Article Title: Playing God.
Mike Nolanís old time coaches and players came into Monster Park this past Sunday with just one collective thought. Beat him at what he does the best on defense and that is what they did against a San Francisco 49er team that offensively is like a lost ship in the open ocean without a rudder going nowhere. In fact the offense was so pathetic it only succeeded in establishing one first down in the entire first half of this game where the Baltimore Ravens defeated us by an ultra-conservative score of 9-7.
During Mike Nolanís press conference he was asked if he knew what the problems were on this team and if they were correctable as he explained earlier how could that be if those same problems were unidentifiable? It was in essence according to the press that is getting more heated with him on three consecutive losses a contradiction of terms. Mike Nolan passionately made the case that ďHe is not playing God,Ē and if he knew matters or situations before they would happen he would actually be immortal.
He made it very clear that the offensive problems with this football team go way deeper then previously anticipated. And it has the symptoms of being gravely ill to the point where all of us as 49er die-hards wonder if they can ever be corrected based upon the endless quagmire we see from one week to the next in which this offense is actually not an offense at all? We may as well keep the one ultra-functional unit on the field all day long in order to allow us an opportunity to win and that is our hard-working ever-pressing defense.
As a fan I am appalled as all of you are at the offensive deficiencies of this offense. Everything about it smells like road-kill that has been decaying beside the road for days on end? It is abysmal and downright destructive psychologically for all fans to come and witness this type of abuse that makes all of us believe that our 2007 promising season is absolutely over sooner rather than later starting right now.
It was as ineffective with Alex Smith and Vernon Davis healthy as it is without them now. Trent Dilfer hasnít been the entire problem but just a part of the overall problem. We have a lot of comparison blame games going on in many of our collective heads and we are grasping and pulling at straws as to how to identify it and correct it all in one. And if you listen carefully to what Mike Nolan is saying in his post-game news conference he is doing exactly the same deal back in Santa Clara headquarters and on his ride to and from work everyday.
Obviously we arenít the only ones going through what is completely wrong with this team at (2-3) so far on the 2007 NFL season and the first quarter of this season now officially over with. Nolan claims he has one of the best offensive coaching staffs in the NFL today hands down, yet we actually see the evidence of all of that game planning and actual calling of plays on display on the field right before our very eyes and scratch our heads when they fail one offensive drive right after the other.
We have to put our players into the best situation that they can win and utilize their strengths to the best of our ability to create production out on the field according to Mike Nolan. Yet are we seeing that on the field on any given Sunday so far? Whenever a team is struggling with a particular unit and the answers arenít immediately forthcoming patience is something like a ďa bad four letter word inside the NFL," so to speak.
What kind of analytical language is that in all of our minds when in actuality we want instant gratification by way of adjustment and corrections to happen now in an instant because that is what the expectation is now inside this league win now and forever now so help us God all of the time no matter what time it actually is. Sometimes the answers arenít so generous in being easily identified. And this is a situation that Mike Nolan readily agrees is an actual negative situation he wants to get to the bottom of.
Heíll use the bye week to his distinct advantage in finding the root of the problem and make the necessary adjustments in trying to win redemption back not only for his own sanity but for all of ours at the very same time. Can we point the finger at rookie offensive coordinator Jim Hostler or even someone else? Mike Nolan emphatically says no we canít because he doesnít believe you can practically just throw someone under the bus so to speak and single just one person out for all the deficiencies of this unit when it runs so much deeper than just that.
Collectively and decisively he is correct on this matter because I donít believe it is just all about Jim Hostler although I will say his creativity in play-calling is now very questionable based upon the inability of this unit to even generate a first down let alone convert on any third down. When you look at the offensive coaching staff some are calling for a shakeup in the staff where maybe wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan takes over the offensive coordinatorís role in which he was considered and even tight ends coach Pete Hoener was as well?
Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick came into San Francisco with his defense-first type of team and defeated us with his conservative-type approach he believed his protťgť in Mike Nolan would follow suit with. Why would we play that type of ball against a team that had taken it to win a Super Bowl with anyhow? By playing so ultra-conservative were we playing right into Baltimoreís hands at what they do best?
One first down in the entire first half was beyond pathetic by anyoneís own standards. It was quite obvious from the play-calling that trying to establish a running game against Baltimore was the beginning phase of our game plan with Frank Gore, one the Raven defense knew coming into this game that they needed to take that away in order to be successful to force us to try and throw the ball where our greatest weakness lies.
