49ers faced a tough defense in Carolina

Photo Courtesy 49ers.com

by David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA– It was a tough Carolina Panthers team that the 49ers had to face there at Candlestick last Sunday. Carolina is a surging team they’re on a long winning streak. Someone had to win, someone had to lose and you look at these two teams they both have excellent defenses and that’s what really dominated and dictated this game which is two great defenses.

The bottom line was that Carolina got the last score that’s what gave them the win 10-9 and the 49ers just couldn’t get anything going on offense but it’s not like the Panthers dominated either. There’s a lot of hand wringing going on in San Francisco about the Niners offensive game plan and there’s something to be said about that. The 49ers just ran into a defense that was really, really good and it’s tough to move the ball against a team like that.

Once you lose Vernon Davis and the passing game is still coming around it makes it tough to go up and down the field. It was not like the 49ers weren’t in this one it unfortunate because the 49ers played a great defensive game. They were just as strong as the Panthers were but the simple fact is the Niners offense couldn’t solve Carolina’s defense.

10-9 is not like anyone dominated but Carolina sent a message and said “We’re here you have to deal with us” the rest of the league had to be aware of this game and Carolina is a team that is aiming for the playoffs  and the 49ers really wanted that win but they got to brush it off and look ahead to next week’s game against New Orleans.

One of the strengths of the Carolina defense was the rush, they have a great front seven their linebackers and defensive lineman were all fantastic, you talk about a team that’s going to send multiple guys to the Pro Bowl they’re that good and the 49ers offensive line have been really solid as well. When quarterback Colin Kaepernick is under pressure he’s like any other quarterback it just becomes difficult to make a play.

Some teams Kaepernick’s been able to break out and get yards with his legs but Carolina has really quick linebackers just like the Niners do and it’s really tough too for a running quarterback to gain any yards. Kaepernick had that problem even when he was able to escape the pass rush there and there was really no field for him to rush.

Kaepernick couldn’t get any yards running and frankly when your being chased all over the place unless your receivers can come back and give you options it’s tough to make a play that way either. Kaepernick he has to work on a few things to be sure but also he’s not going to face a defense as good as that outside of Seattle the rest of the season.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

49ers beat up by Panthers, suffer narrow loss, 10-9

Panthers 49ers Football.JPEG-05c26

By Morris Phillips

The 49ers saw their grip on Sunday’s game with the Panthers loosen with one debilitating injury after another.

Midway through the second period the 49ers led 9-0, and the defense had Cam Newton—the top pick in the 2011 draft—bottled up.  But in a tough, physical ball game, the battle of attrition most adversely affected the home team, starting with the first quarter loss of defensive end Ray McDonald.

Then the 49ers lost tight ends Brent Celek and Vernon Davis, and safety Eric Reid was felled in a violent collision with Mike Tolbert that had him down on the field for several minutes.

The injuries that limited the 49ers also seemed to embolden the Panthers, who responded with a huge defensive effort that shut out the 49ers in the second half, and allowed them to hold off San Francisco, 10-9.  The Panthers saw their win streak grow to five games, while the 49ers failed to extend their win streak to six.

“We thought the guys could do some good things and they did,” Carolina Coach Ron Rivera said of his defense, “I was pretty excited about that.  It worked to what we wanted to do.  I understand Vernon Davis went out and that was one of the things that really helped us in those situations.  You lose a weapon, especially an Excalibur and that is tough.”

“We made mistakes and in a game like this with two good teams, especially teams with two good defenses, you’ve got to capitalize on mistakes and they were able to do that,” the 49ers’ Aldon Smith said after his return to the field after a five-game absence.

Smith returned to action after a six week retreat to address his substance abuse issues, and the 49ers also saw the season debut of Mario Manningham, who was felled in last season’s late season blowout in Seattle.  But Smith saw action on just 11 plays and Manningham caught three balls for 30 yards.  The additions figured to make the 49ers complete on both sides of the ball.  Instead, Davis’ departure robbed the 49ers of their only deep threat and a critical blocker against a vicious Carolina pass rush that sacked Colin Kaepernick six times.

