Cheese Heads Deliver Blue Cheese
December 14, 2006 at 6:55 AM
Inside Monster Park, the Green Bay Packer Cheese Heads could be seen everywhere you turned your head. In fact, the crowd of green and yellow brought to San Francisco a taste of cheese not aged in the state of Wisconsin, but a blue cheese feeling of helplessness and hopelessness in a playoff season. Had we defeated the Green Bay Packers at home this past Sunday, we would’ve escalated our ranking in the National Football Conference’s wild card standings from ninth seed to fifth seed.
The more I watched this game, the more tempted I was to flip the channel and not watch it at all. It was one tragedy that befell another. During the game there were shots of hope and glimmers of light, but overall we fell way short of the mark that defined us as a football contender from back in November when we had a three game winning streak. Now back on the losing streak (three games again and counting), we see the same team revisit its past mistakes and suffer the regressions of inexperience and immaturity as it has so many times over the course of this season.
Mike Nolan referred to the plan he had set out for this franchise at his news conference following this 30-19 defeat to the Green Bay Packers. He made note of the inability of Alex Smith to carry this football team on his shoulders because he believes this is a collective problem, regardless of the critical position we call quarterback. Blown assignments in the form of blocking, route running and timing sequences run rampant in this football team. Pass protection and sound judgment of where to throw the ball again became quagmires for quarterback Alex Smith.
We have been pinpointed by all of our opponents in the NFL as being a one-dimensional team. All of our offensive success is relegated to the legs and arms of running back Frank Gore. Anyone disputing that needs to look at his statistics and that of the passing game collectively, and without a doubt will discover it is the truth. We all see it. We all know that on every given Sunday our opponent will stack the line of scrimmage to take away Frank Gore and dare Alex Smith to beat them with his arm. And more times this season than not he has been unable to do that.
Is Alex Smith regressing? Is he the chosen one to lead our offense into the promise land? I really can’t answer that, but can anyone really tell as of yet? Veteran Green Bay Packer and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre talked to offensive coordinator Norv Turner after the game, and noted that he enjoyed some of the throws that Alex had made in the game, and hinted towards the fact that we really did have someone special here.
Blame is staring Alex Smith right in the face. He cannot step into the shoes of a Joe Montana and or a Steve Young just yet as much as we all want him to. Calls for removing him and starting veteran Trent Dilfer are circulating everywhere. But as Mike Nolan kept referring to the plan, he noted that not even Trent Dilfer would want to start at the expense of Alex Smith’s learning curve. He would tell Mike Nolan that he made a mistake by sitting Alex Smith; there is no question about it.
I never ever thought that Alex Smith would turn into the next Payton Manning or Tom Brady overnight as much as all of us would like that. But like so many other people I expected him to at least win a couple of games with his arm, and determination to succeed at all costs like I have seen from Frank Gore.
Back a few articles ago, I speculated that Mike Nolan liked the way Alex Smith “managed the game,” and played not to lose the game by being so careful with his throws. But in hindsight, if he had taken a few more chances in games and thrown more without over-thinking (as he seems to do most of the time), what would’ve happened to him psychologically had he made some of those throws? Can Alex Smith win a game instead of just managing it? I think maybe he can once the entire team minimizes mistakes and plays consistently of course. Right now that isn’t happening and is probably at least another season away from us.
Inside the first quarter of this game, on our own 26-yard line, Alex Smith handed off the ball to Frank Gore who ran with it for 72 yards down the field to the Green Bay Packer two-yard line. It was from here that we couldn’t even get into the end zone and had to settle for a Joe Nedney field goal.
Veteran gunslinger Brett Favre answered back with a pass intended for Greg Jennings, but was signaled by him to throw to a “Holy Cow” to as wide open as you can be Ruvell Martin for a 36-yard touchdown to make it 7-3 Packers. “It was a blown coverage, let’s just leave it at that,” Nolan said.
And then the play we have seen all too often this season, from the one true playmaker we can always count on in Frank Gore. On a nice Green Bay Packer punt that pinned us at our own 1-yard line Frank Gore was given the assignment of digging us out, when on the second play he hit the pile of humanity and fumbled the ball. Green Bay Packer Charles Woodson recovered the ball at the 4-yard line and our defense managed to hold the Packers to just a field goal to make it 10-3 Packers. Just when you thought Frank couldn’t ever do any wrong again, he did.
The mediocrity that the team is dealing with is immense when you really look at the big picture. We are a young team missing solid playmakers in the form of (ideally) veteran players that can take this team to the next level. Youth is a blessed attribute to any team, but on a team that had to bite the bullet in more ways than one. But by saying goodbye to some great defensive playmakers we are reaping some of the oats of what we sowed long ago.
We are a better team than what we were in 2005. That is evident by what you see out on the field. We need to find that level of effectiveness by being consistent and cultivating youth into experience that will translate into veteran playmaking abilities. Everyone and everything screams in this league to win, and win now. We cannot get caught up in that trend when we have a plan to develop these players into something truly special.
