Where Do We Go? Where Do We Go Now?

In the immortal words of Axl Rose, where do we go now? Or would you prefer Louis Burton Lindley, Jr. (aka Slim Pickens), who said, what in the wide wide world of sports is goin’ on here? The 49ers, fresh off their midseason break spent getting healthyed up and ready to make a serious push to the playoffs, instead lay one of the biggest turds on the newly christened Levis field since the Singletary days.

After crawling out to a 10-3 lead in the 2nd quarter, the 49ers went:

  • punt
  • fumble
  • missed FG
  • punt
  • punt
  • punt
  • punt
  • fumble

Not the best of days for Colin Kaepernick, with his holding the ball too long, not getting rid of the ball when pressured, not feeling pressure when it is coming for the back side, and getting strip-sacked again, and, of course the final fumble that he actually fumbled twice. Then again, what galls me even more is the lack of ANY adjustments made by the coaching staff. After giving up 6 sacks in the 1st half, did the Niners try to circumvent the pressure by designing quicker plays, and go away from the 5 and 7 step drops? Of course not. This has been a problem all year. Kappy rarely has time to throw a pass from a deep drop yet, under intense pressure from non-existent blocking across the entire O line, Kappy was sacked a total of 8 times. That’s a total of 14 in the last 2 games. By comparison, the ’71 Niners under John Brodie gave up a total of 16 all year. Yes, Kappy is holding the ball too long, and tries to use his athleticism, and it gets him into trouble.

But again, the team refuses to use plays that counteract blitzes. They threw TWO misdirection plays to Boldin that worked great. Naturally, they shied away from that play all day. One screen that gaind 5 yards, and one delay that gained 0. Like I said before the game, they refuse to exploit things that they find to work.  The Rams had NO business being in this game, but the ineffective offense failed miserably all game.

The banged-up unit on the team, the defense again played spectacularly. Chris Borland, subbing for the ailing toe of Patrick Willis, had 18 tackles in a big day. Although he did blow the coverage on the TD. Austin Davis played terrible, threw 2 picks, and had a losing effort of a day. If not for the absolute wasteland of an offense. Throw in ONE mistimed 23 yard punt from the 5 and there you have it. Game over.

There are so many problems with this offense that it defies explanation in one thread.

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Game Day! Finally!!

I guess Bay Area sports fans should thank the NFL schedulers in their putting the Niner bye week right in the middle of the Giants World Series run. Worked out very well.

With that said, lets’ get back to football. There are 9 weeks left and this team has some work to do. The #12 issue with the team is their health. Willis is a game-time decision, Bowman still has a week or two of recovery, Dorsey will be back soon, and Aldon Smith should be joining the ranks at some point, irregardless Mike Florio’s unsubstantiated statements of him coming off the susp list early. Losing Kilgore was a killer, and they can’t take another hit on the O line.

The other issues remain the same. For some inexplicable reason, the 49ers run multiple WR formations between the 20s. When they get into the red zone, it’s back to the jumbo formations, and stagnation. This team struggles wildly in the red zone. If they can fix this, it’ll go a long way to actually getting double-digit leads. Something Jim Harbaugh seems to be adverse to. Along with this is the fact that the Niners tend to go away from things that seem to be working. If they find something to exploit, force the other team to stop it, don’t merely move on to something else.

Defensively, I simply was perplexed at how they tried to attack Manning. Playing off his WRs  and rushing 4-5 out of their base defense was asinine. That absolyutely plays to his strengths. The Ram game the previous week saw stunts, blitzes from different LBs, and a lot of movement along the line to dsiguise blitzers. I was excited to see how that worked against Manning, as I noted that it was the way Singletary and Co did a good job of containing Manning and the Colts a few years back. As above, they went away from something successful and it failed.

The Rams? Their pass rush seems revitalized in weeks, but they are struggling offensively. This SHOULD be a tune-up game. Let’s hope we can get on top and coast for a change.

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Back to Football . . .

Well, almost. There’s this little diversion called the World Series, and the Giants are 27 outs away from making it theirs for the 3rd time in 5 years. A veritable dynasty in a game that is very hard to by dynastic in.

Anyhow, we are still awaiting word on Aldon Smith and the possibility of him getting a reduced sentence. Something I think should happen, as he took himself out for 5 games last year and has served 7 games this season. 12 is a nice round number, and Smith should get SOME credit for his self-imposed time off.

