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It was talked about at meetings and on the practice fields in Santa Clara: "Don't take the Tennessee Titans lightly," as this is a better team than people think they are. That statement proved true after being defeated at home (34-27) and dropping two games behind the resurging Arizona Cardinals in our not so hotly contested division. Dropping four consecutive games in a row has been more then just a speed bump in the road, Mike Singletary. It is becoming a roadblock to the playoffs that cannot be hurdled due to the stagnant offense and Alex Smith's inability to properly read NFL defenses and lack of of timing and rhythm in throwing the football.
Alex Smith on the positive side has encouraged the Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye era of conservatism to evaporate a little and allow him to do what he used to do best. Beat you with his ability to take accurate shots right down the field and to multiple weapons that have the capability to make you pay. He did do that again Sunday with two superior connections to wide receiver Jason Hill with two touchdowns.
However Alex Smith just seemed to hold on to the ball for just too many seconds at a time and threw late causing defensive backs to anticipate what he was looking at and what angles to take to create a turnover in which they did with three interceptions and two fumbles one recovered and racked up a scoring deficit they would never recover from. On Alex's first drive in the first quarter there seemed a bounce in his step eventually having to settle for a Joe Nedney field goal.
And then some interesting notes on Alex Smith he overthrew several receivers during the first half and threw a careless pass to Michael Crabtree for an interception and fumbled the ball because he didn't secure the football while taking a sack that was blatantly in his face. It just discourages the heck out of me as to why Alex hasn't been pounded enough over the last four years to know any better?
Of the things I liked that happened in the first half I have to make note of nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin who doesn't nearly get enough credit for what he does inside the trenches as one of the premier future Pro Bowl nose tackles in the league stuffing Titans running back Chris Johnson for a loss of five –yards. I also enjoyed watching Frank Gore have big runs of 35 and 13-yards as well as the touchdown he had in the second quarter of play.
Punter Andy Lee did a marvelous job at putting Tennessee in tough field position by downing the ball inside the five-yard line on several boots one being a 57-yard punt and downed at the three-yard line. 49er linebacker Parys Haralson had several plays that proved harassing like as he applied heat not just on Vince Young but on Chris Johnson as well. Alex's connection with Jason Hill at the end of the first half was his best pass of the game as he demonstrated patience and an acute ability to allow Hill to be in position while he was scrambling outside the pocket.
The 49ers by design looked to be lucky to be ahead after the first half 17-10 following a fumble and a costly interception. Still statistically they looked almost identical going into the second half except the Alex Smith of old put the ball at risk again as he was hit by a sack again with 8:59 left in the third quarter and fumbled the ball. With Tennessee again in the driver's seat they tie the score on the possession and carry momentum into the fourth quarter.
Outside of Joe Nedney field goal to go ahead once again 20-17, the 49ers find themselves helpless to stop the running game of Chris Johnson who racks up 135 total yards and 5.4-yards per carry average and two touchdowns for good measure. His ability to throw himself into a second gear once he reaches the secondary is mind-blowing and off the charts. With 6:24 left to play in the game Alex Smith throws the interception intended for Josh Morgan but who was well covered as well. This results in a field goal that puts the Titans ahead for good 27-20, as on the very next 49er possession Alex Throws yet another interception that nets the Titans another touchdown to make it 34-20. Alex would connect with Jason Hill one more time but the open ended question suddenly became quite apparent all over again as to what we have at the quarterback position is any good?
At (3-5) we are in good company with the St. Louis Rams in the division and watching Arizona pull out way ahead with absolutely no questions at the above mentioned position and an array of weapons to lean on. We are in quite clarity unable to measure up because we lack a quarterback that is battle seasoned and consistent and in conjunction an offensive line that is no ways near influential, intimidating or cohesive enough to win those important battles in the trenches from one Sunday to the next.
Mike Singletary has performed wonders this season, but the pieces to the completed puzzle have yet to be formatted to fit correctly. The ideology and philosophy has changed for the better, heck even some of the personnel have gotten even better. But the man at the helm has not and the line in front of him is still relatively broken. Alex Smith has to find a way to salvage his career right here and right now. We cannot afford another season with a wait and see type of approach with him and we must endorse that fact by being committed to drafting another quarterback in 2010.
Nate Davis may be a new sighting should the turnovers continue. With a season now on the brink of catastrophe it may not be a bad idea to consider once we head into the fourth quarter of scheduled play in December. Alex Smith still has time to find the adjustments to make his mark, but time and patience is again running thin especially from fans who have waited for far too long to be subjected to this type of woeful execution.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.