“Vernon changes defenses.  He makes them adjust differently.  He makes them do things that they don’t normally do.  He’s a big loss,” Kaepernick said.

Davis was injured when former Raider Mike Mitchell stripped the tight end of a catch in the red zone and simultaneously slammed him to the turf where Davis bumped his head and sustained a concussion.  Two plays later, on 4th and 1 from the Carolina 2, the 49ers lined up as to go for it, but lacking their usual power formation minus Davis and Celek, they conceded a delay of game penalty, and settled for a short field goal and a 9-0 lead.

According to Coach Jim Harbaugh, the two injuries at one position left the team scrambling.  During halftime, they made the adjustment to add backup offensive guard Adam Snyder to the two tight end formations.  But the Carolina defense didn’t yield the 49ers a red zone opportunity in the second half.

Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly played difference maker throughout, making 11 tackles, contributing a sack of Kaepernick as well as a critical pass breakup of a deep pass attempt to Vance McDonald.  Kuechly got plenty of help from Carolina’s front four and the 49ers were limited to 152 yards in offense, including just 46 yards passing once the yardage from the six sacks was subtracted from the total.

The 49ers return to action next Sunday in New Orleans where they will face Drew Brees and the Saints.  At 6-3, the 49ers will need to win there to stay above the stack in the NFC playoff race and within striking range of the Seahawks who improved to 8-1 on Sunday.

49ers try to make it four straight in Tennessee

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:05 PM the San Francisco 49ers (4-2) will be taking on the Tennessee Titans (3-3) at LP Field. This game features two squads going in opposite directions. The Titans have lost two in a row, and sit in second place in the AFC South behind the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers, on the other hand, have won three straight, and are holding on to second place in the NFC West behind the Seattle Seahawks.

Last week Tennessee grabbed a lead early, but fell to the late-charging Seahawks 20-13. They have recently been hampered by the loss of starting quarterback Jake Locker, limiting the passing game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the backup, and has been unimpressive since taking over the starting gig, completing barely over 50% of his passes, with two touchdowns and four interceptions in just over two games. Chris Johnson, their big-name offensive threat, hasn’t been the same player since rushing for over 2,000 yards four years ago. Their defense has been what keeps them in games, featuring players like Benard Pollard, Alterraun Verner, Ropati Pitoitua, and Zach Brown. They aren’t big names, but they have been extremely productive.

San Francisco is coming off of a 32-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Despite the 12-point victory in the box score, the game was close until late. Going into the fourth quarter it was just a two-point game, before the 49ers slammed the door and put the game away. Up against the potent Cardinals run-defense Frank Gore and company still managed to find some lanes, rushing for 149 yards as a team, with 101 of those coming from Gore. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t great, completing just over half of his attempts, throwing an interception and losing a fumble, but he found more openings through the than in recent weeks, throwing for 252 yards. The vast majority of that production was thanks to Vernon Davis, who hauled in eight receptions for an incredible 180 yards and two scores. As usual their defense took a stand as well, forcing four turnovers.

Especially with the loss of Locker, the Titans have less weapons on offense than the Cardinals presented. They are ranked 25th in the NFL in total yards, and 21st in points per game. As they have been doing, San Francisco should be able to give them fits, and hopefully force a few turnovers. On the bright side their defense is good, but it’s an easier task than a week ago. They are ranked 10th against the pass, which could give Kaepernick and his lack of weapons some problems, but just 19th against the run, playing right into the 49ers biggest strength. Expect to continue seeing Gore featured on offense.

Thankfully there are no new major injury problems this week. Mario Manningham, who continues to rehab from his knee injury at the end of last season, resumed practicing with the team this week. He will eventually be a welcomed addition to a struggling passing game, but is expected to be brought along slowly, and is highly unlikely to make it back onto the field until Week 10, following their bye week.

