sharesShare this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Google+ Share this on Tumblr Flip into Flipboard Share this on Reddit Share via SMS Share via Email
It's the morning after the San Francisco 49ers opening week victory over the division rival Seattle Seahawks and I'm still perplexed by what I saw on the field yesterday. The 49ers 33-16 win over the Seahawks feels kind of bittersweet because, although the team is 1-0, the performance on the field (more specifically by the offensive unit) flat out disappointed.
The Offense: let's make one thing clear: Alex Smith had a really good day. It all started for him on his very first snap, which to the surprise of the majority of the fan base wasn't a run play (not by design anyways). Smith lined up with a TE and WR on each side of the formation and Frank Gore behind him and dropped back looking to deliver his first pass, once he realized nobody was open he displayed good pocket awareness, ran out of the pocket and forward for a four yard gain. Not flashy, but productive.
Support this writer and shop Amazon
Unfortunately the offensive unit as a whole once again showed its inconsistency. The pass blocking, which had been one of the biggest issues during preseason, actually held up well yesterday, and Smith's improved pocket awareness made them look even better. But the run blocking, which is one of the strengths of this unit, kept getting pushed back and stuffed by a Seahawks' defensive line that was fully determined to not make Frank Gore look like a Hall of Fame running back the way they have in the past. Make no mistake about it, Gore and the run game are still an integral part of this offense and a key for it to be successful, and because of this you have to applaud Greg Roman and Harbaugh for continuing to call run plays throughout the game even though they weren't getting the results they wanted. As a result, regardless of the low running numbers, the play action calls were being bit on by the Seahawks, and Smith had plenty of time on these plays to decide where to go to with the football. Whether he had open receivers down the field goes beyond my knowledge, but you have to appreciate the fact that he took care of the ball and didn't turn it over.
Yes, 5 out of his 15 completions gained 2 yards or less, and his passing numbers (15/20, 124 yards, 0 touchdowns) are not going to win him Player of the Week, but here's what else he had on his stat sheet: 7 rushes, 22 yards, 1 touchdown, and ZERO turnovers. Add that to the before mentioned pocket awareness and smart decision making and you can say he definitely played a big role in this win. Again: not flashy, but productive.
The Defense: Ray McDonald has arrived. I usually wait for back to back solid performances from a player before I say this about him, but in this case McDonald backed up a really solid preseason with a disruptive game yesterday. Whether as a DE in the 3-4, or as a DT in nickel packages McDonald lived in the Seahawks backfield yesterday, especially early on: on Seattle's very first possession he stopped Marshawn Lynch on 2nd&9 for a one yard gain, then on the very next play he hurried Tavaris Jackson into a throw that was completed for only a five yard gain, forcing Seattle to punt. After a roughing the kicker call put the 49ers' defense back on the field, McDonald went at it again, stopping Lynch for no gain on a 2nd&8 run play, then getting a sack on Jackson the very next play as the Seahawks' quarterback stepped up in the pocket perhaps looking to scramble forward for the first down. McDonald's stat line for the game: 6 tackles (all solo, 3 for a loss), 1 sack, 3 hits on the QB. I would take that every week.
The rest of the defensive unit wasn't too shabby either. You know it was a good defensive performance when Patrick Willis and/or Justin Smith are outperformed by a teammate, and Willis and Smith had good stat lines themselves. However, this unit too showed some inconsistencies, allowing Seattle to score 17 points in the second half after holding them to 0 in the first half. I'm still not sold on this secondary, even if often times in the first half Jackson seemingly had nowhere to go with the football. This unit will get tested a lot more in the next few games.
The Special Teams: Lets give them an A for Awesome. First of all, David Akers: don't take field goals for granted, regardless of whether they're 18-yard FG's. He got his job done each and every time he was needed to help us take and maintain the lead, and that shouldn't go unnoticed.
And then, well what can I say about Ted Ginn Jr. that hasn't already been said? Maybe just this: he is an aggressive player in the return game who isn't thinking about a fair catch unless it is cut-clear necessary. With the score 6-0 in the second quarter, Seattle's Jon Ryan (who was every bit as impressive as Andy Lee as a punter), booted a punt from just outside his endzone all the way to the 49ers 45 yard line. Ginn caught it and tried to move to his right and up-field before reversing to the left side and backwards looking for a seam to break through. He never found it. He was tackled at the 49ers 35 yard line.
His punt return for a touchdown was similar in that he goes sideways to his left keeping his eyes down the field for a seam, and once he found it his speed and elusiveness allowed him to score. So take this as a reminder that he won't always come up with a return for a touchdown, or even a return for positive yards, but it will not be for lack of effort. He brings something to the table, his aggressiveness, that the 49ers haven't had in the return game for quiet a while, and he's enough of a proven player in the return game that coaches will allow him to continue to be aggressive going forward.
It sure seems like the 49ers "got away" with this one. You had to be pretty unsure about the outcome of this game just before Ginn's kickoff return for a touchdown. Harbaugh & Co. might want to try putting away the opponent while they have the chance, because more often than not there won't be momentum-changing plays like Ginn's returns to save the day for the team. Next Sunday the Cowboys come into town and they bring with them a team that is explosive on both sides of the ball as well as in special teams, especially if Dez Bryant is returning kicks and punts. So while the conservative, play-it-safe approach worked for this week, they better bring a lot more to the table next Sunday.
Otherwise, expect the boo birds to be flying early and often.