark Roman started in place of Tony Parrish. Unfortunately, the defensive backfield as a whole is too incompetent to really tell if this was a positive or negative step.

The defense continues to be unable to get off the field, and that means that the time of possession battle is easily won by the opposition. Unlike in the past though, when this was largely attributed to the offense not sustaining drives, the real issue this week was the defense not getting off the field.

Ronald Fields started over Anthony Adams, and Fields played very well, even forcing a safety. I expect Fields to see more of the field in the coming weeks, but I still am not ready to believe that he is the answer to our defensive line woes. Guys like Isaac Sopoaga really need to step up. Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, and Melvin Oliver had very quiet games. Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich did their best to make up for the deficiencies.

The defensive line continues to over pursue as it tries to get to the quarterback. As I have mentioned the past few weeks, a straight line at the QB would make things a little easier. Also in this over pursuit they leave containment and holes open up in other parts of the defense. It’s not a matter of being to slow, but a matter of being on the wrong path to the QB. Get the players on the right path, and we may have a chance at applying defensive pressure.

As a whole the team was at least competitive, which is wasn’t against the Chiefs. I see that as a good thing. I am desperately looking forward to the return of Larry Allen, and Vernon Davis (who may not be ready after the bye week). But on defense the 49ers are still to far away. Troy Vincent’s name was passed around as a possible acquisition to help the secondary, but he has since signed elsewhere. Philip Buchanan was released and his name has bounced around the unsubstantiated rumor mill. Unfortunately at this point it will take more than bringing in just one player, the team needs a whole sale revamping of its defense.

 
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