Alex Smith was 12-of-29 for 201 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He put together a lowly quarterback rating of 48.2 to go along with three games back of 50.1, 41.5 and 46.4. This doesn’t set well with us as fans I will admit. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I think about what to say about my quarterback to other rival fans.
Brett Favre on the other hand was 22-of-34 for 293 yards with two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 111.5. He was sacked only once and connected with fellow favorite target of choice wide receiver Donald Driver nine times for 160 total yards. It was in the second quarter from their 20-yard line that Brett Favre kept hitting Donald Driver in front of helpless out-of-place 49er defensive backs all the way to our 1-yard line to see running back Ahman Green smash it in to make it 17-3 Packers.
“For the last three weeks now,” Nolan veritably spat, “we have been at many times our own worst enemy, whether it’s been giving the ball up on third down, not getting turnovers on defense, responding at critical times or penalties. We do not maximize the opportunities we get.”
I couldn’t have said that better myself and leave that one to our coach. Watching the first half of this game I saw a little bit of everything, but so much of what it was of the beginning of the season as well. Good old reliable Joe Nedney, the leading offensive playmaker of 2005, kicked a field goal at the end of the first half to make it 17-6 Packers. The second half would reveal more missed opportunities and mistakes aplenty.
Frank Gore still had 19 carries for 130 yards with an average of 6.8 yards a carry in this game against the Green Bay Packers. If anything in our offense is a staple of consistency this is the lone star of them all. In the opening salvo of the second half, Alex Smith and Frank Gore teamed up to march 79 yards down the field and score a touchdown that made it 17-13 Packers.
Then came the famous interception that infuriated everyone, including rookie first round pick Vernon Davis who was the intended target. With 4:05 left in the third quarter and the 49ers positioned at the Packers 41-yard line Alex Smith rolled out to the right on a third-and–two play and threw the ball anticipating Vernon Davis to be a little tighter towards the sideline. The resulting pass went into Packer safety Nick Collins’ hands and was returned for five yards before being tackled. The resulting turnover had Brett Favre parked at his own 32-yard line where he delivered a pinpoint strike to Donald Driver for a 68-yard touchdown that made it 24-13 Packers.
“We just made mistakes with throws that should have been higher,” said Davis. “I did what I’m supposed to do: Sell the run, take off and get into the wide corner,” Davis said. “I was open. Did you see that? He should have thrown it quicker and a little over the top.”
Tight end superstar Vernon Davis had some pretty harsh statements for his quarterback in Alex Smith, resulting in a controversy that signals there are some worthy bad sentiments for Alex’s inability to connect with them. This is a sign of utter frustration over the repeated situations some of them have found themselves in. Antonio Bryant earlier in the season has displayed his objections of not getting the ball thrown his way enough and when it is thrown it is either inaccurate or there has been confusion recognizing which route is in play.
Now we have Vernon Davis questioning Alex Smith’s decisions and his ability to make plays happen and sustain drives with his arm. It leaves me to ponder that there may be some legitimate concerns over the future of our young quarterback. I think that Alex sometimes is over-analyzing situations too much to not make a mistake, rather than to feel comfortable and confident in just executing the play itself.
Inside the fourth quarter the Green Bay Packers continued to dominate the time of possession with two more field goal drives to make it 30-13 Packers. San Francisco’s Alex Smith threw yet another interception into the end zone where linebacker A.J. Hawk took it away from tight end Vernon Davis.
With just 5:27 left in the quarter Alex Smith finally found Vernon Davis on a 52-yard touchdown pass that illustrated the pure raw athleticism of the sculptured cut physique of Vernon Davis. If we can manage to get him the ball more on aggressive patterns, I am confident in his ability and talent to score with relative ease.
With the muffed extra point, the San Francisco 49ers fell to the Green Bay Packers 30-19 before their home crowd in Monster Park. Erasing a pure opportunity to see the postseason it has been secluded from for a long time.
“Right now, as I see it, our young guys are not at the point where they’re mature for 60 minutes as football players. We don’t play in a mature fashion, and what I mean by that is when there’s a turnover, you respond, and when there’s a big play, there’s not a stupid, or I should say foolish, penalty. That shows maturity as a football player, and our inconsistency in playing shows a lack of maturity from my standpoint.”
I see a continued growth in action, resulting in some very positive steps towards becoming a legitimate competitor in our division and eventually inside this league. It has been a very long winding and grinding road for us to transit through over this past decade.
Mike Nolan still has a plan he is delivering on a weekly basis and we will see the fruits of that labor bearing its fruit sooner rather than later. One more draft and another round of free agency will bring this team closer together. We still need to win games and win them out to close this season, but we can all feel confident that despite the apparent setbacks we are still on track.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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