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It was supposed to be the game of redemption for the San Francisco 49ers back at home in front of a Candlestick crowd eager to erase the memory of the loss to New Orleans and embrace victory with a sense of legacy as our former field general in Steve Young awaited to join the ceremony on the retirement of his coveted number eight jersey. If only we could reel back time and insert the field general back out on that field just one more time, if only we could do it.
The New England Patriots are the new legacy of this millennium and a dynasty they were created in part by their own field general in quarterback Tom Brady. Even without Brady the intricate components of this team are something to marvel at as the master of defense in head coach Bill Belichick works as a maestro of a meticulous chorus of sophisticated deceptions and schemes.
His very presence on a field is enough to send shivers throughout an offense including that of a coordinator in the likes of even Mike Martz. Recognition and respect for the absolute genius he is has to be forthcoming by any offense that is forced to face him. Three Super Bowl victories later and countless playoff appearances and recently an unbeaten regular season later he commands an audience on the other side of the field to stand up and take notice despite being without his start studded quarterback that helped get him to where he is today.
The San Francisco 49ers were soundly defeated 30-21 right before the eyes of the legends that remembered the other side of the coin in Steve Young, Brent Jones, Harris Barton and Jerry Rice. It was the second consecutive defeat that toppled them from being tied with the Arizona Cardinals for first place within the division, displacing them with a (2-3) record with Philadelphia waiting in the wind.
With a roster overflowing with tremendous athletic talent it is with great anger and frustration that we as die-hard faithful 49er fans find ourselves dealing with from one week to the very next. At the Mike Nolan press conference he again made references to the film and finding answers to our problems. Making the necessary fixes so we can go out and try not to do it again, whether it is collectively and or individually it's just one thing right after another.
In the first quarter we had legitimate time to dream. On New England's very first drive at their very own 48-yard line quarterback Matt Cassel threw a pass intended for fellow wide receiver Wes Welker but was intercepted by 49er linebacker Takeo Spikes for the second week in a row, Unfortunately we returned the favor on our next drive with J.T. O'Sullivan throwing an interception which was intended for tight end Delanie Walker from the Patriot 45-yard line.
The Patriots go three and out on the next series and are forced to punt from deep within their own territory setting our table up at their 30-yard line. With the help of a defensive holding call, J.T. O'Sullivan connected with Frank Gore for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 49ers. 49er kicker Joe Nedney kicks a 73-yard kick that sets the Patriots up at their 32-yard line and then the 34-yard line where Matt Cassel locates none other than the great Randy Moss who gets behind Walt Harris and Nate Clements for a 66-yard bomb that he reels in for a touchdown to make it 7-7 and a reality check of what was soon to come.
The San Francisco 49er secondary scorched again like napalm incinerating an enemy jungle. It is without justification that all the money that you have tied up in a secondary like ours is incapable of preventing these ever reoccurring themes of big explosive plays. Matt Cassel completed 22-of-32 passes for 259 total yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked five times for a loss of 26 total yards and ended with a quarterback rating of 77.5.
One would think that the perfect antidote for New England Patriot Randy Moss would have been the likes of San Francisco 49er Nate Clements or so-called 'lockdown," as he is referred to by his teammates. Yet Moss reeled in five receptions for 111-total yards averaging 22.2 yards a reception and one touchdown. And even more interesting is that Matt Cassel was sacked five times but not nearly enough to prevent him from making one third down completion right after another.
The Patriots converted 8-of-17 on total third downs and trumped us in first down conversions by 25-12. Of course the San Francisco 49er secondary weren't the only ones that needed blaming. Second was the rush defense that was literally whittled to death with strong run appearances from the likes of running backs Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan. In all they combined for 144 total rushing yards that helped sustain drives to the tune of dominant time of possession 39:52 to 20:08.
With 7:29 in the first quarter J.T. O'Sullivan drove the 49ers from our 36-yard line down to the Patriot six-yard line where he found Isaac Bruce for the touchdown to make it 14-7 49ers. So ended the one and only quarter we would hold any kind of lead. The second quarter was highlighted by Matt Cassel throwing an interception to Nate Clements a pass intended for Randy Moss. The Patriots would add a field goal and a two-yard touchdown run by Kevin Faulk that would end the half 17-14 Patriots with help from penalties a big one on defensive end Justin Smith for a personal foul on a sack of Matt Cassel that was anything but personal.
I do have to add an Andy Lee punt from our 18-yard line that sailed for 82 total yards into the Patriot end zone for a touchback was earth-shattering in my book. With the first half over time of possession quickly swung over to the New England Patriots by a wide margin of 20:03 to our 9:57. Thus began the very long day our defense would be out on the field incapable of slowing the methodical onslaught by a rushing attack that had accumulated 97-yards already on the ground and 150-yards through the air.
One has to stand on the merit that we cannot stop the run. We cannot consistently get to the quarterback as evidenced in prior contests. We cannot stop the big explosive plays either. In retrospect our defense was what our offense was in 2007, absolutely pathetic.