The good news is, it looks like a lot of banged-up players are getting a chance to heal up. From Cully to Cox to Willis to Cook to VD, Crabs, Iupati, and AD, the team is a walking Band-Aid. The bad news is the other teams in their division won their respective games. Both close wins.  Both could have very well been losses. But no one said this would be easy.

As we stand now, we are the 7th seed. On the outside looking in. But with the bye week and the earliness of the season, this means little. The Niners have a pretty soft schedule these next 4 weeks:

StL here
NO on the road
NY on the road
Washington at home

Lots of travel there. Maybe we should go to Youngstown again between the NO and NY games. We’re getting a little hosed by the schedule makers, although we didn’t play in London this year. But still and all, we should at worst go 3-1 in these games. 4-0 would put us in much better shape as the season unfolds. 7-3 going into the Seattle game here would look great if we take that one.

Don’t want to get too far ahead of myself though.  The team needs to settle down and play full games. Not these fits-and-starts games that we either lose late or let the opponents hang around too long. With our defense getting healthy, we should be able to make some headway in the playoff run.

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The Bye Week (Black and) Blues

No football this weekend. Normally this is a drag, as this seems to interrupt whatever momentum the team may be rolling on, but this year is a different story. The 49ers are beaten and battered. They have 5 defensive starters down, and just lost lineman Daniel Kilgore Trout to a broken leg. VD has been dinged up (and suffering from the dropsies), and the offense is in a bit of a quandary as they figure out how to use their new WR weapons.

But, as we saw last weekend, even though our D is still 2nd ranked in total defense, they were toasted by Peyton Manning and Co. to the tune of 419 yards. The good news is Patrick Willis is ready for the November 2nd game vs the Rams, and there’s the possibility that Aldon Smith could get a couple games shaved off his suspension for good behavior.

The injured DB corps (Cook, Cox, Culliver, Ward) should all be good to go. And the biggest missing piece, Navorro Bowman, is said to be in stage 3 of his rehab. He has been running for a few weeks, and is now starting to cut. Best case for Bowman is 4 more weeks. NT Glen Dorsey is also about 4 weeks away from his return.

Given all that, it’s pretty hard to gauge how good this team is. Defensively they are doing pretty well, until they aren’t. The coaching to me has been curious at best. In the Ram game, the Niners showed a bunch of stunts and blitzes and played up close on the Ram WRs. One would think to confuse Austin Davis.  Come the Denver game, we abandoned all that. Strange, because this was the exact way the Niners played Peyton tough back in 2009. I thought they’d go hard after Manning and press the coverage as they love to throw quick underneath passes. Instead, we played soft on the outside guys, and tried to simply rush our 4 guys with little stunting. It sort of worked until the killer pick by Kappy.

The other losses have been ugly affairs that the 49ers had pretty good leads, and they succumbed to dumb penalties and mistakes. I get that some of this is due to installing a new offense, and the defense is hurting, but the coaches haven’t done all they could to get things right as well.

Still and all, given the current state of the team, I’m pretty good with where they are at. The Niners had a pretty tough opening set of games, and have handed Dallas and Philly their only losses this season. Losing in AZ isn’t a crime although that game was ugly. The worst loss to me was the Bears game, as they had no business coming back and beating us. However, I think this team will healthy up and get themselves in synch in time for a strong run down the stretch and hit the playoffs. Even if it is as a wild card. As the SF Giants proved, once you reach the playoffs, it’s a brand new season. This team has proven it can win on the road, and that’s the path to travel from the WC spot.

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Colorado Catastrophe

So much for that. Mr. October once again played spectacularly, as the injured and gasping-for-breath 49ers staggered to the bye week with a crushing defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. The injury-depleted defense offered little resistance as Denver scored on their first 2 possessions, while the 49ers went 3-and-out (highlighted by yet another drop on what would have been a 20 yard gain by Vernon Davis), missed a FG, and Anquan Boldin, after making a spectacular catch on the 3 by a nifty improve by Colin Kaepernick, dropped an easy peazy TD pass. The Niners settled for a FG there, but all in all, after the Niners drove down and scored a TD seconds before the end of the half, the 21-10 score wasn’t too too onerous.

