What a fun week to re-watch some game film! Now I love football and find find a lot of joy breaking down my favorite team and your’s the San Francisco 49ers. But you cannot possibly get more excited about watching such glory as this week’s 48-3 stomping of the Tampa Bay Bucs. As a fan, what a game! From top to bottom, offense, defense, special teams, coaching this team was dominate and this was the 2nd most exciting game of the season to watch (you just can’t top a comeback performance vs the “Dream Team” at home) but it was by far the biggest statement the 49ers have made in 2011.
Here are my 10 Key Observations of the 49ers victory over the Bucs on Sunday.
1) Frank Gore is BACK in a big way, and in fact I would contend he never really went anywhere due to other circumstances the running game just wasn’t clicking. Well now it is and Gore is proving his doubters wrong, which in my opinion he should not have ever had to. Add Kendall Hunter to the mix and the 49ers run game is clicking in all facets. As I wrote here, Gore looked explosive not only in the power game as he did vs the Eagles but around the edges, changing direction, it was a complete game, yet again by Frank Gore.
2) Vernon Davis needs more opportunities, the guy is unstoppable when he has the chance to be. With 2 very good Tight Ends in Davis and Delaine Walker the 49ers utilize both more than ever before this season. In re-watching each game this season it seems that Davis is being used either as a blocker or a downfield threat. Davis is a superior blocking TE and when needed can provide a huge boost to the Offensive Line. Davis also is the fastest, and perhaps strongest TE in the NFL, probably the fastest and most athletic at the position of any TE in NFL history. Yes I said NFL history. The 49ers have used Walker mostly as an underneath, check down type of TE (minus his up the seam streak for a TD Sunday). And while from time to time the 49ers have used Davis in the TE screen game they aren’t targeting him enough overall in the passing game. When you send him deep (beyond 15 yards) or keep him into block on 75% of his plays far too often Davis cannot become a safety valve for Alex Smith which he has done a great job relying on early in the season. The 49ers need to re-visit how they are using their dynamic TE duo and start to utilize Davis more in the underneath/mid-range game where I think he could do some real damage with his natural abilitity to go along with unreal athletisicm for the TE position. I think it’s time for 49ers start using them in a transparent type of roles, with injuries to the WR position mounting the team needs to utilize Vernon Davis in more creative ways. 2 of his 3 catches yesterday went for TDs, time to get biggest freak to ever play the TE position more involved in all facets of the game.
3) Aldon Smith again displays that he needs to be an every down player. I will continue to beat this drum, kick this dead horse until we see our 1st round pick on the field for at least 85-90% of the defensive plays. The kid is just too good, recording another 2 sacks Sunday Smith now has a team high 3.5 sacks. He is a BEAST, he’s not overwhelmed or caught out of position like rookies sometimes are (when have you screamed, COMEON ALDON! at your TV this season?, you haven’t). Let this kid have every chance to prove why he was the #7 overall pick, give him a chance to get us 10-12+ sacks, give the opposing offense someone to fear. It’s time already!
4) Carlos Rogers signing was MONEY for the 49ers! Extend this guy to a 3-4 year deal now already Trent Baalke ok? After looking at eventual Eagles signee Nnamdi Asomogha the 49ers signed Redskins FA Carlos Rogers. While Nnamdi is struggling in Philadelphia (getting embarrassed by Crabtree!) Rogers has been the perfect pickup for San Francisco. Sunday’s Interception was his 3rd in the last 3 weeks and his 31 yard TD return was very impressive. Rogers came in with the reputation of being a good cover CB with awful hands. Living in DE in close proximity to MD I have alot of Redskins fans opinions in my ear at work all day and many thought he could be a star if he just starting catching the football. Don’t look now but Rogers seems to have made whatever adjustments he needs to be a star CB.
5) Alex Smith is FOR REAL for the first time in Smith’s career he has a real head coach (Nolan and Singletary are coordinators/position coaches at best). An offensive head coach that plays to Smith’s strength’s and has really put him and the rest of the offense in a position to win. Smith looks great this season and has presided over almost every type of win thus far this season. A thrilling comeback in Philadelphia, an ugly grind it out win in Cincinnati and he’s blown out a legit team in Tampa Bay. Smith ranks 3rd in the NFL in passer rating behind only Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers (you may have heard of those guys). He has only 1 INT and 1 fumble lost. Don’t look now but Smith looks to be the NFL’s comeback player of the year, and he’s making Jim Harbaugh look like a very smart man for bringing him back to SF after it wasn’t seen as a popular choice.
6) Dashon Goldson is back to his 2009 ways. Goldson had an up and down season in 2010 after a breakout 2009 season, he headed into free agency expecting a big payday in the form of a long term deal. After turning down a 5 year $20M+ deal from SF early in FA his market didn’t materialize and he was forced to re-sign with the 49ers at a discounted 1 year $2M deal. Goldson looks like a man on a mission this season delivering big hit after big hit and forcing a fumble on Sunday vs the Bucs. Goldson also looks very good in coverage, so good in fact the 49ers may want to put that long term deal they offered him way back in the off season back on the table.
7) Joshua Morgan’s injury while a setback isn’t a big long term issue. Fellow WR Michael Crabtree has looked good and hasn’t seemed to be effected by his foot injury recently evident in the fact that he practiced everyday last week without issue. Meanwhile the 49ers only need to play 1 more game before WR Braylon Edwards returns to the lineup. Edwards is expected back Oct 30th vs his former team the Cleveland Browns. Edwards return will provide a boost for the 49ers offense with or without Morgan on the field, Edwards simply put is the far superior player. The 49ers may miss Morgan’s next week at Detroit vs the Lions but getting Edwards back should improve the offense.
8) The Offensive Line is playing well and looks to be jelling. The line gave up 0 sacks and gave up very little pressure at all as Alex Smith was comfortable in the pocket all day vs a perceived strong DL of Tampa Bay. The run game was terrific and the OL opened some nice running lanes for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter all 4 quarters Sunday.
9) Michael Crabtree is healthy and close to breaking out. I know I wrote this last week in my key observations vs the Eagles but it’s worth mentioning again. Only 2 catches on the day for Crabtree but he had a solid game non the less. Crabs did an excellent job all game long with some great blocks down field in the running and passing game. Crabs effort was 110% all game long, for a guy that constantly was called lazy in the off season he doesn’t give up or stop until the whistle on any play. Look for Crabtree to have a huge game next week vs Detroit. With Morgan’s injury and Edwards still not ready to return the 49ers passing game likely will key on 2 guys, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.
10) Harbaugh. Wow. What a difference a year and a competent coach makes. The 49ers were blown out by the Bucs last season, this year the 49ers never gave the Bucs a chance. Harbaugh has resided over all types of games this season, a blowout, a 2nd half comeback, an ugly low scoring game. He seems to keep his composure, he definetly has this team behind him and now with a big lead in the NFC West has the 49ers ready for a playoff birth for the first time since 2002.
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