Receiving game the weak link in 49ers offensive scheme of things

by David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–The big difference right now from last 49ers season is in the receiving core, the 49ers just don’t have the wide receivers who can make plays at the moment. Until Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham get back their going to have to focus a little bit more on the run game and that’s what they’ve been doing in the last couple of weeks and that’s been to their advantage.

Once they focus more on running they’ll do a lot better actually in the first couple of weeks they obviously had that great game against the Packers where 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards but since then Kaepernick hasn’t thrown much more than 200 yards per game. He’s been kind of quite and part of that is that the Niners have no one to throw to.

They have Anquan Boldin who let’s face it the guy’s really good but Boldin is really the only wide receiver they have whose produced anything if you combine all the rest of the 49ers receivers catches over the course of the season if you added them up they won’t come out to what Boldin has on his own.

Vernon Davis has been great he had that fantastic first half against Arizona where he just dominated like seven catches for 170 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Those are the only two guys making catches and making plays and it’s not going to cut it for the 49ers you need more than two players to succeed in this game. You can’t have a dynamic passing attack where there is only two guys for the defense to stop.

Most defenses can figure out how to stop two guys, obviously Arizona has a pretty good defense especially in their secondary and they couldn’t stop Davis. So the 49ers can find their way in the passing game and they can make plays but over the course over four quarters Davis had they had a great first half and he was pretty quiet in the second half and the 49ers decided their running game was the way to go.

Arizona is also a pretty good running defense and the Niners wore them down, they just kept running and running and running then they eventually busted through to have an amazing 9.5 minute 18 play drive. That really sealed the game for them late and if they can do that they can beat anybody.

You have a nine and half minute long drive your going to win almost every time that means your just dominating the line of scrimmage and if you do that you win that’s usually how it works. As far as the passing game is concerned we know that Kaepernick has the ability but the 49ers problem right now is it’s Boldin and Davis and nobody else.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk radio

49ers try to keep momentum going against Cardinals

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25 PM the San Francisco 49ers (3-2) will be facing off against the Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at Candlestick Park. Both squads have won two straight and are tied for second in the NFC West, one game back of the Seattle Seahawks and one game up on the St. Louis Rams.

Last week the Cardinals, thanks in large part to an impressive showing from their defense, defeated the Carolina Panthers 22-6. They racked up seven sacks, three interceptions, and a forced fumble. On that side of the ball they are led by Karlos Dansby, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and shut-down corner Patrick Peterson. On offense they have struggled a bit this year, as QB Carson Palmer is very turnover prone, with nine interceptions and a fumble already, and WR Larry Fitzgerald has been hobbled by injuries and hasn’t looked like the big playmaker so many are used to seeing.

San Francisco is coming off an even more impressive win, a 34-3 drubbing of the Houston Texans. For the second straight week they relied heavily on their run game and stout defense. As a team they ran for 177 yards, 81 of those coming from Frank Gore, who also scored a touchdown. On defense they had three interceptions, two from Tramaine Brock, one of which he returned for a score, and another from Tony Jerod-Eddie. The newly dubbed Donte “Hitner” also chipped in a forced fumble.

This week the 49ers will likely try a similar approach, although they may run into more difficulties, as the Cardinals have allowed the third fewest yards on the ground so far this season. Against the pass they are ranked 19th, but San Francisco only managed 107 yards through the air last week. Colin Kaepernick has struggled since week one when asked to win the game with his arm, so the big question will be whether he can get something going if the run game is stifled.

Palmer has at least two turnovers in four of five games this season, and the 49ers are sure to try and keep the pressure on him to ensure that trend continues. Even if San Francisco’s offense runs into problems, their defense should keep them in the game and give them every chance to pull out a win in this one.

For the first time in a few weeks the injury news is largely good this week. Vernon Davis, one of the few reliable weapons Kaepernick has at his disposal, has resumed fully participating in practices. It was feared DL Ray McDonald had suffered a severe injury in the third quarter in last weeks win, but was diagnosed with just a right biceps strain. His status for this Sunday is in question, but he shouldn’t miss an extended period of time.