Especially when the Niners forced a 3-and out to open the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately, Kappy misread a slant (something he seems to do once a week as the short guy was wide open), and threw a pick. Next play? TD Denver. The rout was on. All that was left was watching the DBs get toasted and the O line getting hurt.

Kilgore went down with a broken leg and his replacement Darrin Farrell walked off gingerly with a tweaked knee. Chris cook left with a hammy injury, Culliver left with a hammy strain as well, and the DBs were awful in general. I though getting Brock back would help. It didn’t. Culliver is completely dogshit these days. Love to see Cully go, but I ain’t holding my breath either. Dontae Johnson should be sliding up the depth chart right about now.

All that being said, giving Manning time to throw all night is tantamount to playing in quicksand for the DBs. Hard to generate pressure with all the injuries on defense, but still and all, just a piss-poor day all around. The bye can’t come at a better time. Call it a bad day and move on.

AZ, for all their glory, have the Eagles, Rams, Cowboys, Lions, and Seahawks their next 4 games while we have  Rams, Saints, Giants and Redskins (and the bye). An easier task that we need to make hay on. The Niners need to win out and hope that AZ goes 3-2 in that stretch. That would put us at 8-3 and AZ at 8-3. The Seahawks? The Road Worriers? They have the Panthers and Chiefs on the road and the Raiders, Giants, and AZ at home. They go 3-2 and they are 6-4.

These next 4 games are huge for the 49ers. They stand to get healthy and much stronger in the next two weeks, but there’s a lot riding on all these games within our division.

There was also talk of shortening Aldon Smith’s suspension, but I haven’t heard any more. At this point, hopefully they’ll take 2 games off and he can resume playing due to good behavior. Do it. We desperately need reinforcements . . .

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Game Day – Rocky Mountain High?

Haven’t heard too much from the pundits regarding this game, but I can safely say that the Niners aren’t expected to win this game on a short week with 2 weeks of travel involved. Throw in a few more big injuries to Patrick Willis and Mike Iupati and that certainly doesn’t help. Still and all, the game is played on the field, not in the studios. No one expected the 49ers to go to New England in December a couple years back and win.

This game comes down to pressure. Pressure Manning and force some errant throws and all should be fine.  The offense is working out pretty well, and is developing big-strike capabilities. The Niners can take advantage of their secondary I’d think. Provided we can protect. Off that, Gore gets going.

Still and all, not feeling all that confident about this one.

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Get Out of Denver, Baby

Not a huge Bob Seger fan, but I do like that song. I was singing that when I filled up my van with all my shit and drove down highway 50 on my way back to Cali after living there from 1985 to 1988. Not that we (or I) have much of a history there, but the only real significant thing to happen in Denver was the death of Thomas Herrion after a preseason game in 2005. Of course there was that Super Bowl, but I digress. That was in Louisiana. . .

Other  than that, we are 3-2 in the rarefied smog of Denver. A city that resembles a giant dirty bathtub when seem coming down from the mountains during a nice temperature inversion, as the pic shows. Our last game there was in 2006, where we won an OT thriller, 26-23.  Cutler and Alex both threw pick 6′s, and Joe Nedney kicked 4 FGs. The more things change . . .

This game? Well, pressure is the name of the game. Get to Manning early and often. The 2009 loss to Indy serves as a pretty good blueprint. Manning didn’t get going all game. We disguised our coverages and blitzes, and held Manning to 0 TDs (and 347 yards!). Course we lost on a halfback option pass, but that’s beside the point. Point being that was in Manning’s prime. For all his numbers, he isn’t there now.

Play nickel (and some dime), dare Denver to run, and blitz from unconventional places. We stunted very well last week, and blitzed from different angles to flummox Austin Powers. Manning is certainly better than Davis, but neither is good under duress. Manning is off to another big season numbers-wise (1500 yards, 15 TDs, 3 picks), but he did lose to Seattle again amid 36 yards rushing and a lot of pressure and a pick.

So, keep that up. Quick pressure up the middle is paramount. Jam the receivers at the line, and disrupt the quick passes. As long as we don’t follow the trend of falling behind early (against these guys it could be 21-0 before they get it) we should be able to grind this out.

It’ll be tough but it could happen. If not, oh well. Losing in their house is not a sign of anything really bad. We have the Rams at home, and the Saints/Giants on the road. Not easy peazy, but we should be able to get all 3 of those. 7-3 is fine at that point.

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