The only way I was going to accept a 49ers loss against the Saints on Monday night was a great game by Alex Smith, the offense and having the defense slow down the Saints attack enough times to give the offense scoring opportunities. Done and done but the 49ers also had four turnovers and a safety early in the game which was the difference between a win and loss.
“I feel a lot of emotions, frustrated. In the end, it’s a loss just like last week. Lose by one, lose by whatever, it doesn’t matter,” said Alex Smith
So true Mr Smith. Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets (GGN’s)
Play calling was not an issue in Monday night’s loss. The only delay of game penalty was late in the third quarter when Vernon Davis did not make it onto the field in time because of issues with his helmet. The penalty still cost the offense as they started the drive at 1st-and-15. The 49ers punted three plays later on 4th-and-1.
Smith showed great command of the offense even after center David Baas sailed a shotgun hike well over Smith’s head and into the end zone giving the Saints a safety. The reason for Smith’s great command and confidence yesterday was he looked 100% comfortable in the offense. He stayed patient in the pocket even with pressure and when he could not find receivers open he did not force a play and either checked down or ran the football for a gain. At one point in the second half Smith completed 11 straight passes. Smith finished 23-for-32 with 275 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The two interceptions hurt the 49ers and stalled two drives as the first had the offense at the Saints 27-yard line and the second had them at the Saints 22-yard line. The first INT sailed to the left of Frank Gore and deflected off his fingers into a Saints defenders hands. Smith could have been better with this throw but Gore could have made the catch as well. The second INT was Smith’s fault as he threw to Michael Crabtree who was in double coverage. Smith seemed to get better as the game went one and in the game tying drive late in the fourth quarter he was 4-of-5 with 51 passing yards and ran twice for 24 yards. Smith moved the offense in for the score in just 53 seconds going 82 yards on eight plays.
Gore delivered as he usually does on Monday Night Football. He was all over the place for the 49ers with 112 rushing yards with one rushing touchdown and seven receptions for 56 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. All of this was behind an offensive line who only had one lineman, left tackle Joe Staley, that was a starter at his same position last season. The two rookies on the line, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis, both played really well compared to last week and contributed to Gore’s success and the passing game.
Another drive ended when tight end Delanie Walker fumbled the football after a catch at the Saints 8-yard line.
The 49ers defense received the most GGN’s for this game with four. The defense had great pressure all game as they were relentless clogging the middle of the line so Drew Brees could not step up into the pocket and make a pass. The Saints tried adjusting their protection to open up the middle but the 49ers attack continued successfully. The secondary did well in covering all of the Saints speedy receivers. Brees who loves to go for the big pass did not have receivers open deep all game. The secondary really stepped it up on third down shutting down the Saints receivers and making them punt six times. The longest Saints drive of the game was 61-yards in the first half. Outside linebackers Travis LaBoy and Ahmad Brooks both had a great game with Brooks recording a sack.
The 49ers defense did have two sacks against Brees but with all the pressure the D could not get a turnover. Credit Brees for that who rarely makes mistakes. At least one turnover would have been nice as that could have made the difference between a win and loss. The defense played physical all game with the highlight being Patrick Willis’ tackle on Saints fullback Heath Evans in the first quarter that set the tone for the 49ers the rest of the way. Still, as well as the defense played they allowed Brees to drive 51 yards on seven plays in 1:19 to set up the game winning field goal. But Brees is a Super Bowl champion, and champions find ways to win games for their team.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Golden Goose Egg
If you had any doubts about whether or not the 49ers special teams unit had improved from last season you got your answer last night in the return game. They are just as hapless if not more compared to last season. Rookie punt returner Phillip Adams had two fumbles called against him, the first being overturned and the second one was late in the fourth quarter and cost the 49ers the game. On the first fumble Adams hesitated whether or not he wanted to field the punt and at the last second he decided not to which the officials on the field ruled a fumble saying it touched him. He was lucky on that play but his official fumbled punt landed the Saints at the 49ers 17-yard line and scored a field goal afterwards to give them a 22-14 lead. This is a huge concern for the 49ers especially with Ted Ginn Jr. out with an injury and Delaine Walker who can’t hold onto the football. Teams are going to exploit this weakness in the future and it is sad the 49ers cannot rely on their return game at all.
Reggie Bush is a great punt return but there is no excuse for the 49ers giving up a big 43-yard return in the fourth quarter to the 49ers 35-yard line. The Saints went on to kick a field goal. All told the 49ers special teams were responsible for six points, enough to lose the game for the 49ers.
In the final seconds of the game as Saints kicker Garrett Hartley’s went for the game winning field goal my heart stopped for a second as I saw the football deflected and looked like it was going right. Instead the kick seemed to curve back to the left as if to say F*ck you 49er Faithful. Game over.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky called a great game. When you limit the high powered Saints offense to 287 total yards and 25 points your game plan was superb. Even as Saints head coach and offensive play caller Sean Payton adjusted to Manusky’s defense, Manusky had a counter. You could see on the sidelines that Manusky was pumped up for the game. The defense fed off his energy and played well throughout the game except in the final minutes of the game.
Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye figured out his play calling and communication issues with his offense. Raye created a balanced attack of runs and passes and had Gore involved in a heavy part of the offense. Even with the team down by more than one score Raye continued to call Gore’s number and didn’t make Smith go for any unnecessary deep passes. Raye did use RB Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon although both only saw one play. Dixon scored on a two-yard run on his first NFL carry. For Gore’s sake Raye needs to involve Westbrook and Dixon more in the offense.
Head coach Mike Singletary undoubtedly had his worst week leading the 49ers dealing with the embarrassing loss to the Seahawks, the play calling issues and the “rat” in the Yahoo Sports story. His frustration showed in interviews but he managed to get his team united and believing they were better than all of that and they could defeat the reigning Super Bowl champs. His emotion he showed all week transferred over to the players in a good way. But how do you go from losing to a rebuilding team to almost pulling an upset against one of the best teams in the NFL? Maybe Singletary wasn’t emotional enough leading up to week one. Whatever is the case Singletary needs to have the same intensity each week with his players.
@Kansas City Chiefs (2-0). The Chiefs are the surprise team in the AFC West having knocked off the Chargers and the Browns to stand atop of the division. If the weather is not an issue the crowd noise will be. The 49ers will get their first test of their new play calling system in a stadium that will be equally as loud as the Seahawks game.
Topics: 49ers, 49ers 2010 Season, 49ers Lose To Saints 25-22, Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Jimmy Raye, Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Mike Singletary, New Orleans Saints Vs. San Francisco 49ers: 5 Things To Look Out For Tonight, San Francisco 49ers, Vernon Davis