Thursday, December 15, 2011
2011 49ers Week 14: Five observations
By Mike Sando
Five things I noticed while watching the San Francisco 49ers during their most recent game, a 21-19 defeat at Arizona in Week 5:
- Great receiver blocking continues. Josh Morgan, now on injured reserve, has stood out for the 49ers in that area for years. Michael Crabtree has made a statement with his blocking this season. Braylon Edwards was the one violently shoving Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson twice during Frank Gore's 20-yard run late in the first quarter. Edwards was the only wide receiver on the field. He was one of the most effective blockers on the field for this play. This has been a tough season for Edwards. Those types of plays indicate effort is not the problem.
- So close with Ted Ginn Jr. The 49ers aren't quite as conservative as it sometimes seems on offense. They've come close to connecting on deep passes to Ginn. A questionable penalty for a chop block negated a 75-yard touchdown strike to Ginn at Baltimore. Ginn beat Cardinals cornerback A.J. Jefferson deep for what should have been a 51-yard touchdown Sunday. Ginn lost track of the ball and could not make the catch. Cardinals defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday ran past guard Mike Iupati to pressure and hit Alex Smith on the play, but the ball was gone when Holliday made contact. The ball almost hit Ginn. I would expect the 49ers to keep trying. They'll connect on one of these eventually.
- Red zone chances galore. The 49ers' No. 32 ranking in red zone touchdown percentage is well earned. It was tough to figure how they failed to find the end zone after getting first-and-goal from the 4 in the second quarter. Smith appeared to miss Edwards with a back-shoulder throw on first down, but upon replaying the sequence in slow motion, I think Jefferson tugged at Edwards' collar, delaying Edwards' pursuit of the ball. It was subtle and tough to see at full speed. Edwards didn't even complain about it. Perhaps it was inconsequential. The play just seemed too straightforward for Smith and Edwards to miss. A run went nowhere on second down. The 49ers went with 22 personnel on third down, with Edwards as the lone wideout. Smith could find no one open. Another wide receiver on the field wouldn't seem to hurt.
- 49ers nearly knocked out two QBs. Cardinals starter Kevin Kolb dropped back to pass twice in this game. The 49ers hit him both times. They knocked him out with a concussion on the second one. Backup John Skelton narrowly avoided a massive hit. Safety Dashon Goldson, one of the 49ers' hardest hitters, missed high by a few inches when Skelton slid with the ball at the last moment. Goldson smashed into teammate Aldon Smith instead, accidentally delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit that briefly shook Smith. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman had flushed Skelton from the pockety by bulling over running back Chester Taylor in pass protection. The 49ers can be so physical on defense. This play showed how.
- Alex Boone passes initial test. Backup tackle is an important position for the 49ers after their starter on the left side, Joe Staley, missed seven games in each of the last two seasons. Boone signed a contract extension last week, then stepped into the lineup Sunday when a concussion forced Staley from the game early. The 49ers' offensive line had lost of problems, but most seemed to stem from the interior. Boone held up well in pass protection, even in obvious passing situations. The 49ers' money appeared well spent.
Looking ahead, I'll be interested in seeing how the 49ers defend Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace. Unlike the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, who hurt the 49ers from the slot, Wallace has lined up almost exclusively on the perimeter this season.