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I'm not even going to beat around the bush. Hostler did not impress me in his play calling debut. He made, what seemed to me, several mistakes in his play calling and offensive scheme.
The strength of this team is the run game, and specifically it is the run game behind Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings on the left side of the line. Yet, of 18 rushes, 9 of them were to the right. He effectively ran away from the strong side of the line on several occasions. Now, this doesn't explain everything, but if your team has a strength, you use it.
The actual type of runs called seemed odd as well. Under Turner, the 49ers pulled the guards, a lot. Wherever Gore was running, Larry Allen was there to block for him. Even when the 49ers ran right, Larry Allen pulled. Turner would pull the guards over and over and then, he would pull the guard and run into the hole vacated by the guard. Each play was designed to set up the next call. I saw none of that imagination from Hostler.
Another strength of the team is the medium range pass. Smith is not made for the West Coast offense, His dismal rookie season is all the proof anyone needs. If you can fog up a mirror and you were anywhere near a TV, radio, or the internet you knew that Alex Smith and the West Coast Offense were like oil and water.
Yet, what Hostler did against the cardinals was run a very West Coast type game. He ran a lot of screens; there were short passes to the full back; the wide receivers were running hitches and slants - all staples of the offense that Bill Walsh made famous.
Now, you could say that the pressure from the Cardinals forced Hostler to resort to calling short passes. I don't buy that. Turner was a master at maximizing protection in order to give Smith the time to throw. It wasn't until later in the game that I saw tight ends and backs consistently staying in the backfield in order to protect Smith.
Turner's offense was predicated on power running and medium to short range passes. I am not opposed to running some west coast type plays. Quick slants and the like can be very effective against aggressive, blitzing defenses. Hostler, though, forgot that Smith thrived in Turner's system, not the West Coast Offense.
What can smith do when he has time? We saw it on the last drive. He pulled out a win in a very ugly game. Yes, that's right, Smith took this team on his back and won the game. Hostler, though, needs make better calls, like he did on the goal line with the reverse to Arnaz Battle, in order for this team to fulfill all that preseason hype.
Players of the Game:
Patrick Willis: This guy had 11 tackles and seemed to be all over the field - he even forced a fumble. He showed sure tackling and laid some serious wood on running back Edgerrin James, as well as Quarterback Matt Leinart. The rookie is the real deal and as he gets more comfortable in this defense he will be amazing.
Only one negative: he needs to find better direct routes to the QB on blitzes. Too often he took the long way around and put himself out of position on a blitz.
Nate Clements, Walt Harris, Shawntae Spencer and Michael Lewis: These defensive backs held the leagues best receiving duo to just 7 receptions, 42 yards and one TD. If you told me before the game that ONE of the duo had this stat line I would have been impressed. But both?? Wow. And Harris picked up right where he left off - picking off opposing quarterbacks.
Aubrayo Franklin: He held the nose really well and was not pushed around in the center of the defensive line. He really helped solidify the inside of the 49ers defense. Most of the runs were on the edges. More on that later.
Marcus Hudson: Another player that showed some moxie. He made some good hits and covered receivers well when he needed to. He is still a little raw but he is much improved over last season.
Tully Banta-Cain: He was brought in for one thing - to rush the QB. Well, it seems that he has a one track mind because TBC was incapable of staying home and sealing off the edge (no pun intended). Several times he rushed straight up field only to run himself out of the play. James just cut to the edge and gained yards over and over. The criticism with TBC was his run stopping ability. He needs to learn to hold contain or teams will run rough-shod over his side of the defense.
Joe Staley: Inside bull rush, outside speed rush, it seemed like anything OLB Dansby did worked. Dansby was only credited for a half sack, but he was in the backfield all night. At least Staley was false start free. Staley needs to improve his pass protection before he goes the way of the Kwame.