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Article Title: A Scalping at FedEx Field
Article Date: October 27th 2005
By Sydney


The Washington Redskins under Joe Gibbs inside FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland encircled the San Francisco 49ers like it was General George Custer’s last stand. They performed a scalping on rookie first round pick quarterback Alex Smith and scored at will against a defense shot full of holes because of injuries with a total of 457 yards of offense.

When you look back about six years ago with Mike Nolan being the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins under owner Daniel Snyder, Snyder had in fact criticized Mike Nolan’s defense at that time as being “too vanilla.”

He even went as far as depositing melted cartons of ice cream outside Mike Nolan’s office because of his disdain for their performance. It was a steady diet of Clinton Portis who led the charge against the 49er defense by rolling up rushing yardage by himself in the sum of 101-yards, the most allowed this season by the 49ers.

In the entire game the San Francisco 49er defense allowed 204 total rushing yards and 260 passing yards between quarterbacks Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey. But when you consider that the 49er defense has played for so many extended amounts of time because of our anemic offensive performance, it is no wonder that a day like this would come sooner rather than later.

Alex Smith was 8-for-16 and just 92 yards with a passer rating of 41.7%. He was intercepted once, fumbled three times, one in which he lost and sacked five times. His performance mirrored that of his first appearance as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers against the Indianapolis Colts.

Already some 49er fans disgruntled with the lack of progress are pointing fingers at the ownership and management of this team. It is being compared to the old Dennis Erickson regime in which no improvements were seen as forthcoming from one week to the next.

However one has to remember that back then we didn’t have a rookie quarterback starting out for the first time either? But is that an excuse or a justified means to an end.

It was late in the second quarter when on this play Mark Brunell was poised on the 49er 32-yard line and lofted the ball to wide receiver Santana Moss who hauled it in away from 49er cornerback Shawntae Spencer who looked to safety Mike Adams for assistance in on the play but never received it.

In fact Spencer never even looked up to see where the ball was coming and Moss scored on a touchdown from 32 yards out with relative ease.

Mike Nolan admitted communication between Spencer and Adams as being one of the culprits to that play and the touchdown by Santana Moss. The Washington Redskins went up 28-7 on this play and never looked back from then either, in fact they were in a formation that called for Mike Adams to stay in the middle for coverage but that coverage quickly broke down with Adams not conferring with Spencer on the play.

Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell completed 13-of-23 passes for 252-yards and three touchdowns in three quarters. It was an amazing feat in which he remained unscathed for most of the game with the 49ers only getting to him once from linebacker Brandon Moore filling in for the injured Jeff Ulbrich and Saleem Rasheed.

Santana Moss the league’s second leading wide receiver had a field day against an injury riddled 49er secondary by assisting the Redskins score 50 points or more for the first time in six years, and the Redskins had seven plays of 20-yards or more as well.

The San Francisco 49er defense tended to over-pursue the Redskin offense on screens and misdirection plays that racked up big gains throughout the course of the game.

“Those little screens, those throwbacks we have to be more disciplined than that,” Nolan said. “We need to stay with our guy. That was disappointing. We have some new guys out there so be it. Everyone has new guys.”

What was different about this game for Alex Smith in comparison to his first game in which he faced pressure from the Indianapolis Colts front four, is that this Washington Redskin defense attacked him from all over the place. It brought a blitzing style of defense that made Smith’s head reel and reel often.

“We went from a defense that didn’t throw a lot at you to a defense this week that has a lot of movement, a lot of disguise, bringing a lot of different pressures,” Smith said. “I need to expect that. We need to learn to beat it.”

Alex Smith did show one impressive drive as he came in on our third possession of the game. The key play happened on a third and six when Alex Smith looked to Brandon Lloyd and lofted a 43-yard pass to him in single coverage at that time.

With just four plays later, running back Kevan Barlow broke out through an arm tackle and had nice blocking from fullback Chris Hetherington and tight end Billy Bajema to run 17 yards into the end zone and score.

Up until then the San Francisco 49ers had gone nine total quarters without an offensive touchdown. In fact you would rarely see the 49er offense out on the field period considering that the defense would be seen huffing and panting coming off a few minutes and right back on again to face yet another offensive onslaught.

The San Francisco 49ers have surrendered the most points in its history in 25 years in an embarrassing 52-17 defeat. It had some players enraged and frustrated as the team as a whole had a long plane ride back home to the Bay Area that evening.

“This is way down,” 49ers fullback Fred Beasley said. “It’s like we’re six feet deep. You can throw the dirt over us right now, but we aren’t going to let this happen because we still have games to play.”