In more long-term news, Mario Manningham is expected to be ready to begin practicing with the team when first eligible in Week 7, and Michael Crabtree is on track to return in mid-November.

Finally, there was one minor transaction this week, as the revolving door that is the 49ers third-string QB keeps spinning. The recently signed John Skelton was waived, and McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who had recently been released by the Minnesota Vikings, was claimed off of waivers.

49ers looking to build on last week as Texans come to town

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday the San Francisco 49ers (2-2) will look to build off of their road victory last week when the Houston Texans (2-2) come to Candlestick Park.

As was the speculation leading up to last Thursday’s game, following two bad losses the 49ers reverted back to the ground-and-pound style they are best known for, and throttled the St. Louis Rams, 35-11. Frank Gore had his first big game of the season, gaining 153 yards and a touchdown on just 20 carries. In a team effort, they ran for a total of 219 yards. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t flashy, but he managed the game well and avoided any big mistakes. On the defensive side NaVorro Bowman was the standout, more than making up for the absence of Patrick Willis, tallying six tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass deflected.

On the flip side, the Texans are fresh off of a crushing loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Houston dominated for much of the game and carried a 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter.  Seattle rallied late, however, and completed the comeback thanks to Matt Schaub’s third pick-six in as many games.

Following consecutive losses the Texans will be looking to regroup, much like the 49ers were last week, and they could very well present a tougher task than what San Francisco saw in the St. Louis. While he is prone to mistakes Shaub remains a solid quarterback when they don’t ask too much from him. The real weapons to fear on offense, however, are running back Arian Foster and top receiver Andre Johnson, both of whom have been among the leagues best for years. Johnson has been nursing some injuries this year, but both are coming off of very strong games last week. As a unit they have compiled the fourth most yards, but have only scored the 18th most points.

On defense they are led by the three-headed monster of J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and Whitney Mercilus. The disruptive force has accounted for eight and a half sacks this season, and will present a challenge for the 49ers offensive line. As a whole their defense has the odd distinction of having allowed the second fewest yards, but the ninth most points on the year.

As they did last week, look for San Francisco to try and establish the running game early and often, and limit the risks Kaepernick has to take. While Houston’s defense has been strong, stopping the run has been their Achilles heel, having allowed the tenth most rushing yards per game. With Kaepernick still having few weapons at his disposal, he may struggle in the passing game.

On the injury front, Patrick Willis is still recovering from his groin injury, and is expected to be a game-time decision. Vernon Davis has been limited at practice this week, but mostly as a precaution, and is expected to be active. In another blow for the depleted receiving corps, it was revealed this week that Quinton Patton suffered a fractured foot in the win over the Rams. It is not yet clear how much time he is expected to miss. The best news of the week is that offensive lineman Joe Staley is fine after momentarily fearing a serious ankle injury.

Finally, the 49ers also made a few minor roster moves this week. QB B.J. Daniels and FB Owen Marecic were waived, and QB John Skelton and LB Jermaine Cunningham were both signed.

Stumbling 49ers look to recover against Rams

By Gabe Schapiro

For the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era the San Francisco 49ers (1-2) are below .500, and will be looking to right the ship in a short week this Thursday against the St. Louis Rams (1-2) at the Edward Jones Dome.

Last week the 49ers suffered their second consecutive loss, another first since Harbaugh came aboard. They weren’t just beaten, they were beaten decisively, 27-7 against the Indianapolis Colts. What was expected to be a slightly easier task coming off a shellacking at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks turned into another ugly showing. In the first quarter running back Kendall Hunter punched in a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven. That would be all that San Francisco could muster, however, as the Colts would pile on 20 more unanswered points.

The 49ers enter week four with many more questions than answers. Ever since an electric opening win, they have struggled mightily, getting out-scored 57-10.

