Article Title: Collectively Depressing.
Last Sunday at Monster Park the San Francisco 49ers entered a new chapter in the horror novel known as the San Francisco 49ers 2007 season. It couldn’t have been any more important to defeat division rival Seattle and send a message that we are for real this year and that the analysis of our offense really isn’t all that bad. However we were not only defeated but utterly shredded from one corner to the next in a series of offensive plays that culminated with the new expectation that our season has been decided for good once and for all.
With less then a minute into the first quarter 49er quarterback Alex Smith was run over and planted so far into the ground that his shoulder was still there when he got up. Seattle Seahawk defensive tackle Rocky Bernard came straight up the middle uncontested to steamroll over a young and promising quarterback that all of the Bay Area and beyond were hoping would take us to the postseason on a wing and a prayer. It was as if the ground beneath Monster Park had registered a major earthquake and the epicenter was directly attached to Alex’s body as it hit the grass with a resounding thud.
His prognosis is not at all good. And the likelihood of him being out for a very long time is nothing but the absolute truth. Alex Smith despite the statistics that prove our offense has been ineffective and is in a state of emergency was the only real hope that we had of getting back into the rhythm we needed to articulate and move this offense forward in a positive manner.
This was the first of many mistakes by an offensive line thought to be at the pinnacle of strength like never before as we observed each member on this line from the seats in and around Monster Park to the television airwaves and close-ups that demonstrated to us the utter complete opposite of the expectation that was supposed to be. Mike Nolan has made it a priority through drafts and even free agency to make the offensive line a centerpiece of versatility in and around Alex Smith.
Yet on this past Sunday it failed him in all phases and it failed the entire team and its fans as it mismanaged and was a complete mismatch against a superior Seattle Seahawk defensive line that utterly tossed them around like a roaring tornado does bearing down on a farmhouse. Never in all the time I’ve been a 49er die-hard have I seen a more porous line then this one on the field this day as I watched in complete horror from one play to the next.
Overmatched and unfocused are but a few words that I have to describe the ineffectiveness of our offensive line layered with seasoned veteran players that should never have to explain to us what happened? This is a line that was built to withstand the many onslaughts Mike Nolan knew would be thrown against his young quarterback. This was a line that helped achieve a career-high season for running back Frank Gore just this last season without batting an eye.
Yet this season so far Frank Gore has been a non-factor offensively because the blocking has not materialized since week one of the season and the first quarter is now officially at a close. Eric Heitmann and Larry Allen both ultra-intensive players allowed the devastating Rocky Bernard through the line to plant Alex Smith into the ground. It wouldn’t be the last time either as back-up veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer would see a lot more of the same from beginning till end.
The Seattle Seahawks defensively controlled the game from our opening drive all the way till the end of the game. They registered six sacks total and ambushed the offensive line into committing to four false starts and three holding penalties. Right guard Justin Smiley played against himself all day as he picked up three of the penalty flags and looked incoherent as he missed several blocking assignments vividly on the field for all to see.
It verifies my feelings that David Baas, a second round draft pick in 2005, should be looked at to shoulder the starting position now should Smiley not make a dramatic and distinct comeback from this catastrophe. Still despite Justin Smiley it wasn’t the sole reason we were defeated in this game it was a “collective effort by all the players especially on offense that assisted us in being defeated.”
Mike Nolan made reference to this at his post-game news conference in that he felt we aren’t collectively executing as a team all around and that is the very reason why we are at (2-2) and lagging behind the Seattle Seahawks in our own division. Still the San Francisco 49er offensive line is in an abysmal mess and is the starting point for this offense.
Losing Alex Smith long term is devastating to this team. Trent Dilfer is not the answer to anything obviously based upon his past as a quarterback and his under-achieving low passing completion record and even his Super Bowl ring ultimately handed to him by a Baltimore Raven defense that proved to be one of the best in NFL history. Trent Dilfer didn’t make mistakes but he didn’t have a lot to work with either when he was a Baltimore Raven. The rust that shined through after he took the helm of the offense in this game was so intense it was as if it had eaten right through the metal and broke us in half.
Trent Dilfer went 12-of-33 for 128 yards being sacked five times for a loss of 43 total yards and ended with a quarterback rating of 23.3 after throwing two costly interceptions. The offensive line never adjusted to Trent being the typical pocket passer that he is known for and former 49er linebacker extraordinaire Julian Peterson now the enemy on the other side reminded us of how unfortunate we were in a salary cap quagmire to register three of the six sacks himself on 49er quarterback Trent Dilfer.
