Sunday’s thrilling comeback victory on the road vs. the Philadelphia Eagles was a huge statement game in so many ways for the 3-1 San Francisco 49ers. On the road in arguably the most hostile environment in the NFL the offensive line and QB Alex Smith would be challenged all day. The offense had to do better on 3rd downs something very tough to do vs a strong Philadelphia defensive backfield that features 3 pro bowl Cornerbacks. Not to mention the defense had to contain QB Michael Vick and the Eagles stable of playmakers not an easy day for the 49ers.
I had the good fortunes of being in attendance in Philadelphia along with me went my wife and a notepad (I’m a hopeless romantic). Here some key takeaways from the game. Don’t forget to comment at the end and share your observations of the 49ers week 4 game.
Andy Lee is Human: 49er fans have grown accustomed to having one of the leagues top punters for quite some time now and I cannot remember Lee having a game this bad. Lee shanked his first 2 punts giving the Eagles good starting field position on their first 2 possessions. Lee was visibly upset on the filed and on the sidelines after both kicks.
Jim Harbaugh is EXTREMELY active on the sidelines: I absolutely loved watching Jim during warm-ups and after each and every possession. He’s one of the first go congratulate the players, he talks to Alex Smith and even the other QBs ALOT. Talks to the other coaches all the time and is out on the field in the referees ears all game long. I thought this was Harbaugh’s strongest game as an NFL head coach. He did a great job with is 2nd half adjustments, made some gutsy calls late in the game and threw the challenge flag and used his timeouts wisely.
Frank Gore’s still got it: Something tells me the team just allowed the media to run with the Gore injury story. I don’t personally think he was that hurt at this week in practice. He looked very sharp, powerful and had some nice burst when he got running room. There were several plays that featured 2 tight ends, and 2 fullbacks in Bruce Miller and Isaac Sopoaga that SCREAMED Gore run up the middle that Frank got the yardage he needed in large part to his power and keeping his legs moving.
The Offensive Line is coming together: Yes Chilo Rachal and Anthony Davis are having their trouble on the right side, Rachal mostly. But as a whole the 49ers OL really seems to be coming together as a unit, especially in pass protection. All season long including Sunday has had it’s share of blunders along the OL. Center Jonathan Goodwin’s 15 yard snap and several penalties on the Rachal/Davis combination come to mind. But mistakes are easy to key in on when it comes to evaluating an OL it’s easy to look at the QB and the playmakers when big runs and long pass plays are made, as several were for the 49ers on Sunday. But just as a lot of blame has been put on this unit this season, some praise needs to come it’s way for Sunday’s victory. The OL held up in the 2nd half especially as Alex Smith had time to stand in the pocket and make the plays needed. This was the unit’s finest performance in the run blocking department as well as Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined for over 160 yards rushing.
Michael Crabtree is healthy and is the #1 WR: Michael Crabtree missed his 3rd consecutive preseason and sat out week 3 of the regular season with nagging foot injuries that have plagued him since his days in college. This offseason the team signed Braylon Edwards in part due to fear of Crabtree’s health. If last week’s should have been a TD if Harbaugh was paying attention catch or this week’s weeks 5 catch 68 yard performances are any indication, Crabtree is healthy again and will have a nice year for the 49ers.
YES! The 49ers should employ a Gore/Hunter backfield: After an exciting preseason for Kendall Hunter in which he led the NFL in rushing and looked to be a great compliment to Frank Gore many thought the 49ers would finally turn the corner and go to a 2 pronged rushing attack. Gore the between the tackles battering ram power back and Hunter the explosive small outside the edge 3rd down type of back. 49ers new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is known for using multiple personnel groups so it was assumed a role for Hunter would be carved out and Gore would finally see some rest. After a slow start some started begging the question Why not some more Kendall Hunter and a little less Frank Gore? It might have taken an ankle injury in week 3 for the 49ers to finally give him some rest or maybe it was simply that the 49ers wanted to see Hunter improve the finer points of his game before giving him time on the field we’ll never know. But whatever it was it was obvious the 49ers need to utilize both of them as they produced big time my preference 60% Gore, 30% Hunter, 10% together.
