49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 8, 2008
Final thoughts .... the umbrella of caution is back!

... About ready to pack up and head back to San Jose. But first a couple of items I'm sure everyone is wondering about. For example, Mike Nolan's fourth-down call ...

I thought it would at least be the regular season before Nolan got raked over the coals for a bungled fourth-down decision. And I thought it would be a while before I brought up "umbrella of caution." But no, the fun begins early this year. To recap: Alex Smith is driving the 49ers toward the end zone at the end of the half. On third and 3 with 27 seconds left, the 49ers call a Zak Keasey run off left guard (where have you seen that play before?) that gains one yard. Facing fourth and two, the 49ers call timeout and Nolan elects to go for a 22-yard field goal instead of taking a shot in the end zone. Nolan's explanation: He would have gone for it if it had been fourth and one.

"If it's fourth and one, I would have done that (go for it)," Nolan said. "At fourth and three, it's more difficult. We are working on our special teams as well in the preseason ..."

That might be a plausible explanation in the regular season when, you know, the games actually count. But the preseason is for evaluating personnel, and the 49ers' biggest personnel decision is at quarterback. Why not give Smith two chances to dump it in the end zone? On the other side of the field, Lane Kiffin went for it on fourth down. He also decided to go for a two-point conversion. Preseason is a good time to fold up the umbrella of caution and stick it in the corner. ... For the record, Martz called 13 runs and 17 passes in the first half. Six of those passes came during Smith's final drive when the half was winding down ...

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J.T. O'Sullivan's assessment of his performance: "Disgusted." Said O'Sullivan: "I kind of feel disgusted. ... I guess that would be the way I feel about the way I played." O'Sullivan threw a bad interception into coverage when the 49ers were driving for a score. On the next series, he tried to scramble for a first down on 3rd and 6 and ended up coughing up the ball. "I was trying to do too much. It's 100 percent not acceptable."

On the bright side, it didn't take O'Sullivan long to get into sync. He hit Josh Morgan on several long throws and his accuracy -- the biggest key in Martz's opinion -- was dead on. Now all he needs to work on is judgement.

The other two QBs lived up to their scouting reports. Alex Smith started slowly, throwing incompletions on his first three attempts. But he again looked good in the 2-minute drill (see: 2007 season opener) driving the team 55 yards in the last three minutes.

Shaun Hill's Achilles' heel also showed up tonight. On fourth and three, he bought some time and saw that Jason Hill was open and heading for the end zone. But he didn't get his feet under his throw and the wobbler was picked off by S Hiram Eugene. "If he had put a little more air under it, it would have been good," Nolan said.

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Nolan was asked what kind of bearing tonight's game would have on the quarterback rotation next week against Green Bay. "I'll get there tomorrow," he said. "I'll start dicussing that tomorrow."

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As for injuries, there was nothing serious. The injured players were center Eric Heitmann (hip), tackle Damane Duckett (knee), returner Allen Rossum (knee) and tight end Delanie Walker (cut on elbow).

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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