The San Francisco 49ers morphed into a new identity in the second-half of their week 7 loss against the Houston Texans. The 49ers come out in the first-half looking much like the team that was humiliated by the Falcons in week 5 and looked as though they learned and adjusted nothing in their bye week. The 49ers allowed another receiver to catch record breaking numbers although this time it was a tight end, Owen Daniels, who caught 7 receptions for 123 yards and 1 touchdown. Texans QB Matt Schaub looked to Daniels often in the first-half as the 49ers secondary and linebackers were mismatched any time Daniels went out for a pass. The worst pass was Daniels only touchdown of 42 yards. The secondary blew their assignment on Daniels and that proved to be the fatal touchdown that did not allow the 49ers to come back. In the second-half defensive coordinator Greg Manusky did a great job of adjusting to what the Texans were doing best which was passing the football. On the offensive side it was a move by Mike Singletary to bring in long forgotten backup QB Alex Smith that almost allowed the Niners to come back from a three touchdown deficit. It was the right move to bring in Smith as the 49ers offensive line looked like rookies trying to stop the Texans pass rush. Starter Shaun Hill was not at fault for playing so poorly but with the offensive line playing so bad only a running quarterback like Smith would have had any success yesterday. Rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree (MCT) had a great debut for someone that has been out football for over nine months. MCT showed off his great hands and his ability to make defenders miss which the 49ers will need moving forward. After every loss there are always questions that need answers. For Singletary and company the biggest question this week is who should start under center, Hill or Smith?
(Nugget awards are based on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the best, 1 being the worst)
As much as the 49er Faithful would like to forget about the first-half and only focus on the positives in the second-half the 49ers offensive woes still continue. The offensive line is in disarray. Even with the threat of being benched right guard Chilo Rachal had another horrible game as he could not contain the Texans pass rush. The Texans do have a great defensive line but Rachal gave up a sack to 39-year-old veteran Jeff Zgonina. That was one of only two sacks given up but the full story is never told in the stats alone. With running back Frank Gore back in the lineup after missing three weeks with a foot injury could also not get the offense moving rushing for only 32 yards on 13 carries. The offensive line played a little better in the second-half but a lot of that can be attributed Alex Smith being called into the game to take over for an anemic Hill who passed for only 45 yards on 6 of 11 passes. But the main difference between Smith and Hill is that Smith is a scrambling quarterback and was able to avoid the pass rush that was still coming. Hill clearly looks as if he has stones in his cleats as he is unable to avoid the pass rush.
With Smith coming into the game in the second-half to give the 49ers a jolt he found a familiar target in tight end Vernon Davis. Davis continued his emergence season catching 7 receptions for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns. Smith was coming into the game for the first time since November 12, 2007 and looked as if he had been running the Niners offense all season as he passed for 206 yards going 15 for 22 with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Smith was in command of the offense and almost led the 49ers to a comeback before he throw an interception with 1:38 left in the game. But should he be the starter next week against the Colts? I know Singletary wants the best 11 men on the field that give them the best chance to win but we should not jump to a conclusion here and anoint Smith the starter. The only way Smith should be the starter is if offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye throws out what the 49ers offensive philosophy has been which is run, run, run. Smith looked comfortable out on the field even though he was down the whole time he was in there because the 49ers were running a spread offense that made Smith a star in college. The spread offense is not something I think Raye and Singletary are interested in running but they had to given how much points the Niners were down. Raye and Singletary do not want to throw the football all of the time but I say go the way of the Colts offense were you can have formations of three to four receivers while still being able to run the football by spreading out the defense. The spread offense will tilt the playing calling more towards passing than running but the run first mentality Raye and Singletary have been trying to install clearly has not worked. If you are going to take the chance of inserting your backup quarterback, why not take the chance of running formations that is more suitable to your quarterback?
Oh, yeah and then there was some rookie making his debut at wide receiver. Lost in the almost blowout/comeback/Smith is our new QB was Michael Crabtree’s first game. Singletary was criticized all week for even entertaining the possibility of starting MCT. I heard everything from Singletary is disrespecting head coach’s and going against the norm for even playing and starting a rookie after missing months of training camp and the regular season to he has no idea what he is doing and showing a first-year coaching mistake. None of the talking NFL pundits wanted to even say that Crabtree would have a descent game. While he was not spectacular how much more could you ask out of MCT as he was on the field for 48 of the 49ers 54 offensive plays as he caught 5 receptions for 56 yards and caught every ball thrown his way.
Much like the offense the 49ers defense was different in the second-half compared to their first-half play. However football games are played for 60 minutes, not 30 minutes and the 49ers defense deserves much of the blame for the loss. Defensive end Justin Smith had a huge day making 10 tackles and helped contain Texans running back Steve Slaton as he rushed for only 67 rushing yards with 1 touchdown. Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson only had 2 catches for 62 yards but what killed the 49ers for the second straight game as they contained the running game was the passing game. No one on the 49ers were able to cover and keep up with Texans tight end Owen Daniels who did his best impression of the Falcons Roddy White. The 49ers stopped Daniels and the Texans offense in the second-half but teams don’t get half victories for their second-half play and moral victories have no meaning to the 49ers Faithful. The 49ers offensive line is the biggest cause of concern for the Niners but the pass coverage of the defensive is a close second.
Kickoff returner Michael Robinson averaged 31.3 yards on three returns but it was the punt returning that caused strife for the special teams unit. Punt returner Arnaz Battle muffed a punt in the second quarter that was recovered by the Texans inside the ten yard line. The Texans scored two plays later and went up 14-0. Battle was trying to fair-catch the punt but lost it in the sun as it bounced off his chest and hands. No excuses, this is your one job on the team. Battle had to have looked up at some point before the punt to realize the sun would be in his eyes. If he had he should have just let the football bounced without trying to make the catch. I would rather have the 49ers start inside the their own ten-yard line than give the Texans the football so close to the end zone.
Mike Singletary was ready to make the quarterback switch before the first-half was over as it was reported that he asked offensive coordinator Raye to think about making the switch and how he would approach the second-half with Smith in the game. If not for Singletary’s move to put in Smith the coaches would have received only one nugget. But the switch was what gave the 49ers the chance to come back. Only if Singletary, Raye and Manusky had their second-half game plan for the first-half we might have seen a win yesterday.
@Colts. The 49ers will need to play all 60 minutes if they even want to think about pulling off the upset against the undeafted Colts. Peyton Manning is having another MVP year and the Colts are a passing machine so expect them to continue doing what the Falcons and Texans did against the Niners defense. We will really see what type of resolve the 49ers have after losing two straight games facing off against one the NFL’s elite teams.
Topics: 24-21, 49ers, 49ers 2009 Season, 49ers Injuries, 49ers Offensive Coordinator, 49ers QB, 49ers Quarterback, 49ers Vs. Texans Recap Week 7, 49ers Vs. Texans Week 7 2009, Alex Smith, Andre Johnson, Arnaz Battle, Chilo Rachal, Frank Gore, Greg Manusky, Jimmy Raye, Joe Staley, Justin Smith, Matt Schaub, MCT, Michael Crabtree, Michael Robinson, Mike Singletary, Owen Daniels, San Francisco 49ers, Shaun Hill, Texans Thwart 49ers Comeback, Vernon Davis