Upon Further Review: 49ers Un-Luck-y Versus Colts

Sep 26, 2013 at 2:48 AM

Well...that was ugly, wasn't it? In what might have been the most uninspired effort of the Harbaugh era, the 49ers napped through most of last week's showdown with the Colts...and it showed. For the first time in two seasons, the 49ers have lost back to back games and the bandwagon is beginning to empty.

This week, we'll be focusing on what the f%#k went wrong, why it went wrong, and what to expect from the resident heroes of 49erland going forward.

It's Deja Vu, All Over Again
Last week's game was eerily similar to the 49ers implosion against Seattle. The 49er offense looked like it was stuck in neutral, Colin Kaepernick looked frazzled, receivers could not get open and ultimately, the defense buckled after being asked to stay on the field for over 36 minutes. The big issues with the 49er offense were twofold...they abandoned a perfectly effective running attack, and their passing attack never got going.

There are some who view the first consecutive losses of the Harbaugh era as a harbinger of things to come for the 49ers...but that's not really the case. The 49ers offense looked bad for a reason, and the reason isn't because they're backsliding. The 49ers did not magically start sucking...Colin Kaepernick didn't suddenly forget how to read a defense...the coaches did not suddenly forget how to game plan. The plain truth is that the 49ers missed Vernon Davis. Badly.

Davis is a big enough threat that opposing defenses will almost always dedicate a linebacker and/or a defensive back to him...and even if he's bracketed, he can STILL make plays. In addition to his offensive ability, Davis is a more than capable blocker. All in all, he is among the NFL's best at his position.

Last Sunday, Vance McDonald was asked to be Vernon...and he is not among the NFL's best tight ends. Don't get me wrong...the kid has a boatload of potential. He's big, fast and fluid...but he isn't the world's best blocker. Add to that the fact that he has yet to develop a real rapport with Kap, and you have the beginning of the 49ers problem last week: the 49ers had no real offensive threat through the air (certainly not at TE, anyway)...and that allowed the Colts defense to single up almost every 49ers receiver, sending extra defensive pressure at will, which completely flummoxed the offense.

Running on Empty
Though the 49er passing attack was completely useless last week, the running game was more than effective...for awhile anyway. On the 49ers first offensive possession, Frank Gore gained over 60 yards. For the game, he averaged over 7 yards per carry. Whenever he touched the ball, great things happened. He was awesome.

After the 2nd quarter, he touched the ball 3 times. Maybe it's just me...but I think that's pretty silly. With Crabtree out and Vernon hobbled, Gore is the best offensive option available...especially behind a wall of Staley, Iupati, Goodwin, Boone and Davis. If the 49ers are going to bridge the gap between where they are now and where they need to be to compete against the league's best teams, they'll need to do it on the back of Frank the Tank.

Next Up
On a short week, the 49ers have to hit the road to take on the Rams...a team that plays them very, very tough. The Rams are off to a slow start, but make no mistake, this game is going to be knockdown, drag out brawl. This is not a game that the 49ers can afford to lose. This is not a game that the 49ers can afford to play "cute." This is a game that requires Coaches Harbaugh and Roman to go back to their "ground and pound" roots.

In the event that Vernon Davis is out (or playing, but limited) expect the 49ers to dial up a run heavy game plan that will take advantage of the Rams' penchant for aggressive defensive play. Look for Frank Gore to get in excess of 20 touches, and for the 49ers to use scheme (read: play action) to create opportunities through the air. There is a real chance for the 49ers to win this game...but for that to happen, they must do what comes naturally instead of forcing the issue. It's time for the 49ers to feed Frank.

2-Minute Drill
*Since Aldon Smith's DUI and subsequent trip to rehab, everyone and their mother has taken the opportunity to fling hate at Aldon, the 49ers, Coach Harbaugh and anyone else within spitting distance of the situation. In my estimation, all of the idiots yammering about the situation are missing its most critical aspect: Aldon Smith needs help...and right now he's getting it.

