The 49ers came out strong on offense and moved the ball down the field. They were in rhythm. They ran the ball well and they passed it well. Then Harbaugh/Roman decided to start playing with their toys instead of continuing to play the football that has resulted in victories. On four occasions they brought in Kaepernick in the middle of a nice drive and in 3 of those 4 situations the play was stuffed and it put the 49ers in a hole that resulted in a punt. Instead of continuing to run the ball the way they started they went to the passing game with some very predictable stuff that the Giants shut down easily. From there on the offense just went down hill. The Giants had scouted 49er tendencies very well. They took away Vernon Davis and with Davis gone, there were easily able to defend Crabtree and Manningham one-on-one which left the safeties to double and play the ball. Alex Smith was due for an off day and he had one but give the Giants credit for disguising coverages which made it even worse for Smith. The result was a mess.
While the Giants were pounding Alex Smith with constant pressure, the 49er defense wasn't even in the same area code with Eli Manning. A good QB like Manning will kill any secondary, and when you add in a top level WR like Victor Cruz, it is child's play. His threat took the 49ers out of the standard coverages and left others wide open. (Exposed the 49ers need for a true #1 receiver along the way.) Kevin Gilbride stayed with the run game and as the front 7 began to tire from the fruitless attempts to pressure Manning, the run game put the 49ers into dreamland. Those gashes look like the San Andreas Fault. They were huge and distructive.
On Special Teams...well, that gives me a headache. Something is missing. It is hard to believe that the loss of Jones' speed and Costanza personality have made this much difference but those are the only obvious things to be seen.
Which brings me to coaching: The miscues started with the aforementioned Kapernick packages. Not only had NY scouted them well and stuffed them, they also came in the middle of drives that were in rhythm and were moving. Nothing against CK but changing things up at a time that they team was moving the ball against a quality defense just made no sense. It was Harbaugh just playing with toys and it backfired big time. Secondly, the offensive game plan was a virtual copy of what they tried to do against the Giants in the NFCC game. Nothing new other than the CK "surprises." Yes, MM had a couple of nice catches but Crabtree was completely shut down...again and Williams didn't seem to be in the picture much at all. In the meantime, screen passes, which are normally a good way to beat pressure, just were not in the game plan at all. With Gore seemingly given the day off after the first 13 minutes of the game, the 49ers were a one-dimensional train wreck from then on.
Defensively the failure to pressure Manning was the single greatest deciding factor. This area befuddles me. When I first heard Vic Fangio was coming to SF as the defensive coordinator I was delighted. I've long been an admirer of the pressure schemes Dom Capers runs and the fact that Fangio tutored under Fangio led me to believe, or should I say hope, that Fangio would bring some of that and turn loose the tremendous LB talent on this team to make life miserable for opposing QBs. DISAPPOINTMENT is a mild word for how I feel about that. Instead of creative schemes that allow LBs to "do their thing," Fangio seems to be content to play the mano-a-mano style where you just hope your guy can beat their guy. Well, as we have seen, in this league one team rarely has that much of a talent gap so excepting the few occasions where Aldon Smith or Brooks have beaten their guy, consistent QB pressure remains missing on the team. Against a QB of the quality of Eli Manning, that spells disaster. Just as Buffalo found out against the 49ers last week, if you do not pressure a good QB, you are going to get shredded.
It is the job of coaches to put players in a position to succeed, and very often that comes down to scheme. Today, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman got taken out behind the woodshed for a coaching lesson from Tom Coughlin, Perry Fewell and Kevin Gilbride. Let's hope they learned from the lesson, and in a hurry. A very good Seattle team is coming in just three days.
[ Edited by dj43 on Oct 14, 2012 at 6:21 PM ]