49ers Blog and Q&A

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

November 24, 2008
Monday morning observations (with nary a mention of T.O.)

· Going into Sunday's game against Dallas, the conventional wisdom was that the 49ers would feed the ball to Frank Gore, a strategy that would wear down the Cowboys defensive line and keep the ball out of Tony Romo's hands. Mike Martz, however, tossed convention out the window on the opening series when he called two pass plays to start the game. One went for 21 yards, the other for minus-2. Overall, Martz passed 18 times on first down and ran the ball seven times. That's due in large part to the team's second-half deficit. But what happened to the game-management style Mike Singletary was looking for when he took over? Gore is the centerpiece of the offense - everyone keeps saying so - but he's had 20 or more carries only twice this season and spent the final minutes of Sunday's game seething on the sideline. Compare that to the 2006 campaign when he hit the 20-carry mark seven times and ran 31 times in the season finale in Denver.

· Speaking of play calling, here's what the 49ers did on two successive trips to the Dallas 4 yard line in the first quarter. Let me know if you see a pattern:

First down: Shaun Hill incomplete to Bryant Johnson in the corner of the end zone.
Second down: Gore run loses one yard
Third down: Hill's pass in the short, middle of the end zone in incomplete to Johnson.
Fourth down: Short field goal.

First down: Hill incomplete to Johnson in the corner of the end zone.
Second down: Gore run goes for no gain
Third down: Hill's pass in the short, middle of the end zone in incomplete to Johnson.
Fourth down: Short field goal.

· One statistical area the 49ers won: penalties. The team was penalized two times for 10 yards Sunday. One of them - a neutral zone infraction - was negated by a Dallas false start on the following play. It's notable that rookie Chilo Rachal, making his first start on the road, had zero penalties. It's an encouraging start.

· Manny Lawson is looking better and better as the season goes on, another sign that his ACL injury may have been affecting him early on. Lawson got the team's only interception and its only sack. Despite the fact that the 49ers spent a first-round pick on Lawson, they still don't seem to know how to use him. The 49ers should use the offseason to figure out a defense that can keep hree players: Lawson, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, on the field all three downs.

· Speaking of Smith ... team officials argue that the defensive end/tackle/linebacker doesn't get the credit he deserves. That's true, but it's the team's fault. Opposing offenses know that he's the 49ers' only consistent pass-rush threat and adjust their blocking schemes accordingly. The 49ers need a bookend - either at defensive end or rush linebacker - in order to make the Smith deal look like a sound one. That's got to be a priority in the offseason, even more so than quarterback.

· What are the 49ers waiting for in regards to Ahmad Brooks? The team needs some sort of a spark at outside linebacker. Sure, Pary Haralson has shown a flash or two. But you can't tell me that Brooks - who, according to team insiders has jaw-dropping athleticism - is any worse than Roderick Green or Tully Banta-Cain. So, he makes a mental error. Is that any worse than not laying a finger on Romo and watching as he hooks up with you-know-who on a 75-yard touchdown? At this point, what do you have to lose?

-- Matt 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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