Their offense seems to be suffering from a lack of weapons more than most expected, with top wideouts Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham sidelined, and an inexperienced group playing behind Anquan Boldin on the depth chart. Tight end Vernon Davis has been limited at times thanks to a hamstring injury. Old reliable, Frank Gore, finally seemed to have something going against the Colts before inexplicably being removed from the game plan, finishing the game with just 11 carries. Finally, Colin Kaepernick’s frustration seems to be growing as he attempts to navigate his lack of options. Despite the blazing start to his career, he also may just simply not be quite as polished as everyone had hoped yet, as defenses now have much more film of him to work with and prepare.

Also concerning are the 49ers problems on the defensive side of the ball, which was expected to be their calling card as it has been over the past couple of seasons. They aren’t getting as much pressure on opposing QBs, and aren’t forcing as many turnovers as they have been famous for. To make matters worse, the defensive unit has been hit with injury and controversy. Aldon Smith’s much publicized DUI has led to him being placed on the reserve/NFI list, and it is unknown how long it will be until he is able to return to the field. In last weeks contest star linebacker Patrick Willis injured his groin, and while he is reportedly hopeful that he will be able to play Thursday, it doesn’t sound as if it is likely.

In the Rams San Francisco will be facing a team that is coming off of a similarly rough loss, 31-7, at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. It is a young and improving team, however, that does have some talent. The team is led by fourth-year starter Sam Bradford, who despite last weeks loss is having a strong season. His primary weapons are Chris Givens, rookie Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, and Jared Cook. Through three games they have the 18th ranked offense, and the 26th ranked defense.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the 49ers need to tweak, but they need to make adjustments quickly. Unfortunately for them, being featured on Thursday night means they have a short week to do it. Another loss to an intra-division opponent would put them, at best, alone in third place. It’s a long season, and they do have time to turn things around, but for a team that entered the year with such high expectations, the trends are certainly concerning.

49ers look to rebound against Colts after sobering loss

By Gabe Schapiro

Last week the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) were hit with a reality check in the form of the vaunted Seattle Seahawks squad. This Sunday they will look to regain their composure when they face off with the Indianapolis Colts (1-1) at 1:25 PM, back home at Candlestick Park. The Colts are a considerably easier task, but they are a young and improving bunch that can’t be underestimated either.

In what was expected to be an intense dog fight between two division rivals, last weeks matchup was ultimately dominated by the Seahawks, who sent the 49ers packing with a decisive 29-3 victory. The game remained close up until the third quarter where Seattle began to pull away, and the fourth quarter where they hammered the win home. Against what may be the best defensive unit in the league, the San Francisco offense couldn’t get anything going. In uncharacteristic fashion the 49ers turned the ball over five times, with Colin Kaepernick being responsible for four of them (three interceptions, one fumble). The bright sides were few and far between, but Kaepernick did manage to make a few good runs after last week primarily relying on his arm, rookie safety Eric Reid hauled in his second interception in two games, and overall the defense held up better than the 29 points allowed would indicate.

While it may be hard to remember after an ugly outing like that one, the 49ers remain one of the most talented teams in the league. The Seahawks may present problems in the future, but for now they need to set their sights squarely on the incoming Colts.

Indianapolis is coming off of a close loss to the Miami Dolphins, 24-20. They are led by sophomore quarterback and former first overall pick Andrew Luck. He is young but in many ways plays with wisdom beyond his years. His primary weapons are Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Colby Fleener, and running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Through two games their offense is right in the middle of the pack, tied for 15th in the NFL in yards. On the defensive side of the ball they have struggled a bit, ranking 23rd.

While the Colts present an easier task, unfortunately San Francisco will be heading into the matchup having to deal with a few of fresh injuries.

In last weeks loss the previously mentioned Reid suffered a concussion in the second quarter. It is not initially believed to be serious, but with concussions it is hard to know for sure. He will need to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol before being allowed to practice and play again. Should he have to miss any games, Craig Dahl will replace him in the starting lineup.

