Remember all of the complaining early in the season regarding the uninspiring play of the 49ers offense, even after their 2-0 start? At this point in the season, fans would take any win, even an ugly one. Last Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints was a must win situation because it was an opportunity for the team to turn things around and be only one game under .500. This Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons was a must win situation because it was probably the best and last chance that the 49ers had or will have this season to show some signs of life against an opponent.

The Falcons owned a 1-6 record which ranked them second to last in the NFC. On offense, their NFL ranking was 20th in passing and 25th in rushing. On defense, they ranked 20th against the pass and 23rd against the rush. It was a great opportunity for the 49ers to steal a win and finally gain something that they have attempted to acquire since their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers during week 3...some confidence.

Next week, the 49ers will play on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks. It will be an excellent opportunity for the 49ers to show the entire nation how very bad they are. At this point, there is little confidence that this team could beat anyone in the league. If not for two plays, the 49ers may be 0-8 right now. Despite high hopes by the players and fans that this was a team destined to make their return to the postseason, instead, they may be the worst team in the NFL. A great reward to the fans that suffered through the Dennis Erickson era and two and a half seasons of rebuilding by head coach Mike Nolan.

In the past, I would sit down after a game, review the game footage and maybe throw together an article breaking down some of the team's key mistakes, but why torture myself again by re-watching yet another poor performance? Week in and week out, it is the same issues with this team. The team is unprepared, the offensive line underperforms, the play calling is questionable, the quarterback's passes are way off target, the receivers drop balls, the cornerbacks falter and the pass rush is almost nonexistent. The only good things about this team are their punter and rookie linebacker who are playing with more passion than the entire team combined. And Patrick Willis, the linebacker just mentioned, broke a bone in his hand during the game in Atlanta. Despite having more talent on the team than previous seasons, the 49ers can't put it all together for a win and have dropped six straight.

In the past, some fans have defended Nolan and his franchise quarterback, Alex Smith. However, as this season has turned into such a disaster, it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to do so.

Nolan is not making changes to improve this team nor is he aware of what the team's problems may be. With the season pretty much over for the 49ers, this is Nolan's opportunity to try some things that he normally would not. Take over some of the offensive play calling and be a little more aggressive, make a few changes along the offensive line, start receiver Ashley Lelie, give receiver Jason Hill some playing time, or give some of the other younger members of the team more opportunities. At this point in the season, it would not hurt and almost anything is worth a shot. The 49ers should not throw in the towel, but they should try to look toward next season and end this one on a high note.

As for Alex Smith, his issues are not entirely his fault. Sure, a lot of his throws are not on target, but some are and his receivers are just dropping the passes. That is not the worst of it. While he showed some toughness by playing through pain last week against the Saints, during most of his games this season, he has not shown much intensity or passion. In the NFL, the quarterbacks that show passion during wins and losses are typically the ones that become successful leaders and earn the respect of the players around them. Guys like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre show excitement during wins and are vocal on the sidelines during losses or even close games. Tom Brady shows his passion for the game when someone does something wrong and is there to make sure they are aware of their mistakes.

Alex Smith on the other hand looks like he is just going through the motions. He is there to play his role on the team and not there to try and win games by himself. This philosophy set by the coaching staff has made Smith very subdued. If someone makes a mistake on third down, he just pouts and and heads back to the sidelines. Smith is not one to get into other players' faces, something former 49er and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young would often do. Smith seems very unsure of himself and has never been given the opportunity to discover how good he could possibly be. He sometimes shows flashes of greatness with an occasional great play or gutsy move, but those instances are too few and far between. It would be nice to see him get into the faces of some of the receivers when they drop the ball. It certainly would make the players on the team respect him more and accept him as their leader. Smith has never matured from that wide eyed rookie playing in a game that was too fast and furious for him to keep up with.

During the offseason, Smith felt that the game had started to slow down a lot and his confidence grew. This showed during his first two preseason games against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders when Smith would outshine the overhyped Jay Cutler and looked good against a solid Raiders starting pass defense. He looked like a gun slinger and excited fans with the possibilities that were ahead. Since then, he has gone back to being a role player rather than a threatening weapon and it has shown in his attitude and composure.

The 49ers' season is in dire need of rescue. While the playoffs are out of the picture, the need to begin to form an identity during these final games, the identity that the team started to form toward the end of last season, is very important. The team has a good core of young players to built upon.

And for those who want to keep telling themselves, "It is not the end of the world yet. There are no good teams in the NFC West. There is plenty of football to play this season," exactly what have you seen in these first nine weeks that makes you think that this team can begin to perform like winners? We must be watching different games.

After years of fans waiting and building hope, this team has come full circle and is once again the joke of the NFL. The 2007 49ers are done and there is plenty of blame to spread around. How much more pathetic play should the Faithful endure?