Article Title: A hint of conservatism.
In Arlington, Texas against America’s beloved team the Dallas Cowboys the 2009 San Francisco 49ers edged out a victory of 20-13 because of the second-half heroics of the second team athletes that executed well orchestrated drives under former Ball State quarterback Nate Davis and the eyes and legs of Purdue’s premier running back in Kory Sheets. Shaun Hill’s strained back showed up psychologically in this game despite a practice session that showed signs of promise prior to the start of this contest.
Although anointed the starting quarterback of the team just recently, Shaun Hill struggled within the new confines of the Dallas Cowboys to the tune of completing just 9-of-17 passes for 79 yards and a 65.6% quarterback rating. Throwing the ball high on several occasions and short to a wide-open Isaac Bruce as well? It was not the crispness we as 49er fans are accustomed to watching with Shaun Hill in command, in fact it felt similar to what one feels when Alex Smith is woefully showing tendencies of inadequacy while pretending to be reincarnated.
Not to knock Shaun Hill down so much he can’t recover, but it was a disappointing drive, one followed by another with Shaun Hill steering the ship on five straight offensive drives that netted but just three-points. The lower-back strain he suffered in practices was a factor in my mind in altering his concentration and versatility to avoid the pass rushes that the Cowboys sent in on him with reckless abandon.
Even Mike Singletary rose to his quarterback’s demise by stating that there was plenty of room for improvement as the injury still was wearing off but having lingering effects on Shaun’s ability to be razor sharp. Fifth-round draft pick quarterback Nate Davis proved to be a worthy adversary for the Dallas Cowboys by orchestrating offensive drives that helped him net 10-of-15 completions for 132 total yards and a rating of 94.3%.
Please remember though that the 49ers were playing without right tackle Adam Snyder and left guard David Baas both fallen to injury and heavily depended upon to anchor the line against the onslaught of Cowboys that seemed to easily apply pressure within the nametag area of Shaun Hill’s jersey. It was a woeful reminder that the 49ers must establish depth at this critical juncture having passed-up a legitimate shot at securing a prominent offensive tackle via the draft.
Now the draft pick that should’ve been the coveted lineman is now a greedy wide receiver that is holding out at the behest of his manipulative agent to ascertain a bigger payday. Michael Crabtree has made a mockery of himself and has created a media-like hailstorm for the 49ers to attend to almost to the end of every hour on the hour. His anticipated signing before the regular season begins is now looking dismal based upon the rumors that are coming out of his own private camp indicating he is in on cashing in on a paycheck, not so much because of team camaraderie.
With nine-year veteran All-Pro right tackle Marvel Smith announcing his surprise retirement because of chronic back pain and his subservient role he was to play behind veteran Adam Snyder, the 49ers are now forced to be satisfied with the likes of Barry Sims, Jacob Bender and Alex Boone all of whom are woefully inadequate to fulfill anything long-term.
When the 49ers signed the veteran free-agent they did so with knowing that there was a real risk he wouldn’t pan out to be what they had hoped for. He had played in only 17 games the past two seasons as a Pittsburgh Steeler, finishing out both seasons by being on the injured reserve with real back problems. Had we not learned anything from the Jonas Jennings fiasco?
In this game against Dallas, the 49ers had some shining stars come forth in Parys Haralson generating some pass rush heat, Kory Sheets carrying the ball 11 times for 42 total yards and two touchdowns, Mark Roman’s return to fame with an interception of an under thrown pass and returned it for 57 total yards and Arnaz Battle made a legitimate claim to becoming that third-tier wide receiver where there is a real war zone raging.
In all the 49ers generated 319 yards of total offense with 236 of those yards being accumulated through the air, most of it within the second-half where fourth-string quarterback Nate Davis made a resounding statement to consider him as the third-string quarterback just behind Alex Smith instead of Damon Huard who looked like he was under duress.
The famous “Taser,” formation applied by offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye showed some promise within the game, but was overextended and mishandled to the tune of being sniffed out and ultimately snuffed out by the Dallas Cowboy defensive unit. Going for field goals instead of touchdowns especially within a pre-season atmosphere of sorts had some 49er fans fearing the Mike Nolan era had once again reared its ugly head.
With roster cuts already being implemented with many more to follow, Mike Singletary must look at putting more athletes in peculiar settings out on the field especially in pressure-like situations to analyze and see what they are made of. I’m not at all concerned that he hasn’t done that already, but would like to see a bit more risqué to reveal itself. The hint of conservatism looms heavy over the team following this victory, but not so dense that the sun won’t easily disperse it.
Beating the Dallas Cowboys inside their own multi-million dollar mansion rather it be pre-season or a live practice regimen is enough for me to celebrate that we can actually hang with the big boys out there now, in that we have a new step in our stride and a new gleam in our eye that personifies self-confidence and self-worth. Mike Singletary and the coaching staff have instilled that into each and every player that is proud to be affiliated with being a 49er.
Second-year safety Reggie Smith just has what it takes to find the football by recovering a fumble that helped set-up the San Francisco offensive drive that would overtake the Dallas scoring frenzy. Frank Gore although used in a limited fashion showed that the off-season work regimen he did back in Florida is about to really payoff. And last but not least why can’t we believe that the ball fits nicely in tight end Delanie Walker’s hands, as when it is there he just makes things happen.
Looking forward to our last pre-season game against San Diego I am not at all concerned that Shaun Hill is in an actual rut. However I am very concerned as to the depth and status of the offensive line and its ability to maintain any kind of sustained continuity that has to be the foundation of our future success. Choosing Michael Crabtree over this glaring area of need may comeback and bite us where it counts all over again.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.