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Article Title: Fault lines on the field.
Article Date: November 2nd, 2006
By Sydney


The sky is falling on the 2006 San Francisco 49ers like never before. At Soldier Field against probably one of the best teams in the NFL, the Chicago Bears defeated the 49ers that looked like a team that has surrendered its catastrophic season so far and is packing its bags to wait till next season.

24 points in just the first quarter and then 41 to zero at halftime is enough to make even the most faithful of fans commit adultery and align themselves with the enemy. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did this past Sunday for the 49ers in one form or another.

Everyone including the fans are scratching their collective heads as to what was witnessed this past weekend. We played like a junior varsity high school football team in securing the ball hands down. Five turnovers in one game with four of them being converted by the Chicago Bears into touchdowns and all of them in the first half of this game made me ultimately sick.

Nothing about this game tells me that we are no further ahead then we were last season. The consensus is that the Dennis Erickson and Terry Donahue era are back again right before our eyes. What justifies us to think anything else after one devastating blowout loss after another and another?

The 6-0 Bears who are now 7-0 due to us are banking on going to the playoffs and showed absolutely no mercy to a team that is still trying to identify who they are out on the field on any given Sunday. The Chicago Bears were relentless on both sides of the ball in exploiting every ample opportunity that we presented them with by way of coughing the ball up five times.

We should’ve walked right out on to Soldier Field and verbally forfeited this game right from the beginning to acknowledge that we aren’t mature or responsible enough to play in this league. Harsh words I know because according to Mike Nolan he had the perfect plan in coming to Soldier Field flying out early even to tweak those high expectations.

According to the coaches and the players the week of practice prior to playing the Chicago Bears was one of the best yet on record so far into the season. A lot was said and preached about ball security but what all the players retained mentally lends me to believe they all need psychiatric medical attention.

We are staring once again from the utter cellar of the National Football Conference’s Western Division with very little hope of being any better than we already are now at (2-5) on the 2006 season. Playing the league’s most opportunistic defense in the Chicago Bears should’ve been a cliff note to us that ball security had to be executed to the letter, yet what happened was just the opposite.

“You can’t turn the ball over five times like that and expect to win games in Chicago against a 6-0 Bears team,” Nolan said. “Who’s kidding who? Not going to happen.”

Nolan has referred to improvement on this team by “staying the course.” Yet this typical Bush Administration phrase is starting to get old with the votes of the 49er faithful. Someone has to be held responsible for the horrendous execution flaws of this entire team.

Most of that falls on Mike Nolan’s shoulders squarely. But to his defense I say the players are equally responsible, as he has mentioned that we are in a 50-50 agreement that it is both the coaching and player’s inability to execute the fundamental plan to win.

“I thought we had a good week of practice,” linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. “I thought the plan was good. It was simple. It was player-friendly so we could play fast.”

Mike Nolan foolishly mentioned that he believed that they had a good plan to win this game. He also went on to highlight that it was his belief that our offense matched up very well against the feared Chicago Bear defense.

But right from the moment they were allowed out on to Soldier Field they were staring at a 10-0 deficit, and then continued to shake rattle and roll like a major earthquake had just pulverized Soldier Field into an array of fault lines that our offense fell forward with the ball squirting up over under and forward like a lost diamond on a wedding day.

Of the five fumbles we lost via our offense all the offensive players that did them were veteran playmakers on a team expected to lift the team up during periods of discontent. Alex Smith led the way with one fumble and one interception that really weren’t because the ball was tipped as he threw it.

Antonio Bryant, Frank Gore and Maurice Hicks all had one fumble that further buried this team into a hole it was never to come out of again during this entire game. It was devastating and frustrating in every way imaginable to see this young team struggle because of its inability to hold on to the ball and to play with a desire to win.

Chicago Bear quarterback Rex Grossman converted 23-of-29 pass attempts for 252 total yards and three touchdowns. He was totally untouched, non-pressured and comfortable behind his fearless offensive line that easily manhandled our anemic mosquito defensive pass rush.

He recorded a passer rating of 137.4 and even came out of the game in the fourth quarter allowing back-up veteran Brian Griese to take over. Alex Smith’s tipped pass at our own 40-yard line on a drive in the first quarter fell into Chicago Bear linebacker Brian Urlacher’s hands even while he was being punished by 49er right guard Justin Smiley.

This interception led to the Chicago Bears marching down the field and hitting wide receiver Mushin Muhammad in the end zone at the five-yard line to make it 17-0 Bears.