Star tight end Vernon Davis suffered what is currently being called a hamstring strain, but he is still undergoing further testing to assess the severity of the injury. It is not yet known if he will be able to play this weekend, but if he can’t rookie second round pick Vance McDonald will likely be asked to take on a larger roll in the offense.

More seriously, starting nose tackle Ian Williams suffered a broken ankle in the first quarter, and has been placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Glenn Dorsey, signed this past offseason from the Kansas City Chiefs, will be starting, and played well last week in relief of Williams.

All three potential losses to the lineup are concerning, but thankfully the 49ers have better depth than most, and should be able to adjust accordingly.

This week look for San Francisco to try and re-establish their offense early and often. After an electrifying opener from the likes of Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin, both were almost entirely held in check by the Seahawks. In addition, Frank Gore has yet to really get it going this year, but he will now be facing a Colts defense who has allowed the fourth most rushing yards during this young season.

Game Notes: The 49ers have signed FB Owen Marecic, formerly of the Cleveland Browns….Aldon Smith has 3.5 sacks through two games, leading the team…Eric Reid has both of the teams interceptions.

 

49ers vs Packers, week 1 preview

By Gabe Schapiro

As the now famous song goes, are you ready for some football? The games that count are finally upon us. Football fans everywhere officially have plans for at least the next 17 Sundays, Mondays, and the occasional Thursday. For the San Francisco 49ers (0-0), the hopeful journey back to another Super Bowl run begins this Sunday at 1:25 PM at Candlestick Park, where they will be taking on the Green Bay Packers (0-0). The matchup is a rematch of last year’s divisional playoff round, where, in a game featuring almost nothing but offense, the 49ers eliminated the Packers on the back of a record-breaking 181 rushing yard performance from QB Colin Kaepernick.

Green Bay, the reigning NFC North Champions, went 11-5 last season, but lost some veteran leadership this offseason. Most notably, WR Greg Jennings and S Charles Woodson were lost to free agency, and WR Donald Driver retired. They still feature a high-powered offense, however, led by the newly anointed highest paid player in the NFL, QB Aaron Rodgers. His receiving corps of Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb remains strong, TE Jermichael Finley is a coverage headache, and new second round draft pick Eddie Lacy from Alabama should give the team a better running threat then they’ve had in years. On the defensive side of the ball they aren’t elite but they have talent, headlined by OLB Clay Matthews, DE B.J. Raji, and their first round pick from this years draft, DE Datone Jones out of UCLA.

They present a very tough opening week for San Francisco, but it’s one that they matched up well against last season. The 49ers have their stout defense returning, one that allowed just two touchdowns in four preseason games. The Packers weak link on offense is their offensive line, one that the likes of Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith and company hope to take advantage of to give Rodgers some trouble. The San Francisco offensive attack, especially with Kaepernick leading the read-option, was one that Green Bay simply had no answers for. They’ve had an offseason to learn and adjust, but whether they will be able to slow down the dual-threat that Kaepernick brings to the table remains to be seen.

Beyond Kaepernick, the 49ers final 53-man roster consists of several weapons that the Green Bay defense will have to account for. At receiver, hoping to pick up the slack for the injured Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, they have the new additions of Anquan Boldin through free agency and their fourth round pick Quinton Patton. Boldin is a battle-tested veteran who already appears to have an established chemistry with Kaepernick. Patton, who due to a finger injury only played in two preseason games, has already shown flashes of his explosiveness and potential. Of course, the immensely talented Vernon Davis is back at tight end, as well as the workhorse Frank Gore in the backfield. Davis had a down year last season, but flourished in the playoffs, and Gore has been the definition of consistency through his career.

These two historic franchises both appear to have the pieces in place to be strong contenders again this season. One way or another, it should prove to be an awfully entertaining game as this rivalry intensifies.

Game Notes: This week the Packers added two recently cut 49er quarterbacks, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace…The 49ers traded LB Cam Johnson to the Colts for a future seventh round draft choice, and signed WR Chris Harper, a fourth round pick this year, from the Seahawks practice squad.