Then you look at the offensive line on this team. Is Alex Smith really to blame for almost everything in light of the team’s offensive performance? Certainly I don’t think so. I believe it starts right up front with the line that is supposed to provide adequate protection for him to throw behind of.

Left tackle Anthony Clement couldn’t even block his own grandmother let alone a Washington Redskin defensive unit that ranks as one of the best in the NFL currently.

To allow the fumbles and the sacks of quarterback Alex Smith time and time again, it has to be sending the coaching staff a real message in that we can’t protect our most valuable investment out on that field.

With the loss of Jonas Jennings and Patrick Estes from left tackle we are forced to play an athlete that has no athleticism at all or sound technique to get the job done.

Anthony Clement is not the answer, and I propose that we start Adam Snyder in his place or reshuffle the line to provide better protection schemes for Alex Smith.

The injuries to center Jeremy Newberry may even be taking their toll as he was observed as giving signals to the Washington Redskin defense with the movements of his head in snapping the ball to Alex Smith.

On top of all that right tackle Kwame Harris is not playing up to his full potential as well after being a very high draft pick for us and looked upon as being the future at left tackle in place of the veteran Derrick Deese.

In fact he played right tackle in college and was a strength there before we took him out of his element and inserted him in on the left to learn. Putting him back on the right in hopes of strengthening the line and the running game has been ineffective up until this point as he hasn’t performed up to standards.

If there was ever a time to draft for need I would say continue to do so on the offensive line until we can find some playmakers that will stay put in the path of fire and help create offensive plays better then we what we saw on FedEx Field this past Sunday. It goes without saying that it is the offensive line that wins ball games by staying out on the field and providing rest for the defense.

That hasn’t happened for a long time now and is becoming a festering problem to the defensive side of the ball on a weekly basis. Having to be patient is one thing but to witness one depressing performance after another has got to do something to you psychologically after a while.

San Francisco 49er fans need something to hang their hat on from time to time. I still believe in Alex Smith and I think we did do the right thing in letting Tim Rattay go on with someone else. Many think the team has thrown in the towel on the season but I think it’s just the opposite of that.

I still think Mike Nolan has the teams best interests at heart and that Alex Smith needs to learn on the fly, but for heavens sake provide him some protection.

Even running back Kevan Barlow thought to have improved on his blocking abilities during a quarterback blitz is seen as a downgrade when you remember at how sharp Garrison Hearst was for so many years in his production.

If Kevan Barlow is ever going to be the elite running back we all envision him to be after letting Hearst go his separate way then he has to learn how to deter an onrushing defensive lineman from reaching the jersey numbers of his quarterback.

Frank Gore is making a statement for more playing time after his fourth quarter 72-yard romping down the sideline to score a touchdown in the last two minutes of the game for the 49ers. He has proven himself on more than just one occasion in my book as he seems to be a lot more durable and determined when being tackled with the ball in arm and hand.

Frank Gore finished with 89 yards on nine carries and after that rushing touchdown last Sunday he’s made a real case for more carries to come I hope. He has a distinct way of breaking tackles and making defensive backs miss him and t the same time when someone is starting to wrap-up on him he fights for every yard.

“I made my read and when I saw a crease, I hit it and I was gone,” Gore said. “It felt good getting my first touchdown in the NFL. I hope I showed my coaches that if I am in the game, they can believe in me and that I am going to keep fighting, no matter if we are up or down.”

Across the field Gore looked at his former Miami Hurricane teammate in running back Clinton Portis and they both met up right after the game to talk to one another. “He told me, ‘I can’t tell that you had two knee surgeries,’” Gore said. “And he told me the same thing he did when I was a freshman, and that is to keep fighting.”

Again my stance on this guy is get him more carries and more playing time bottom line. Let the running game be the competition it should be and encourage Kevan Barlow to step-up his performance so that we can see a positive offensive surge that will take the edge off us fans.

It is easy to say that at (1-5) we have no chance at anything this season or for seasons to come. It is true I will acknowledge finally that we won’t win the division and we won’t even be second-place in this division.

But I will say that we are a team rebuilding and remodeling all in one. We have a youth movement in our ranks that will take time to gel and come together. We need a few more veteran types and athletes that will execute to allow others to execute as well. Mike Nolan and his coaches will not give up they will fight and stay in this for the long haul.

I am confident in that despite the losses and lumps we are taking now. We will be a better team tomorrow. If all of us can stay faithful and believe in the future and still cheer during some of the bright spots inside this season our players will be eternally grateful.