NFC West: 49ers-Eagles

Something 49ers hadn't done since 1996

October, 2, 2011
From ESPN Stats & Information: "The San Francisco 49ers scored the game's final 21 points to win consecutive non-divisional road games for the first time since 1996, and snapped a five-game losing streak to the Philadelphia Eagles."

Check out the list at Pro Football Reference.
The San Francisco 49ers have a 2-0 record on the road as part of their 3-1 overall record.

That puts them in good early position within the NFC West, where road victories figure to be elusive this season.

If the 49ers are competent at home and better than their division rivals on the road, their chances for an NFC West title increase significantly. And if the 49ers can win the division, they'll qualify for the postseason.

It's early, of course, but as the chart from Elias Sports Bureau shows teams winning their first two road games have qualified for the playoffs 68.3 percent of the time since 2002.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they let a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against Dallas slip away at home. Otherwise, they'd be 4-0 and commanding this division, not just leading it.

In-depth look at the 49ers' offense

December, 21, 2009
Mike Singletary is genuine and I think that's one of the main reasons players respond well to him. They know he's not trying to fool anyone.

That genuineness is one of the things I appreciate about his news conferences. Singletary isn't always expansive on sensitive subjects, but he seems honest. His latest session -- the 49ers have the video here -- begins with detailed assessments for each of the team's three interceptions during its 27-13 defeat at Philadelphia in Week 15.

Tight end Vernon Davis was primarily responsible for the first one. The Eagles tricked quarterback Alex Smith on the second one, using tactics the Titans also employed. Smith made a poor decision on the third one.

More broadly, Singletary said the 49ers came into the game wanting to run the ball quite a bit, but the plan changed when they fell behind, 20-3. The explanation makes sense, but the 49ers' personnel choices early in the game baffled me some. The 49ers went two-plus quarters before running one snap from the Frank Gore-friendly base offense featuring fullback Moran Norris, two receivers and one tight end.

The 49ers did not turn to their base offense in a meaningful way until after Smith's 12-yard scoring pass to Josh Morgan closed the deficit to 20-13. Gore immediately busted a 37-yard run, followed by a 6-yard run, from this grouping. Smith failed to complete a pass in his only three attempts from base personnel, but it's not like he was consistently effective from any of the other groups, either.

Silver linings: 49ers at Eagles

December, 21, 2009
The facts: The 49ers fell to 6-8 with a 27-13 road defeat to the Eagles in Week 15.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • The 49ers fought back from a 20-3 deficit and trailed only 20-13 in the fourth quarter.
  • Frank Gore topped 100 yards rushing, ending the Eagles' streak of 23 regular-season and postseason games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
  • Receiver Josh Morgan's 52-yard kickoff return gave the 49ers a spark to start the second half, setting up a drive to a field goal. Morgan caught a touchdown pass on the 49ers' next drive.
  • Dre Bly and Shawntae Spencer each picked off passes for the 49ers.
  • The 49ers downed two of Andy Lee's four punts inside the 20.
  • San Francisco converted three times in four fourth-down plays.
  • Linebacker Takeo Spikes made stops for no gain on consecutive short-yardage plays. He tackled Michael Vick on third-and-1 and Leonard Weaver on fourth-and-1.
Looking ahead: The 49ers face the Lions at home in Week 16.

Wrap-up: Eagles 27, 49ers 13

December, 20, 2009
The 49ers remained close well into the fourth quarter despite playing poorly on the road against a superior team. They lost, eliminating them from playoff contention, and that will hurt for a while.

But this outcome should not come as a surprise or stand as a significant setback. This is what happens when decent teams with potential play important games against playoff-caliber opposition.

The game will be used to evaluate Alex Smith's fitness as the 49ers' long-term quarterback, and his interceptions will make it tough to argue on his behalf. It's fair to note that plenty of quarterbacks, including some established ones, have struggled against the Eagles' defense.

Smith's performance should serve more as a learning experience than as a closing argument. It was unrealistic to think he would suddenly become good enough to outduel Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia.

That doesn't render the evidence irrelevant. The 49ers needed more from Smith in this game. They failed to convert even once on third down, revisiting a problem that doomed them against the Seahawks two weeks ago. That reflects poorly on a quarterback.

The 49ers need Smith to play better in the final two games. The Lions and Rams should help make that happen.

49ers' offense needs more on third down

December, 20, 2009
The 49ers have zero conversions in eight third-down plays against the Eagles.

Throw in three Alex Smith interceptions and the 49ers are fortunate to be within striking distance of the Eagles with 14 minutes remaining.

Third down was a problem for the 49ers in their most recent defeat. They converted only one time in 13 chances against Seattle in Week 13.

Fox will carry 49ers-Eagles, but where?

December, 19, 2009
The NFL's decision to move back the 49ers-Eagles game to 4:15 p.m. ET over weather concerns could affect whether the game is televised in your area.

Fox will still televise the game, the NFL said in a news release. But some people expecting to see 49ers-Eagles in their markets will not see the game because the 4:15 p.m. ET slot competes with Packers-Steelers.

J.P. Kirby of does a great job projecting which games appear in which markets. He is not yet sure how this will affect viewership, but it's looking like far fewer people will see the 49ers. I'll pass along information as Iget it.

Update: Here ya go.

49ers-Eagles kickoff moved back for snow

December, 19, 2009
49ers president Jed York has spoken out against early kickoff times for West Coast teams.

The league has shrugged in reply.

A massive snowstorm in Philadelphia has given the 49ers a reprieve Sunday, with the NFL pushing back the kickoff time to 4:15 p.m. ET.