O'Sullivan, ground game were no match

October, 23, 2008
10/23/08
11:49
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers' game against the Giants in Week 7 will be remembered as the final game of the Mike Nolan era in San Francisco. Let us also remember it as one of the more forgettable games Frank Gore and the 49ers' offensive line are likely to endure.

Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan provided the only rushing first down. The Giants shut down the 49ers ground game in every aspect, particularly when San Francisco used the two-tight end groupings that worked so well in previous games.

Those with sturdy constitutions are welcome to digest the full breakdown. This Excel file features one sheet summarizing the 49ers' production by personnel group in Week 7 and another sheet with play-by-play information sortable by quarter, drive number, down, distance, yard line, personnel, play type, ball carrier, yards gained and more.

A few things that stood out in watching this game closely:

  • The Giants have a very good defensive line even without Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.
  • The 49ers expected right tackle Barry Sims to block the Giants' Justin Tuck, with disastrous results late in the game. A quick look at the plays in question:
1. First-and-10 from the San Francisco 32 on the 49ers' 11th possession. Tuck tackles Frank Gore for a 2-yard loss.
2. First-and-10 from the San Francisco 20 on the 49ers' 12th possession. Tuck beats Sims to sack J.T. O'Sullivan and force a fumble, which the Giants recovered.
3. First and 10 from the San Francisco 36 on the 49ers' 13th and final possession. Tuck beats Sims to sack O'Sullivan and force another fumble.
  • Niners tight end Vernon Davis, though a relatively good blocker, could not handle Mathias Kiwanuka in the running game.
  • O'Sullivan did not appear comfortable or confident. The Giants had much to do with this, but there seemed to be no plausible explanation for the second-and-9 throw to a wide-open Isaac Bruce in the second quarter. O'Sullivan missed him by several yards.
  • The interception on the pass to Josh Morgan against the blitz seemed curious. O'Sullivan threw the ball as if he expected Morgan, a rookie, to adjust his route. If that weren't the case, this would qualify as a very poor decision by O'Sullivan.
  • Gore was mostly effective in picking up the blitz. In watching him against the Saints earlier this season, I noticed Gore rarely blocked anyone when he stayed in the backfield as a pass protector. Gore said the Saints did a good job baiting him into staying in protection. Against the Giants, Gore picked up James Butler nicely to set up an 11-yard pass to Bruce.

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