I believe as many of you did that we had the ability and match-up's one on one to compete with this particular opponent in the New England Patriots, yet we were out-coached, stretched to exhaustion in time of possession and woefully ineffective in cashing in on third downs.
The head of Mike Nolan is swinging like a pendulum and nobody knows what will happen next. Mike is the face of this franchise and is already facing the scorn and wrath of a fan-base revolution that is exhausted from being promised that this roster is better than last year's roster. In Mike Nolan's words collectively we have gotten better, yet it does not transfer as of yet on the field on any given Sunday. In my opinion his words are empty words that have no credibility.
As sweet as a talker he is and as charismatic as he can be, he cannot hide the facts for what they are. Everything he thought would transpire into success has not. And every perception he has that it will has not materialized as of yet. How long can this franchise accept his words for what they apparently are? The team is obviously not responding to his particular criteria and or philosophies as execution on the field would indicate that.
In the third quarter the New England Patriots came out with even more confusing variations and schemes courtesy of head coach Bill Belichick, with 8:08 into the quarter and on our own 21-yard line J.T. O'Sullivan launched a pass intended to Arnaz Battle that was intercepted by Patriot safety Rodney Harrison. This set the Patriots up for a direct snap to running back Kevin Faulk who took it in from two-yards for the touchdown to make it 24-14 Patriots.
The San Francisco 49ers offense would only see the field in this quarter for 2:49 in time of possession. The New England Patriots would add a field goal to begin the fourth quarter making it 27-14 Patriots. Following the field goal the 49er offense under J.T. O'Sullivan began their drive from our own 20-yard line and was assisted by a defensive pass interference penalty setting them up at the Patriot five-yard line where again Isaac Bruce was found for a touchdown to make it 27-21 Patriots.
New England Patriot quarterback Matt Cassel answered with a drive of his own that ended with a 49-yard field goal to make it 30-21 Patriots. J.T. O'Sullivan would later throw yet another interception intended for Isaac Bruce to Patriot defensive back Delthea O'Neal and failed miserably to convert any kind of a third down into a first down.
J.T. O'Sullivan ended the day completing 14-of-29 passes for a mere 130 total yards with one sack for a loss of eight yards. He threw for three touchdowns and three interceptions, ending the day with a 55.9 quarterback rating. He admitted after the game that the New England Patriots defense was successful in creating confusion and deception as he struggled to lock eyes with his various offensive weapons.
What is very curious to me is why Frank Gore was not utilized to his fullest potential. Gore had but only 12 carries in this game for 54 total yards averaging 4.5-yards per carry with a long burst of 16 total yards. He did have four receptions for 24-yards including a touchdown but was not at all used as a tool to even establish a running game that would have possibly turned time of possession over to our favor had it been successful.
The New England Patriots had trouble stopping the run as early as a few weeks ago against the Miami Dolphins in a stunning upset where they had lost at home. Certainly this was a flagrant error on our coaching staff beginning with Mike Martz in not implementing a sound plan to run the ball down the Patriots throat. With Frank Gore and DeShaun Foster I believe that a productive running game would've been the right prescription against the successful pressure being brought to the face of J.T. O'Sullivan.
Again the mindset of Mike Martz has been to throw the ball vertically down the field for big explosive plays. But there has to be games where the doctrine of strategy has to be manipulated to adjust to what your opponent is doing, and in my opinion Mike Martz wasn't successful in doing that here at all. Put the ball in the hands of your true playmaker being (Frank Gore), and build upon that in order to set-up for the pass to be successful.
The true West Coast Offense was favorable to Frank Gore with his career thus far as a 49er. Mike Martz has done an about face reversal on this and has taken some of the venom I conclude out of his attack via the ground game. Frank is lethal with the ball in his hand rather it be running or making a reception.
We need to get back to that mentality of allowing him more touches on the ball and implore the offensive line to back him up. Short to intermediate passes coupled with a five-to-six yard gain on running the ball here and there would be successful as it was under legendary icon Steve Young and as recently as Jeff Garcia.
The San Francisco 49er offense has improved under Mike Martz I will agree with you. But it also clearly abandons the principles on which this offense was built and became famous for all over the NFL. Sometimes being conservative with trying to establish the run and winning those battles inside the trenches via the offensive line will set victory with time of possession.
We clearly did not adjust to what Bill Belichick was throwing at our offense. Even though J.T. O'Sullivan was sacked but only one time, the field before him was a mass of Patriot silver and blue that obscured his vision and confused his senses to read and react. The safe haven of handing the ball to Frank Gore and inspiring the line to block for positive yardage was not at all utilized to its maximum potential. Mike Martz needs to make those adjustments and sometimes temper his ego.
The gauntlet continues with Philadelphia a franchise as elite as the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. We cannot visit the same failed schemes and strategies as we have had against our last two opponents. Our offense must convert and the line must play without flaws. Our defense should be put on notice that enough is enough or make personnel changes to get your point across. Until we win against an elite team self-confidence will still be a question mark.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.