Julian Peterson a former 49er first round draft pick had his best game as a signed Seattle Seahawk and formerly six years as a San Francisco 49er. He signed a seven-year, $54 million dollar contract back in 2006 with Seattle and earned his paycheck with them in this particular game against his former teammates. He in fact besides the three unrelenting sacks added a quarterback hurry and two forced fumbles. He was his incredible self in more ways than one during this game, drawing reference to himself with his arms pointing towards his new number in front of the fans that once adored him and now despise him.
From a Pittsburgh Steeler game we were collectively still in all the way to the fourth quarter to a Seattle Seahawk game where we were never in it from the opening drive on has all of us “collectively depressed about the remainder of this well anticipated season.” I cannot describe the utter bleak emotions that I am experiencing now other than that I believe Mike Nolan will still try and resurrect and identify what needs to be done to right this ship and at least make it competitive for the remainder of the season.
I want to make it known that I never ridicule the offensive line. I in fact have staunchly defended it over the past few years in my writings. But what I saw this day and have been observing with what helps determine offensive rhythm from Week One of the 2007 season has been an offensive line that has played as individuals rather than as a unit focused on providing two key elements to any game. Provide the quarterback enough protection to make his reads and throws and block in unison so as to provide lanes of entry for running back super star Frank Gore to get through.
The San Francisco 49er offense was held to 3.1 yards per play. On top of that their first 10 full drives resulted in eight punts, a fumble and an interception. We accomplished only nine first downs compared to the Seahawks 17 and converted only two-of-14 third down attempts all on top of that. Once again out of three of our four games played we averaged under 200 net yards of offense with 184 total yards in this particular game most of which were accomplished running the ball with 109 total yards.
Penalties robbed us blind and murdered countless offensive drives that at once looked promising and were utterly decimated as we accumulated nine total penalties for a loss of 65 total yards. If not for a Joe Nedney field goal we would’ve been completely shutout of this game.
The San Francisco 49er passing game was a literal joke. 75 total passing yards were registered with wide receivers again out of sync to what was going on with bad route running and dropped passes. Opportunities again were there for the taking and we failed those time and time again leading to Taylor Jacobs to be waived deservingly and Bryan Gilmore brought back into the fold following pre-season cutbacks. The Seattle Seahawks took command offensively and exhausted a 49er defense that played with a sense of purpose all day being defeated by an inadequate offense incapable of making a first or third down.
Execution was a topic of discussion and is the mainstay of the 49ers problems. Players need to be focused and make plays. Coaching needs to be held accountable from offensive coordinator Jim Hostler all the way to George Warhop the offensive line coach who by the way hasn’t been a disappointment up until now. If only the ghost of Bob McKittrick could comeback to sprinkle a dust of hope on this line. It needs a new identity or players should be benched in favor of those that can make a difference.
Defensively the 49ers held their own and played exceptionally. Rookie Patrick Willis registered 10 total tackles and defensive end Marques Douglass was a house with eight tackles and a sack. Free safety Mark Roman played exceptionally with eight tackles along with Derek Smith at six tackles. Nate Clements again the $80 million dollar man snatched an interception and assisted the drive that culminated with our only points of the entire game.
Mike Nolan reiterated his support for offensive coordinator Jim Hostler. I see an offense almost beyond life support right now like many of the 49er fans that collectively shook their heads back and forth at Monster Park. It has to start with the offensive line and the line must now adjust to the way Trent Dilfer plays while in the pocket. It must account for everything it does as a unit and stop playing as individuals.
As much criticism as there has been about the right side of the line, Rookie Joe Staley had the best game out of any of the linemen hands down. The left side of the line with seasoned veteran anchors like Jonas Jennings and Larry Allen played miserably and should be ashamed of their performance.
Even center Eric Heitmann seemed to be out of touch with reality as the fury of the Seattle Seahawk defense was unleashed upon him and dominated in the trenches winning almost every battle that was played within an hour’s time frame. No the game wasn’t all about the offensive line but it did start and end there with them. Everyone is accountable as stated by Mike Nolan and adjustments may be necessary to move forward and contemplated.
Can Trent Dilfer carry us into victory? Can he be the competitor that he once was as a Seattle Seahawk himself and as a Baltimore Raven who played conservatively so as to not make a mistake? Obviously our defense is the strength of our team and maybe just maybe Trent Dilfer will bring us back into that time warp and resemble himself from the days of old in his prime? Despite my anguish and disdain for what happened here this past Sunday I will rally around Trent Dilfer and believe in Mike Nolan to try and do what has to be done to resurrect this team. It is what I encourage all of you to do as well.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.