In first downs the Chicago Bears doubled us with 24-12 and converted 50% of their third down opportunities. No where was our defense a factor in stopping the bleeding at anytime further highlighting the fact that we have one of the worst defenses in the NFL hands down allowing 145 yards in rushing and 257 in passing for a total of 402 net yards in net offense for the Chicago Bears.

The balance of power was noticed in time of possession as well as our offense never seemed to want to stay out on the field with the Bears securing a time of 37:05 to our 22:55. No matter what we did on defense it didn’t matter because the Bears always had a better counter measure in sure ability, motivation and talent.

The only bright spot of this game rested on Frank Gore’s shoulders with a net gain of 111 yards in rushing on his part averaging 9.3 yards a carry. All of this against one of the best defenses in the NFL, at a time where no one ever is able to run on, at least thus far into the season.

Alex Smith saw relentless pressure on him suffering two sacks that resulted in 14 yards lost and led to two turnovers just on his own behalf. Right offensive tackle Kwame Harris continues to give us every reason in the world to bench him now. Yet Mike Nolan continues to shelter him from harms way for some ungodly weird reason.

I cannot understand why? Especially when you have a versatile and proven talent in Adam Snyder waiting in the wings that would be an instant upgrade to protecting the quarterback and ultimately the ball, of which we need to mention again and again.

“I could stand up here and be a glutton for punishment and say, ‘Oh, the fault’s on me,’ and turn everybody loose, but they won’t get better that way,” he said. “They could do the same thing. The truth of the matter is that it’s 50-50, and everyone needs to take a part in getting it rectified.”

On another catastrophic turnover towards the end of the first quarter with Alex Smith driving the team on the first play from our 20-yard line he advanced three yards and took a lick from Chicago Bear linebacker Lance Briggs that helped loosen the ball from Alex’s grip and was recovered at the 49er 13-yard line. From there that turnover was set-up for running back Cedric Benson to run it in for a touchdown easily to make it 24-0 Bears.

“We certainly showed a lack of maturity in the first half as far as responding to adversity,” 49ers Coach Mike Nolan said. “I don’t know all the reasons for the mistakes, but as far as I’m concerned most of them are excuses. Excuses make it OK to lose and it’s certainly not OK to lose.”

What in the world is going to change with the mentality of our players? What in the world is going to compel them to execute and play better with basic fundamentals not being a factor? What is the accountability for not being motivated on this team and responding to adversity in any given situation?

These are basic fundamental questions all of us as fans have. The structure in and around this organization is evident like Mike Nolan referred to in his press conference. Some good has definitely happened here since he became head of this franchise. But what he has out on the field is definitely questioned based upon ability, talent and ultimate experience to play well.

There is no question that Julian Peterson and Andre Carter would’ve helped this defense if we had been able to resign them to crazy expensive contracts. And the marked cancer that has plagued our secondary is something we all cry ourselves to sleep each and every week that goes by.

But we need to get fiscally healthy again to. And that couldn’t happen by mortgaging our future time and time again as Mike Nolan has indicated it would have. I am standing with him on that promise to get the team to where we need it to be. Right now we don’t fast forward the season to the next NFL draft we work harder to get what is wrong on the field right.

Players are united with Mike Nolan that he has the right plan in place and are keen on staying the course with him. Mike indicated that no coaches are under the barrel of a loaded gun to their heads. He believes that all of the mistakes registered thus far are correctible and that even the coaches need time to be able to rectify the situation.

It just makes me ache to see the basic fundamentals not being executed though from simple tackling to proper blocking techniques such as Kwame Harris at right tackle and Shawntae Spencer at cornerback have registered yet again in this game.

The mindset of our players is not right. The motivational factor is non-existent within them when you have a crippling blowout loss like this three times recorded already this season. We have real issues to deal with when you watch this team play on every given Sunday. I still think Mike Nolan is the best man for the job though despite what some are saying.

This is like a rewind back to the 1999 crash and burn season we had and are experiencing right now yet with light at the end of the tunnel. The light is all around the tunnel right now it just needs the door to swing open and allow it to shine on in.

Fans from other teams can smirk and smile all they want to about where we are at right now. It is a time of chemistry, renewed enthusiasm, hope, and tribulation for this franchise.

We have enough time to rectify it and we will come out of it a better team. It is our allegiance and our belief that we will see change and be stronger than ever from this adversity.