38 total yards on the ground were generated in the first half of this game and only two passing completions out of six total attempts tells you the true offensive game plan that went awry right from the very beginning. Being limited on offensive playmakers and not taking more chances down the field against one of the stoutest run defenses in this league makes me question the actual play-calling vehemently in this game.
On the contrary the Baltimore Ravens put up 72 total yards on the ground in the first half and 126 total passing yards to our eight passing yards all in the first half of this sleepwalker of a game. Frank Gore was a non-factor in this game as he had 16 carries for 52 total yards and only averaged 3.3 yards a carry. Trent Dilfer was 12-of-19 for 126 total yards and was sacked three times for a loss of 12 total yards. His longest completion was for 42 total yards and he had one interception with a quarterback rating of 78.
The offensive line did show improvement after the horrendous Pittsburgh game with Jonas Jennings at left tackle missing in action due to personal matters and Adam Snyder getting the call. Snyder performed well as to my expectation but allowed a sack to get by as did Eric Heitmann and right guard Justin Smiley on the crease in between them yet again that seems to be a favorite lane of opportunity for quarterback pressure by opposing teams.
This is a lane that needs to be shutdown and fast if we are to have any cement at all in pass protection. Let alone an opportunity for Frank Gore who is still a non-factor in any game production wise so far into this season. Frankís inability to capitalize is in essence due to the fact that no one fears our anemic passing attack enough to take a defender out of the box stacked to stop Frank Gore.
So we are compelled to witness one failed running play after another with only hints of optimism of a break here and there and or a lucky cut and juke and jive that freezes a defender on occasion along with his ability to break a tackle or two.
Other than that all of the free agents we thought were going to be a factor on the wide receiving unit actually have been non-factors as well in both Darrell Jackson and especially Ashley Lelie who hasnít broken the starting lineup because of his injury that he carried and nursed throughout training camp. Darrell Jackson the wily veteran has made some nice catches and yardage for completions on occasion but has had his share of dropped balls and awful route running as well.
Of all the receivers Arnaz Battle seems to be the one that is the most consistent although everyone on this unit seems to have their inconsistencies. At the tight end position where Vernon Davis and Billy Bajema have been out it seems that the coaching staff has utterly abandoned this promising position where Delanie Walker still poses as a legitimate threat at anytime in my opinion.
Yes he has had his share of dropped balls but so have many of the others and I believe he shouldíve been more incorporated into this game and many others. Jim Hostlerís ability to put playmakers where they are in situations to make plays seems to be a problem when you have both Ashley Lelie a record setter in yards gained after the catch and Delanie Walker a versatile H-back hybrid of a player that can do just about anything asked of him.
Special teams in this game were again exceptional especially punter Andy Lee who kicked one 74 total yards and averaged 51.6 yards a punt and three of them inside the 20-yard line. Joe Nedney missed a critical 52-yard field goal try in the fourth quarter that couldíve won the game for us potentially and raises doubts now about his ability to kick one beyond 50-yards anymore with clarity or distinction.
Defensively we excelled yet again in many areas with keeping the scoreboard close and making this game obtainable and winnable despite giving up 315 total yards of offense to the Baltimore Ravens and even time of possession with 38:00 for the Ravens and 22:00 collectively for the San Francisco 49ers.
We did improve on the penalty mark but I though that several officiating calls were again very damaging to us mentally and field position wise in the pass interference call against Shawntae Spencer and the running into the kicker call placed on linebacker Brandon Moore where there was no way for him to hold-up and it clearly shows him turning sideways to avoid contact with the kicker legitimately.
We continue to have help in beating ourselves from the officiating and that in itself is frustrating. We also have some real problems as Mike Nolan explained that need to be identified and corrected, he remains confident that we can. He wants players to take ownership on what they believe in and show it out on the field in a production n sense in that it creates yardage and allows us opportunities to win. He even lashed out at writers and commentators both professional and volunteer that say negative things about the San Francisco 49ers as a whole while they are down after a loss.
I believe that Mike Nolan is absolutely correct that he is not into playing the blame game. He takes ownership of the problems reflected on this team on a constant daily and weekly basis. I think he will find the answers and he will get to the bottom of it as he stated so eloquently. With that I remain confident that heíll make the right adjustments necessary to get us into position to win games again without actually playing God.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.