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Arrowhead Stadium and the winless Kansas City Chiefs turned out to be a den of vipers for the San Francisco 49ers, high off a near victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at home. The San Francisco 49er game plan was to nullify veteran running back Larry Johnson and they did that statistically except at the goal line.
Without veteran quarterback Trent Green who was sidelined because of a severe concussion, second-tier 10-year veteran Damon Huard received the nod for a second consecutive time to steer the Kansas City Chiefs into the right direction. He did all of that and so much more. He only missed his connections five times and was not sacked once. He completed 18-of-23 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. He even accumulated a quarterback passer rating of 133.3, and cleverly and gingerly stepped up and out of the way of oncoming rushing 49er defenders. He played with the poise of a Super Bowl type veteran quarterback; almost eagle like in his throwing motions and indifference to danger around him. Just the opposite was true for sophomore 49er quarterback Alex Smith who had to run for his very life on almost every conceivable possession.
Alex Smith was under constant harassment and instantaneous pressure from all directions when we were in possession of the football. His protection umbrella was anything but, springing one leak after another with right tackle Kwame Harris being one of the most frequent to be beaten. Alex Smith only completed 13-out-of-25 passes for 92 yards with zero touchdowns and two costly interceptions. He was sacked five times for a collective loss of 20 yards with a quarterback rating of 27.4. The offensive line had mental breakdowns in their own assignments as the Kansas City Chief defensive unit devoured Alex Smith and his potential targets like a pack of rabid dogs.
“We have not played well the past two weeks, in particular last Sunday in times of adversity,” said Nolan. “Some of it is brought on by our own actions, and some of it’s by our opponents. We didn’t play well individually or collectively in the game.”
That was quite obvious to me and to all fellow 49er fans that witnessed one act of horror right after another in this game.
The San Francisco 49er defense came under intense attack at not being able to stop a Kansas City Chief offense with a Damon Huard at quarterback. In fact many people and even sports broadcasters hinted at the possibility that maybe 49er defensive coordinator Billy Davis’s job was in jeopardy following this incredible humiliation.
Would there be a real fall guy? No, Mike Nolan took it on the chin and dispelled those rumors and innuendos as being completely false. In fact, he characterized the humiliating loss as the worst loss he had ever seen since becoming the head coach of this once proud franchise. He chose to point out that the team as a collective unit failed on this past Sunday and that individuals themselves needed to look inside themselves and evaluate their own conscience as to what happened. The team wasn’t prepared to face a passing onslaught by Damon Huard and wasn’t prepared to turn the ball over four times to set themselves up for eventual defeat.
“Nobody wants to be where we are right now, and there’s nothing I can really say to take the hurt away from our players in the locker room, but that’s part of it,” 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. “I would say that’s the most difficult loss in the year and a half that I’ve been here.”
It started from the very beginning and ended at the very end with one turnover after another, ultimately starting with the fourth fumble of his 2006 NFL career for running back stud Frank Gore. Already much maligned and cast off as a player with severe ball security problems the Kansas City Chief defense knew this going into the game and capitalized upon it like the others had already done.
“You look up at the scoreboard and see that big zero up there, you see all those turnovers and the points we handed them, it’s definitely embarrassing and frustrating,” Smith said.
Billy Davis and his 49er defense couldn’t even get off the field as they allowed Damon Huard to have a spectacular day in his second appearance at quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. They converted eight of their 15 third downs and moved up and down the field almost at will with 23 first downs to the 49ers’ 10.
They also won the time of possession with 35:15 to our 24:45 and did very well in capitalizing on the six penalty flags that were thrown at us for a loss of 73 total yards. In all they out performed us in every single statistical category with 333 total yards to our 165 total yards.
The only statistical gain we had of any semblance was the fact that Frank Gore tried his darn best to resume playing hard following his costly fumble by grinding out some tough yardage on a defense determined to make a mockery out of us. He carried the ball 14 times for 65 yards averaging 4.6 yards per carry. After his fumble and a field goal that resulted from it, the game soon took a toll for the worst. This made the score 10-0 following a previous successful drive by Damon Huard hitting Dante Hall in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown. The ever dangerous and elusive Dante Hall would come back to visit us yet again later in the game.