*In case any of you have missed it, Colin Kaepernick has been "favoriting" some of the more choice Twitter hate sent his way. He's always seemed to be a guy that plays football with a chip on his shoulder...and it looks like he may be trying to get it back.

*As much as I'd love to think that Anquan Boldin is due for a huge game...it has become painfully evident that he's a player that needs a scheme to be effective. Don't be surprised to see him lined up in the slot on Thursday night in an effort to get him more opportunities through the air.

*Just wondering...is EVERY big hit by a 49er defender this season going to draw a flag? Here's hoping that tackling is still legal by season's end.

*With Aldon Smith inactive format least the next 4 weeks, look for Corey Lemonier to see significantly more playing time...and how well he does will play a huge part in the 49ers defensive success (or lack thereof) for the remainder of the season. I'm eager to see what he does in St. Louis.

Picks for Week 4

Bears at Lions (-3)

The Lions are at home, and have what might be the best receiver in the league...and they'll still probably lose to the Bears, who are a better team, player for player. BEARS.

Bengals (-4.5) at Browns

The Browns shocked the world last week, winning a game that they should have lost by all rights. This week, they take on a peaking Bengals team that k.o.'d the Packers last week. Even though they're at home, the Browns won't be shocking anyone. BENGALS.

Cardinals at Buccaneers (-3)

The Cardinals are reeling from an absolute beat down at the hands of the Saints...and the Bucs are in complete disarray. Both teams are falling apart...but the home team gets the edge here. BUCCANEERS.

Colts (-8) at Jaguars

The Jaguars are quite possibly the worst team in the league this season. The Colts aren't as good as the score of their last game...but that won't matter this week. The Jags couldn't win this game if they played it in Madden 25. COLTS.

Giants at Chiefs (-4)

The G-men are falling apart...and the Chiefs are coming together. Though the Giants aren't as bad as their start (or last week's score), they won't win at Arrowhead. CHIEFS.

Ravens (-3.5) at Bills

The Ravens are tough in Baltimore...but they're on the road this week. BILLS.

Seahawks (-3) at Texans

This is the second of five early starts for the Seahawks this season...and I expect that will begin to wear on them. TEXANS.

Steelers (-1) at Vikings

The Steelers are reeling...and the Vikings can't close. Someone will accidentally win this game, and I'm going with the home team. VIKINGS.

Jets at Titans (-4)

Jake Locker might be the worst starting QB I have ever seen. JETS.

Cowboys (-2) at Chargers

The Cowboys have to show that they can win on the road. At this point, I'm not sure that they can. CHARGERS.

Eagles at Broncos (-10.5)

Chuck n' duck football scores fantasy points (see Michael Vick)...but doesn't win football games (see Red Gun, Fun Gun, etc). BRONCOS.

Redskins (-3.5) at Raiders

The Redskins defense is awful...and the Raider offense is showing signs of life. It won't be pretty, but the home team will pull this one out. RAIDERS.

Patriots at Falcons (-1.5)

Tommy Terrific will do what he does best...especially against a suddenly vulnerable Falcon team. PATRIOTS.

Dolphins at Saints (-6.5)

Okay, now I'm buying on Tannehill. And so are his teammates. Unfortunately for the suddenly relevant Dolphins, they get the Saints at home...and that will not end well for the upstarts. SAINTS.

49ers (-3) at Rams

With the way the 49ers played last week, it's a bit shocking to see them as a road favorite...even against the apparently hapless Rams. The Rams matchup well against the 49ers, and Jeff Fisher is a good coach, regardless of his team's record. If the 49ers do the smart thing and feed Frank (a lot), they'll wear down the Rams defensive front, create opportunities via play action and ultimately pull this one out. It won't be a blowout, but...49ERS.

