Article Title: A gift-wrapped pre-season to remember.
Our 2010 San Francisco 49ers have a lot to be enthusiastic about and that includes the fans as we went undefeated in four games that are in some eyes rather meaningless but for many others it was a giant step forward in auditioning a team that has all the potential in the world to be optimistic about finally making the NFL playoffs. 49er fans have been awe-struck to see significant balance on both sides of the ball with the offense and defense working in cohesion with one another in reaching victory collectively.
In all this is the best team that the San Francisco 49ers has fielded since 2002 and that is not at all a joke. This is a team that has ability and talent almost overflowing with self-confidence but still not as disciplined as the coaching staff would like it to be. If we can overcome some of the minor inefficiencies within the framework of the mechanics and techniques on the field we should command a lot of respect.
First and foremost we have to recognize that the offensive line has finally come together and that Alex Smith is our undisputed starting quarterback and David Carr as our new Back-up. The additions in Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati signal the new emphasis on dictating the line of scrimmage in which Mike Singletary since his first days as head coach had said was the focus for our offense. Going (4-0) in this pre-season was also a great shot in the arm for a team that has struggled to form its own identity to other teams inside the NFL.
Making the playoffs begins with winning games and taking control of oneís own division piece by piece as the season progresses. We have a golden opportunity that is presented to us with a team that is abundant in known talent and developing talent as we speak. Although we can all say including the coaches that the team is still full of opportunities as we saw from time to time in each pre-season game the culmination of the way we fought to attain victory in all the games speaks volumes about us as a team rather than individual groups that need to atone for their flagrant errors.
Looking back on the Oakland Raiders game we witnessed a determined San Francisco 49er team fight to stage a comeback after being down 21-17 in the third quarter and watching our pass defense get lit up in the first half that caused several of the starting players to request being put back in the second half to atone for their lack of execution to shut the Raiders passing attack down. We ultimately defeated the Oakland Raiders 28-24 but it was how we did it that was the most exciting. Watching our running game was one of the best highlights of the game as we put the ball in a running backís hands 33-times for a total of 165 total yards and we averaged 5.0-yards per carry. That is a first team and second team offensive line making holes for those backs to see and run through. Frank Goreís 49-yard scamper had me jumping out of my living room couch with absolute joy as I know you would agree as well.
And did you even notice that the Oakland Raider defense never was able to get through and sack either of our quarterbacks in Alex Smith and David Carr? Smith of course was as comfortable as Iíve ever seen him and Carr was hilarious jumping up and over an Oakland Raider defender who attempted to tackle him simply to gain a few more yards. But then there were some that irritated you a bit in that Tarell Brown was constantly burned on two completions in the first half and an off-sides penalty to Delanie Walker and a dropped pass to him as well. As you look at this game I guess the most troubling thing on offense was the dropped passes that players dropped as Alex Smith targeted them with really fairly accurate attempts. Smith had six incomplete passes with four of them being just dropped passes. And with our defense they gave up 276 total yards in passing to the Oakland Raiders, however they tightened up in the second half and ended the game with two sacks.
Some notable players that made my head turn in this game were Anthony Davis with a vicious cut block, Mike Iupati with some excellent consecutive blocks to free Frank Gore, David Baas giving Iupati and earful on an off-sides penalty, Josh Morganís 16-yard touchdown reception, Philip Adams punt return ability and the continues hard hitting and running of rookie running back Anthony Dixon.
Then you have the last and final pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers at Candlestick Park in which we defeated 17-14. This was a game where the first-string defense was out to redeem itself after a not so fortunate outing in Oakland the previous week. Reporting to duty on the field was veteran hold-out nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. Although many a fan out there knew that this is a game of no real significance the reality is always about the individual players fighting to win a roster spot or practice squad spot to keep their NFL dreams and aspirations alive.
I always find this last game to be the hardest to watch because of the intense competition there is for roster spots and sometimes there is really not a lot that separates one athlete from another. I thank God that the coaches are the decision makers out there on the field in determining which play made that pivotal mark to sustain them a spot on a well-trimmed roster. Back-up 49er quarterback David Carr showed improvement from his last game going 5-0f-6 for 58 total yards and a quarterback rating of 106.9%.
The San Francisco 49er pass defense didnít fair so well with 275 total yards from the Chargers 148-yards coming just in the first half alone. There were various long completed passes to an array of San Diego Charger receivers of 47, 29 and 25-yards in which the Chargers actually took the lead 14-10 in the third quarter. Nickel backs in Tarell Brown and Karl Paymah both playing for a roster spot have not executed to anyoneís real anticipation. One defensive back that did make heads turn once again was rookie Taylor Mays who made an interception at the goal line who was then popped by Charger wide receiver Josh Reed but had enough sense to get up and dance about it.
The real star of the whole show this night was once again rookie running back Anthony Dixon who had 12 total carries for 80 total yards averaging 6.7-yards per carry and a 46-yard touchdown run that sent the 49er fanfare up in an uproar. The new and improved offensive line continues to get very physical at the line of scrimmage and is able to open wide gaps for Dixon to slowdown anticipate and hit with some real substance. Once he is involved into the secondary he is able to make the most agile of defensive backs miss him.
The offensive line continues to shine with the two mammoth rookies in Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, but veteran back-up center Cody Wallace was called on for two personal foul penalties which effectively spelled his fate following this game as a roster casualty and rightfully so. Dominique Zeigler has played his way into a roster spot with always being in the right place at the right time in comparison to veteran Jason Hill who unfortunately never was able to cash-in on any sort of completion ratio throughout the entire pre-season stage of four games. Zeigler made a one-handed acrobatic catch in the end zone but came down with only one foot in bounds; still he finds a way to be around the ball consistently.
Defensively the San Francisco 49ers had a great effort by linebacker Manny Lawson tipping a screen pass and then actually intercepting it with real thoughts of making the end zone. Navorro Bowman and Bruce Davis at linebackers splurged on a five-sack feast of San Diego Charger quarterbacks as both Volek and Crompton experienced relentless pressure and frustration with defensive coordinator Greg Manuskyís special packages. Offensively the 49er offense was unable to convert effectively on third down completing only 3-of-11 attempts and actually lost time of possession by a fraction to the San Diego Chargers.
Third-string quarterback Nate Davis remains just that a third-string quarterback because of the two interceptions and his completion ratio of going 11-for-22 and ending with a quarterback rating of 40.5%. The learning curve continues to exist but his true grit is there begging the question that entices one to believe he is worth keeping on the roster one more season to see where he picks-up in 2011. Overall this was a pre-season to honestly remember as a gift-wrapped extravaganza that had a lot of showcases of real optimism as we head into the regular season. I think the only real roster cut I was disappointed in to some point was linebacker Matt Wilhelm who I thought played well in a linebacker pool overflowing with talent. Now the vision is before us and so is the NFC Western Division, God Bless our San Francisco 49ers.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.