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Humiliating Loss, Can the 49ers Rebound - By Bryan Hersh OCt 5 2006

THIS CONTENT IS COPYWRITED, REDISTRIBUTION OF IT (including copy/pasting it to a message board, forum or bbs) IS PROHIBITED AND COULD RESULT IN LEGAL ACTIONS - feel free to quote up to 1 paragraph providing a source link to http://www.49ersparadise.com is included

It is very hard to be motivated to write an article after a loss like the 49ers suffered from the Chiefs. Unlike the Eagles loss there were no positive building points to work with, and even fewer reasons for optimism. Nevertheless, the delay in this article has more to do with work/life balance than anything, so my apologies. The good news is that my deliverables for the week are now behind me and I can get down to the important stuff… that being the 49ers.

So when the whole team plays as terribly as the 49ers did this past week, its hard to pick a spot to begin the critique. After some reflection I figured the coaching staff would be a good place to start. It’s been a while since I have said this, in fact, not since the Dennis Erickson have I felt this, but the only way I can rationalize this weeks performance is with the underlying belief that the 49ers were not ready for this game – on all accounts.

My natural conclusion thus is that the coaching staff had erred in some way – and in fact, they did so in many ways. I thought the game planning in this game was horrible. Smith was left in the pocket repeatedly, despite facing constant pressure and standing behind what looked to be an incompetent offensive line. The running backs were unable to handle their blitz assignments, and yet, they remained key pass protectors. There was no extra use of tight ends in the protection schemes. Frank Gore was absolutely deflated after fumbling again, and the coaches did nothing to resolve the issue – if anything they managed to further deflate him.

I am all for sitting an ineffective player, but the team did not use Frank Gore in a way that would build his confidence, or in situations that would lead to likely successes. This I felt was a killer mistake. Defensively the 49ers had no pass pressure, and to me that signals are larger problem… the coached has not schemed to create the pressure. The coaching staff was unable to rally the team when it needed to, and beyond that made poor decisions in the way they played the defensive backs off the receivers. Further still penalties were a big issue once again for this team, and in particular penalties that easily could have been negated by a proper disciplined team.
A few things I learned:
- ok, I didn’t learn this, I knew it from the get go. Spencer is not an adequate CB now – and he wasn’t when the team extended his contract. The 49ers can only succeed with Spencer if they have a pass rush. Give him 4 seconds and he has lost his receiver. Hopefully the 49ers see this, and their long term plans are to play him at nickel – but his contract says otherwise.
- there were players who made individually good plays. Ulbrich, Oliver, Smith, Bryant come to mind. As a team though, there was no holistic approach to the game.
- 49ers pass rushers are too prone to running past a semi-mobile quarterback. The term “containment” comes to mind. Perhaps someone should define it for the defensive line.
- Alex Smith continues to develop in a positive way. Despite his worst performance of the season that included his first two interceptions of the season, Smith in general made good decisions with the ball, and has taken command of the offense. He even directs players with his hands on broken plays and such. This is very much a step in the right direction for the young quarterback.
- Smith needs to learn to audible more often. Against a 9 man rush, YES a 9 man rush, Smith tried to force a pass to his receiver. Also, in short down situation Smith ran a play that sent only Antonio Bryant deep against a 3 or 4 defensive backfield. This trickery play only works against the right defense, and clearly Smith did not recognize that he should have audibled.
- Hit Smith and he shall fumble. So the 49ers have to learn how to make sure Smith does not get hit. With that in mind, can someone tell me why Wragge has outperformed Jennings? Gosh I hope that Jennings is able to return to good form when Allen comes back and the chemistry is there.

There was a clear disconnect in the way the 49ers played. Each individual was trying to function not as a team, but as an individual. Players need to learn to hold their assignments and keep containment on defense. They need to know that their backs are covered, and how to work together. On offense, the blocking is just horrendous, and that goes for the backs too. Someone better change the formation schemes and personnel to get a tight end in the backfield or to line up Estes in certain pass protecting schemes, otherwise the team can expect to lose Smith to injury again this year. Eventually the team got so deflated that they did not even touch a receiver who caught the ball and was on the ground. The receiver got up and kept running for a few more yards. It was clear, the team had lost all hope by this point.

As the team prepares for the Raiders they better hope they can rebound quickly. The team does have an advantage in that they can tap the brain of offensive coordinator Norv Turner (for head coach of the Raiders)… but really they should not have to. The Raiders are one of the worst teams in the league, and the 49ers believe that they are at least a middle of the pack team. This should lend itself to a victory for the team – at least if the 49ers can play the way they did in the first 3 games. However, if the 49ers have given up, rolled over, and said enough, and play like they did against the Chiefs – well my friends that would be a signal of a very, very long season to come.

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