Article Title: Mission Impossible.
Miami Dolphin linebacker Joey Porter likes to talk smack. That is what he is best known for as one of the cockiest players within the league. His subject was the same chiseled physique that resembles his own in 49er premier tight end Vernon Davis. His words were as sharp as knives once we were down within the red zone as each time we were subjected to a mission impossible.
This was a game where we had all the momentum after defeating both the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets back to back. Although a long road journey it had its benefits with warm temperatures embracing the team and a sense of accomplishment in already traveling east with a victory obtained.
This had to be the most aggravating and frustrating game of the season as we lost to big plays, special teams and an underrated defense that may be one of the best in the NFL at this time. We controlled almost every aspect of this game with 24 first downs to 11 for the Miami Dolphins and 38:13 in time of possession to 21:47 for the Miami Dolphins.
We even put up 318 net yards of offense and converted 8-of-17 third downs with 112 net yards rushing without our premier playmaker in Frank Gore? Yet we were unable to score a single touchdown and were relegated to accepting baseball type scoring off reliable Joe Nedney’s foot. The San Francisco 49er offense moved up and down the field under the careful guidance of Shaun Hill who made absolutely no mistakes.
In fact I was impressed with his presence in the pocket and his canny ability to make critical plays while eluding defenders on the run. Hill completed 30-of-46 passes for 233 total yards but zero touchdowns. It wasn’t from a lack of trying though as many of his passes were dropped and receivers ran misguided routes.
It seemed as if the red zone was our very own Bermuda Triangle as strange happenings began to manifest once we were within scoring range. The Miami Dolphin defense stiffened each drive and was able to intimidate and terminate third down conversions once we moved past the 20-yard line. Hill was also sacked five times for a total loss of 27 yards.
The San Francisco 49er offensive line withered once in the red zone. Consistency was definitely a telling factor for our demise as Hill and running back DeShaun Foster were exposed on more than just one occasion. Right tackle Adam Snyder was lost due to injury and Barry Sims replaced him as if no one was even there.
Sims was beat consistently and had trouble focusing and containing Miami linebacker Joey Porter as he soundly beat Sims on the last ditch play of the game and sacked Shaun Hill with a thud and helmet throwing celebration. As much as I’ve indicated that Adam Snyder seems to be the weak link of the line, Barry Sims surely looks like the Kwame Harris of old when it comes to pass protection. It is beyond pathetic and he shouldn’t be allowed to start the rest of the season.
Tony Wragge is still available and is a multi-purpose lineman. He should get serious consideration to comeback and establish himself on the right side of the line, even if it means having the rookie Chilo Rachal moving over from guard to tackle or vice versa. Tight end Vernon Davis should have been in guarding the right side as he had indicated in maximum protect mode on this last ditch effort on fourth and ten.
He wasn’t and we lost the game. The game was lost though by other measures as we started this game without the services of Frank Gore. DeShaun Foster played a good game; he had 18 carries for 76 total yards and a 4.2 yard average per carry. He also had five receptions for 25 total yards and did not fumble the ball at all.
Despite that I think Frank Gore still could’ve broken the 100-yard marker and would’ve had a better chance at breaking open once within the red zone. His amazing sense of play to know where the markers are, churning his legs for that extra effort is always there. His ability to make defenders miss and tacklers to slide off once contact is made is a testament to his incredible stamina in that the more carries he gets the more he wears defenses down.
Punt returner Allen Rossum couldn’t be anymore missed as he was this past Sunday. Dominique Zeigler accumulated two returns for zero total yards and called for three fair catches. One of those fair catches was at the 49er four-yard line pinning them deep within their own territory, it was beyond any doubt that he left us with very poor field position time and time again.
The big plays that caught free safety Mark Roman out of position and by surprise were enough to warrant a full investigation into possibly starting Tarell Brown and or Dashon Goldson. Mark was burned time and time again not only through the air but by the run as well in not containing the perimeter with big Ronnie Brown’s ability to use the sideline to his benefit.
Mark Roman has had zero interceptions in two straight years. He has looked suspect in pass protection and is a pushover in stopping the run. Mike Nolan staunchly defended Roman throughout his tenure as the head coach, now its time for Mike Singletary to recognize who is accountable for these big plays and what it should mean to his starting position.
I was also disappointed that our well-rested defensive line was unable to penetrate and cause the pocket to collapse around Miami Dolphin quarterback Chad Pennington who was able to deliver precision strikes for two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 124. Thus the big plays came by way of both their tight ends that resulted in two touchdowns.
Throughout the game and after watching the film all over again I came away disappointed as Mike Singletary was at our inability to finish a long offensive drive with a touchdown. The effort was definitely there but the line’s inability to hold its ground around Shaun Hill and the inopportune penalties that killed drives was enough to drive you nuts!
Factor in the dropped passes with the most noticeable being Vernon Davis and the horrible field position it was no wonder that the offensive line at that tempo exhausted itself once it crossed over the 20-yard line. Poor execution was the last domino of the formula by way of Barry Sims substituting for the injured Adam Snyder.
I was pleased at our ability to move the ball and move it without making careless mistakes by way of fumbling and avoiding the interception. Great effort was made on most of the player’s parts except for the ones I have already mentioned. Rookie punt return man Dominique Zeigler is far better a gifted wide receiver that is up and coming then he is a punt return specialist. Certainly Michael Robinson and or Thomas Clayton should be given serious consideration for this job.
This game shattered a season that could’ve ended at .500 as we are now at (5-9) on the 2008 NFL season. This team is just one draft and one free agency period away I believe from greatness. I do believe in the Mike Singletary doctrine and I know that the players are buying into it from just watching it out on the field. Despite this loss we have made enormous progress since he took the reins from Mike Nolan.
Even spectators and fans of other NFL teams that I run into and see me still adorned in San Francisco 49er artistic attire are now saying: “Wow you guys are looking better each and every week, you ought to be in the thick of it next year.” I smile and accept those words of unique observation as it is validation enough for me that it isn’t just me that thinks the way I do.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.