Ted Ginn Jr. needs to come down to Earth: Ted Ginn lit the world on fire week 1 vs. the Seahawks with his 2 TD returns within a few minutes of one another. He’s even had a few other nifty returns this season. He needs to calm down and realize he’s not Deion Sanders. He needs to learn when to take a knee and when to go down and not run backwards trying to evade 6 defenders that are within 5 yards of him. Don’t get me wrong I like Ted Ginn I think the 49ers made a good decision keeping him around as the KR/PR and extra WR. I just think he’s getting a little ahead of himself.
Aldon Smith needs to be on the field more: Aldon is a MONSTER in person, he looked good and seemed to be more athletic than any other LB or DL on the field for either team. He lined up at both DE and OLB and looked smooth all day long out there. To me both in person and on tape it looks like he’s relying too much on his speed to get around the blocker and doesn’t always take the right angles getting to the QB. He doesn’t ever seem lost or completely out of position like alot of rookies it looks like this kid just needs to get on the field especially at OLB and just play. Parys Haralson has looked good this season and I can understand Vic Fangio’s comfort level is higher with him over Smith but this is where they need to rely on Patrick Willis and Justin Smith to keep Aldon lined up where he needs to be and as coaches put him in position to do what he does best, rush the QB. Smith’s 1 and 1/2 sacks Sunday are just the beginning.
Carlos Rogers needs to shadow the teams #1 WR: Carlos Rogers is no “shutdown” CB but he is a very good player and the best the 49ers have. Far too often Sunday I saw him covering someone like Jason Avant instead of Deshaun Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. Rogers is far more skilled than Tarrell Brown, Shawtae Spencer, Tramaine Brock or Chris Culliver.
Navarro Bowman is a STUD: Patrick Willis easily the best Inside Line Backer in the NFL and in my opinion is the best non-QB in the NFL. On some plays Bowman could put on a #52 jersey instead of his #53 and you wouldn’t know the difference. Bowman has made play after play this season proving the 49ers decision to let Takeo Spikes walk in free agency was a good move. Bowman made an amazing play Sunday chasing Eagles QB Michael Vick down from behind on a huge 3rd and 3 forcing the Eagles to punt in the 4th quarter. The Willis/Bowman tandem isn’t recognized yet as the best ILB tandem in the NFL but they will be shortly simply because they already are the best.
Alex Smith can do it: Should Alex Smith had been the #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft? No, that should have been Aaron Rogers; will he make his first pro bowl this season? No, there are far too many established NFC QBs already for that to happen. But Alex Smith looks different this season, no the “different” only his teammates and coaches can see in practice we’ve heard about a million times over. Different as in can stand in the pocket, go through his reads and get rid of the football and throw it accurately. Different as in not panicking with pressure in his face, knowing when to scramble, when to stand in the pocket and take a hit and when to take off and run. Jim Harbaugh’s version of the West Coast Offense seems to fit Smith; Harbaugh’s confidence in Alex seems to have Smith believing in himself again. Harbaugh’s obviously been bringing the offense along slowly and utilizing just enough of the game plan/playbook as necessary to win that week. Alex Smith seems comfortable on the field, with his coaches and with his teammates. 2 great examples of Smith’s newfound poise just think of the 2 bad snaps Smith had to chase, 1 led to a near TD that took the team to the goalline vs. Dallas, this week he simply scooped it up got out of the pocket and threw it away. His team is 3-1, he is 5th in the NFL with a 67.3% completion rate and is in the top 10 in QB rating at 97.7
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Topics: 49ers, 49ers Offensive Line, 49ers Vs Eagles, 49ers Week 4, Aaron Rogers, Aldon Smith, Alex Boone, Alex Smith, Anthony Davis, Braylon Edwards, Braylon Edwards Injury, Bruce Miller, Carlos Rogers, Chilo Rachal, Frank Gore, Greg Roman, ILB, Joe Staley, Jonathan Goodwin, Kendall Hunter, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Moran Norris, Navarro Bowman, Offensive Line, Parys Haralson, Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers, Ted Ginn, Ted Ginn Jr, Vernon Davis, Vic Fangio, Week 4 NFL