October 9 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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This was probably the best Iíve seen the 49ers coaching staff in a while. The Rams were clearly an inferior opponent, but the 49ers coaching staff still did a measurably better job in this game. Most importantly, the coaches had the team play at a high level, rather than down to the opponentís level, a problem that was so evident last season. The difference was huge, where as in the past this game may have been close, the offense, defense and special teams worked together to post a blow out victory.
The coaching staff had a game plan and stuck to it. They maintained discipline and focus in their players, who were only penalized four times for 27 yards. Unfortunately one of those penalties cost cornerback Mike Rumph an interception.
The coaches had two weeks to prepare their team for this game, and they did so effectively. Marshall Faulk was about as neutralized as he gets, and on offense, the team posted 386 total yards. Steve Mariucci won another instant reply challenge too.
This was the first game of the season where the entire team showed up and played at a high level. That the team did not commit any turnovers was also quite encouraging. Still there is room for improvement for this 49ers team. The team still struggled on third downs, converting only 4 out of 9 in that situation. They also were unable to stop the Rams are three fourth down attempts. The team is still gaining just 7 yards per offensive play, which is quite low considering the teams running backs are averaging over 5 yards a carry. Inside the red zone the 49ers still need to improve. They scored a touchdown just 3 out of 6 trips inside the twenty, and in goal to go situations were only 1 of 2. Surprisingly, though the 49ers dominated the game, they lost the time of possession battle by about one minute.
The coaching staff did a lot of good things, but there are still some very key areas to improve on as this team prepares for some tough games ahead. The 49ers will not go very far riding the coat tails of a 50% redzone efficiency, and a worse percentage on third downs. These are two areas that I believe are particularly vital as the coaches prepare the 49ers for the rest of the season.