From the sound of the frustrated crowd at Monster Park on Sunday and from the chatter online, 49ers fans may no longer be "Rollin' with Nolan." It is obvious that there is something seriously wrong with this team. It is not just the offensive line. It is not just the quarterback. It is not just the running backs or receivers. It is not just the pass rush on defense. There is something terribly wrong with this team as a whole and fans are getting fed up with the excuses.

There is a problem though. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what is wrong. The fans do not know. The players do not know. Even the coaching staff appears to not have a clue. They just keep telling fans that the problem needs to be worked on. What is the problem exactly? The problem may be too complex to simply point fingers at an single individual or group.

On Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the team looked confident coming out onto the field. The play formations being called were a bit more ambitious than fans are used to seeing. It was a welcome sight to behold. However, the team's execution of the plays was horrendous. The 49ers simply looked unprepared. The mistakes that were being made were things that you would normally see in a young expansion team. Stupid penalties, blown coverages and misguided passes were a few of the errors. A game that could have been a key turning point for the 49ers turned into a 31-10 confirmation that this team is lost, and the season that was once full of hope and excitement may now be over.

The excuses

Alex Smith was clearly in pain the entire game. This was obvious as fans watched him nurse his right shoulder after every pass. Smith was able to release the ball a lot quicker than Trent Dilfer, but it was clear that he was trying to force many situations and that his throws lacked the zip they once had prior to his injury. Keeping him in the game after some devastating hits and after the 49ers were well out of reach of a win could have turned out a lot worse than it did. Fans still want to believe in Smith, but he has shown very little this season to give them hope.

Nolan mentioned that this was still a young team. That excuse may have been fine during his rookie head coaching season when he inherited a 2-14 team from Dennis Erickson. But in his third year, three drafts later and with expectations so high, it is no longer a valid point.

"We're at 2-5, same place as last year," coach Mike Nolan said after the game on Sunday. "It's not where we'd hoped we'd be. But as we did last year, we climbed back up to .500 and got back in the (playoff) race. I would hope for us to do the same thing this year."

Nolan said it as if this statement was meant to make 49ers fans feel better. Yes, this team was 2-5 at this point last season. Does this mean that fans should be happy with a repeat of last season's 7-9 finish? Does he really expect fans to believe that this team, the same embarrassingly bad team we have watched for seven games, to get into the playoff race? This team has more talent than last season and is a year more mature. They essentially have the same offensive line, the same quarterback (although more battered), the same running back who stunned fans with a 1,695 yard finish last season, what should have been an improved group of wide receivers, and a totally revamped defense anchored on the edges by two Pro Bowl cornerbacks. Given all of this, should fans feel better knowing that last season's team had the same record as this season's at this point in the year? That is not likely to happen. But hey, Nolan hopes that somehow everything is going to be fixed in a matter of weeks and this team is going to be back in the playoff race. Again, that is not likely to happen.

The offensive line has taken a turn for the worst. This is essentially the same offensive line as last season. It is the same offensive line that helped Frank Gore break team records. In fact, Joe Staley, the team's 28th overall pick in April's NFL Draft, has looked solid overall after replacing fan favorite (please note the sarcasm) Kwame Harris at tackle. So why is this offensive line so much worse? Has age caught up with guard Larry Allen and is he too slow now? Should he have been pulled in favor of someone younger? During a year when players normally excel, is guard Justin Smiley underperforming during his contract year? Have Eric Heitmann and Jonas Jennings slipped as well? On paper, this offensive line should be solid. Instead, it appears to be a liability. One which may, once again, get Alex Smith seriously injured.

Gore did not practice this past week. Fine. That would be a good excuse for this past game. However, he has not yet reached a single 100-yard game this season. How much of that is Frank Gore and how much of that is the offensive line? At times, you can see holes open up. Gore simply will not hit them as fast as he would last season. However, the underachievement by the offensive line likely has a good deal to do with Gore's lack of productivity as well.

The defense is on the field too long due to the offense's inability to sustain a drive. They are just way too tired to keep up. Is that why, during their first drive of the game, the Saints were able to easily move down the field for the score? In fact, Drew Brees' first pass of the game was a 43 yard completion to receiver David Patten, who made 49ers cornerback Nate Clements, the team's $80 million free agent signed during the offseason, bite on a fake outside. Maybe Clements was tired. The team's other Pro Bowl cornerback, Walt Harris, did not wow anyone with his play either as Brees was able to complete almost 80% of his passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker Patrick Willis, the 49ers' 11th overall selection in April, has been one of the team's few bright spots this season and consistently receives praises from the coaching staff and can be seen every Sunday chasing down ball carriers, even when he is tired and has been on the field too long.

According to Nolan, offensive coordinator Jim Hostler is calling the plays that need to be called. Ok, he has been a bit more aggressive in his play calling over the last couple of weeks, but he has had to become more aggressive due to the team's lack of productivity. Perhaps the players were not prepared for this type of change and the team's boring and predictable play calling earlier in the season may have hurt their ability to transition to a style of offense that was...well...more "offensive."

Nolan's support level may be falling

This is Nolan's team. This is the team that he has had three offseasons to build. Regardless of the reasons for the team's lack of productivity, Nolan will shoulder most of the blame. He is the head coach and it comes with the territory. He was once looked at as the team's savior. He was to be the man that was going to get the 49ers back to where they belonged; among the NFL's elite. While that may still happen, this season appears to be lost and most of that must fall on the head coach. Expectations were high and now fans are beginning to wonder if this team will win another game. While the 49ers are better having tackle Joe Staley on the team, fans are forced to wonder what might have been with the team's 2008 first round draft pick. The New England Patriots now own the pick in a move that enabled the 49ers to acquire Staley. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots can go undefeated and still make their first selection in the top five of round one come April.

Nolan's vision for this team is not working. However, it may be his own stubbornness that may be the cause for the team's lack of improvement. The team has weapons at its disposal. They just do not seem to be putting everything together and working off of the same page. The team has a deep threat in receiver Ashley Lelie, who has been watching most of the season from the sidelines. He may not be the best route runner on the team and may be out of place at times, but use his speed on the outside to stretch the field. Vernon Davis, who is one of the most physical players on the team was not targeted often enough early in the season prior to being injured. Now that he is back, see what he can do by getting the ball into his hands more often. His ability to catch the ball has improved as the season has gone on. The solution to the offensive problem may be to look even further outside of the box from what Nolan is used to or wants. If changes are not made soon, fans may begin to feel that the past three seasons have been a complete waste.

Maybe the team can rebound and end the season strong, but fans clinging to the hope of contending in the NFC West or making the playoffs are just kidding themselves. So as fans watch Tom Brady and his 2007 Patriots, who may be one of the best teams ever, easily handle their opponents just as 49ers teams from the glory years once did, they get to also suffer through watching a bad San Francisco football team. In fact, it could be one of the worst 49ers teams seen in almost three decades. This probably was not what owner John York envisioned when he sought out to reinvent his image, giving Nolan full control of the team and hoping to make fans happy again with a competitive San Francisco squad. The season can be resurrected, but one has to wonder if it is too late.

Do you have an idea why this team is underachieving or how they might be able to fix it? Submit a comment below.