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Having lost two of our last three contests, every 49er fan from the West Coast to the East Coast is wondering what is in store next for our anemic offense that seems to find no realistic conclusions to its dilemma whenever it is in the red zone? Time and time again we see a David Akers field goal being the only compliment to a hard drive down the field and the opponent's defense celebrating because it limited us once again to just three.
Playing games like Jim Harbaugh does close to the vest results in these types of games where only one mistake can be devastating to the final outcome of a game sometimes. Our offense is seemingly incapable of assisting in providing a comfortable point differential for our defense and special teams to work in unison with. We have to try and solve this ineffectiveness now rather than later with real playoff implications at stake.
We are all proud of where we are and what we have accomplished. Being the National Football Conference Western Division Champions is an honor all by itself even though it is perceived to be the weakest division in the league. Defeating many of the teams we have played outside the division is still a real indicator of who we are and what we stand for. I believe we can play with anyone as long as our offense is also a defining contributor.
Having seen the aftermath of the Arizona game where we were defeated 21-19 because primarily due to lack of execution is a serious concern for all of us as we try and position ourselves to be the No#2 seed in the National Football Conference just underneath the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Our defense has been called upon countless times to keep a game close and our offense to do just enough to secure the victory, on this past Sunday it was a culmination of both stumbling right out of the gate.
With a 6-0 lead in the second quarter and approximately 8:32 left, San Francisco lined up for a field goal and a defined trick. Due to a late whistle on the part of the officials spotting an Arizona challenge on the previous play, the Andy Lee toss to 49er center Jonathan Goodwin was negated that would've set-up a first and goal at the Arizona one-yard line. A malfunction in the replay system was also a culprit to our ensuing misery to boot.
Then the aftermath was that the challenge flag wiped out the play and David Akers missed the ensuing 50-yard field-goal attempt. On the very next play Arizona Cardinal Quarterback John Skelton hit wide receiver Early Doucet for a 60-yard touchdown pass that would turn momentum towards their favor the rest of the way. Still there were opportunities presented in this game to twist that momentum back in our favor between dropped passes and under-thrown passes Alex Smith struggled to get on track in this game because of the relentless pressure he faced almost on every snap of the ball.
18 sacks in three games is an outrageous amount of sacks in the statistic type world and one our offensive line should ultimately be ashamed of. We have not been able to fix this problem since the Baltimore onslaught that initiated it one Thursday Night on the NFL Network. Personnel replacements, lack of executing one's known position assignments and inability to adjust in picking up blitzes is spelling doom and gloom for our offense to convert on third downs.
Sometimes as observed we play too conservatively, running the ball as if that is the only safe thing to do. Using the aerial weapons we have to stretch the field and reach a first down marker has been a drought of some sorts in particular games that I have watched. Using two tight end sets with Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis in conjunction with getting Alex outside of the pocket to prevent its potential collapse is something we must reconsider in doing.
The coaching staff does deserve credit in this specific game to try and pass more often. However the deep passes never connected and many of the shorter ones were terribly inaccurate sometimes due to ensuing pressure. Alex Smith is genuinely being beaten to death as the offensive line is at a loss in being able to define and defend against a multitude of exotic and sometimes even basic blitz packages. Smith again shares some blame for not anticipating the blitz himself and in getting rid of the ball faster to thwart an oncoming sack.
But real pass protection is sorely needed if Smith is to feel more comfortable and to assist in his confidence to become more accurate as well. Opposing teams like even a struggling team such as the Arizona Cardinals will use these pressure packages to further destroy and disrupt Alex's confidence should we not shutdown these types of attacks and provide him more seconds in which to execute with better precision. Elite teams we will be faced with are in far better position because their high-powered offenses already are in sync in protecting their quarterbacks such as the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
The San Francisco 49ers has scored a touchdown on three of their last 19 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Everything else is a glaring need to adopt and transform real change. The coaching staff especially under offensive coordinator Greg Roman has their work cut out for them in trying to solve the ineptness of this offense to score more points in the red zone. More risks will have to be taken against some of the elite we are about to play against. It is that simple. Alex has been made into what many call a, "game manager of sorts." That stigma sticks still to this day.
Winning is still the ultimate goal no matter how we get there to achieve it. The San Francisco 49ers must use more of its playmaker weapons to build a point differential to off-set a high-scoring offense that is capable of driving down the field at will such as the Packers are very capable of doing. Our eggs cannot be confined to one basket in our defense, balance has to be achieved and some of those eggs must be the result of Smith and company's ability to find a pair of hands and feet to reach that end zone.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.