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  • Shane
    Good job taking the 9ers AJ, nice win tonight. Two big concerns I see. The departure of walker was a lose-lose. We really miss him. They are trying to use miller in that role and its just not the same. He can't catch or run routes nearly as well. Walker wanted to be a num 1 well now he is and he had better numbers in SF, and was with a SB team. 2. Keep is NOT seeing the field this year. I'm sure you watched the game tonight, how do you miss VD WIDE OPEN on a roll out for a potential 90 yard TD!? He missed miller wide open, and other checks too. He has to start seeing the field better plain n simple. Your thoughts.
    Sep 26, 2013 at 9:46 PM
    Response: (AJ) Shane, this team is not without its faults. Much of what you saw from Kap was by design. The 49ers almost completely based their passing attack off of play action with designed rollouts, which essentially cut the field in half. It creates high percentage opportunities...and it worked. It won't always work, but what they did can be built upon. You'll see more designed deep looks for Vernon...and they'll be successful. But we'll need to see better blocking from Vance McDonald before that happens. He's just okay right now. As it pertains to Miller, he's usually not much more that a check down option...but a VERY solid check down option. He's not Delanie Walker, but he's improving week over week.
  • Monsterniner
    They were losing on purpose to kill those annoying bandwagoners of our fanbase
    Sep 26, 2013 at 9:30 PM
    Response: (AJ) This made me LoL. Well played.
  • Adam U.
    Don't you think the difference at this point between the niners and Seattle is Seattle's overall team depth? Seattle hasn't had Harvin, but they are still able to throw the ball effectively. Heck, I'd trade for their #4 WR Kearse or #5 WR Williams. Those guys look like better options than Boldin at this point. We already picked up the rookie WR Harper that couldn't make Seattle's team. If they lost Lynch, do you think they couldn't run the ball with Turbin? or Michael? That kid looked great last week, and he's the 3rd string! Browner is out, but Thurmond looks solid in his place. They lost their Pro Bowl left tackle, and they still managed to pass oblock and run the ball with the LG sliding over. They just got back Clemons, and won't get Irvin back until week 5, but they are putting pressure on the QB better than they did last year, and are effectively stopping the run. I just don't see the same depth at WR, RB, OL, DL, and DB for the niners. Perhaps at LB. Even QB, if Wilson went down, Jackson put up stupid good numbers in the preseason, and last week in garbage time against Jacksonville, he was perfect. Does anyone think this is still a playoff team if Colt McCoy is starting?
    Sep 26, 2013 at 4:29 PM
    Response: (AJ) Adam, I've watched each of Seattle's games this season. The fact is that they are very good at home...and painfully average on the road. Let's see them win against a quality road opponent before conceding anything. As far as their depth goes, yes...they are a very deep team. But don't let the 49ers two consecutive losses poison the well on our backups. There are more than a few gifted youngsters on this team...and I promise you that they'll show up before season's end.
  • Terry B.
    I think you're oversimplifying a little. No team should completely fall apart because their TE misses a game or two. If you do, you're not a good team. The real problem is a lack of quality receivers across the board. Boldin is a big plodding number two masquerading as a number one, and he can easily be taken away with a double team. And then there's no one else. As has been noted elsewhere, when throwing to Boldin, Kaepernick has a 112.5 QB rating. To Moore, Patton and Williams, his ratings dip to 42.4, 39.6 and 24.3 respectively. Our receivers suck.
    Sep 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM
    Response: (AJ) I agree to some extent, Terry. The larger point is that most TEs aren't a viable deep threat. The long and short of it is that this team needs a rookie to step up, Manningham to return, AND a healthy Vernon Davis to get where they want to be this season. As much as people are holding out hope for Crabtree's return, I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Debra
    Thanks for the input AJ. I was wondering what happened to my 49ers. I do not follow the stats or talk football, but I have watched the 49ers for over 45 years. I was shocked how missing a few important players caused the team to fall apart. DP
    Sep 26, 2013 at 10:35 AM
    Response: (AJ) No sweat, Debra. The 49ers rolled the dice with younger players this season, and landed some good ones. But injuries are going to force those youngsters into action much sooner than anticipated. The net result is that inexperienced players will be taking the field. While I believe they'll get better, this team has some jelling to do if they want to turn their season around .

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