Those are for Rob! Well, a highly herky-jerky offensive performance was rewarded with a road win for young coach Harbaugh. Harbaugh went to the air a lot more that the first two games (30 passes to 29 runs), and the results were all over the place. Smith ended up 20-30 for 201, but, as usual, he was sacked (5 times), hurried, and pressured all day. This is a recurring problem. He had at least 4 dropped passes. Crabs drop on a 3rd down was plain unnacceptable. The overturned TD looked like a bad call. Harbaugh should have challenged that. Crabs had a couple more drops. VD dropped a nice 20 yard out on the 9 yard line, plus he fumbled, but ended up with 114 yards on 8 catches. The drops are maddening. Smith was errant on a few passes, but Harbaugh must be really working with Smith on his tendency of throwing high balls, because most of his passes were low. Still and all, the Niners barely drove the ball past the 50, and the run game was again nowhere to be found. 68 yards is pretty bad. Gore had a costly fumble (lost) deep in Niner territory, Miller as well, although the Niners recovered that one. Miller looked good catching the ball out of the backfield, though. Without the fumble, he could have displaced Norriss. It still may happen. VD put the ball on the ground too. The highlight of the run game was Hunter’s 7 yard TD run in the 4th quarter to give the Niners the lead.
Defensively, the Niners started this game just like the Dallas game, where the opponent marched straight down the field to inside the 10, and forced a field goal (Dallas missed theirs). The base pass rush continues to be very solid. Only one sack, though it was a jarring hit by Ahmad Brooks. Aldon Smith was in early, but did not see a lot of action However, Ginger shredded the defense on that 1st drive. The run defense was again solid, but some of that is a by-product of the Niner defense giving up a lot through the air. The DBs, though, did well for the most part. Rogers undercut the out route for a nice pick, and R Smith made a very nice diving pick on the errant deep ball by Dalton late in the game.
All in all, a decent effort. The main thing is, it is a win on the road. Those are hard to come by in the NFL. Especially for a rookie coach. Just ask Tony Romo. Harbaugh is still trying to find an identity for his offense, and the struggles were apparent yesterday. False start penalties, unneccesary time outs, and missed blocking assignments were many and varied. Mainly because the Niners were trying to throw more than they had in the previous two games. Yes, this looks a lot like last year, and the year before that, but the reality is, this coaching staff has had little time to install this new offense. They started out with the run and are now moving on to the pass. Kind of an extended training camp. The hope is that they get more cohesive and right the little mistakes before they become a bigger problem down the line. Strangely, Gore was pretty passive blocking yesterday. He’s usually solid at picking up blitzes, but yesterday not so much. Gore had a bad day yesterday, and he may be in danger of getting spelled more often by Hunter.
Philly is next, on the road, and they were embarrassed by the New York football Giants yesterday. E Manning torched the vaunted Philly secondary for 4 TDs in the air, and Bradshaw gained 86 yards on the ground. Philly is a bit demoralized, but a win in Philly would be very hard to come by. The Niners would need to bring the pressure even more, and slow down Philly’s WCO. They throw underneath a ton, and with Vick likely out, this would be even more likely with Franz Kafka in there. A metamorphosis into a punishing defense that can stop short passes is needed.