In the second quarter I became sickened by the defensive penalties that came to light…in particular the one thrown on defensive tackle Bryant Young for a below the waist hit on quarterback Damon Huard (that once viewed was anything but) costing us 15 yards. Then 49er cornerback Shawntae Spencer was flagged for a costly pass interference call that set up Larry Johnson for a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 17-0.
Alex Smith admired by all of us for his throwing accuracy thus far, saw the curtain fall with his first interception after three games, by throwing one that Chiefs safety Sammy Knight stole away and took back 27 yards before right guard Justin Smiley pounced on him. From there Damon Huard again found wide receiver Eddie Kennison along the sidelines for a 34-yard touchdown strike to make it 24-0, despite the only scoring effort of the 49ers as we watched Joe Nedney miss a 51-yard field goal attempt that darkened a tunnel so empty of any given light.
“We just made too many mistakes; we just weren’t ourselves out there,” said Gore. “We started out slow, we couldn’t get enough on offense and we couldn’t be consistent. It was all on us, we hurt ourselves.”
It is most difficult for us to sit back and analyze this game, because in retrospect to the other three games it is so out of character with the rest. In the other three games we came back in the second half to make it a challenging and interesting game. But as we walked in at halftime on this, I knew that we would never overcome a 24-point deficit with all the momentum in their favor. We had a desire and a fight about us in the previous three games that you saw and could relate to. In the hostile environment that was Arrowhead Stadium, it was far worse than the Black Hole in Raider country that will visit us soon.
The San Francisco 49er offense under Norv Turner was utterly helpless and anemic in every sense of the word. Alex Smith was so uncomfortable and so under pressure he was ineffective standing in the pocket and hurried for his life on bootlegs and rollouts as well.
Offensive line protection was at its lowest point in the season when you look back on the tape at what the Kansas City Chief defense was able to do and constantly penetrate the line of scrimmage by winning the battles in the trenches. The line collapsed time and time again under an array of different looks presented by the Chiefs and screamed for sympathy from veteran standouts Larry Allen and Jeremy Newberry.
Nothing got any better as the second half reared its ugly head with running back Maurice Hicks returning a stunning 53-yard kickoff that saw him fumble the ball at the end of the run and was later ruled that way from a Chiefs challenge on the play. From this error the Chiefs came away with yet another field goal, as a result of poor play from a special teams unit missing veteran Terry Jackson who was cut by the team earlier this year. The anguish continued with another offensive drive that culminated after 50 total yards with Larry Johnson running it in from the 2-yard line for another touchdown. Dante Hall capped that with a 60-yard punt return that scored a touchdown that made our special teams unit look utterly pathetic, to put it mildly.
It was a day that saw many missed tackles, blown coverage assignments, a missing in action pass rush of the worst kind and a coaching staff bewildered at what Kansas City Chief team had brought to the game. Obviously this team was starving for a victory after going 0-3, and had something to prove. We were the prey and ripe for scalping, and like General George Custer at the Little Big Horn among so many Indians, on that day Kansas City showed the real Chiefs of a nation.
If we can rise back up out of this tremendous thrashing at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs remains to be seen. Some of us have real questions with no viable answers in sight, as I am sure the coaches have as well while shaking their collective heads over what went wrong in this particular contest.
We are still a very green and growing team. Mike Nolan makes that indication from his public appearance this past Monday following the game. There isn’t a lot of depth still on this football team, whether we like it or not we are still building and adding quality to that roster each and every year.
We have the players that we have to put it bluntly like Mike Nolan indicated. They have to sort through the crap that they have experienced and come back and perform at a higher level. This is on them as explained by several of the players following this contest, and the plane ride home had to be a humbling retrospective on what they’d all been through.
As fans we demand victories as all do inside the league. Yet as 49er fans we can understand what it is that has to transpire for us to make those gradual steps towards being an elite contender in this league as indicated when we played a top-notch caliber team like we had against the Philadelphia Eagles.
As aggravating as some of the officiating has been and as much as we want to blame someone for our blemishes, the real culprits to our current record is all of us as a team.
Mike Nolan makes no excuses about this either and knows that the real world is just that, cold and uncaring for those that cast a shadow of blame on other things. We have to erect our own positive persona and make plays happen and execute with precision rather than play like a mediocre unit with mental imbalances as we witnessed this past Sunday.