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September 27, 2011
Five sacks: Breaking down the breakdowns

First off - apologies to right guard Chilo Rachal. I had him being responsible for two of the Bengals' five sacks on Sunday. It turns out he was the guilty party on only one. Still, Rachal did not have a very good game, and he was replaced by Adam Snyder in the second half. The 49ers actually gave up six sacks for the second straight week, but one was negated by an off-sides penalty.

After allowing no sacks in Week 1, the 49ers have given up 11 since. That ties them for fifth-most with Miami. Here is a breakdown of Sunday's game:


1st quarter

1st & 10, SF 30 - The Bengals line up six defenders along the line. Five of them rush the passer, but one of the linebackers, Thomas Howard, trails Frank Gore out of the backfield. That's where Alex Smith wants to throw but can't. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene beats right guard Chilo Rachal to Rachal's inside. Rachal holds Fanene - he's penalized for it - but to no avail. Fanene crashes into Smith for a five-yard loss.

2nd quarter

3rd & 14, SF 21 -- After an Anthony Davis false start, the 49ers are facing third and 14. The team has been terrible at converting long third downs this season, and this is another example. The Bengals rush four. Fanene is initially blocked by center Adam Snyder and left guard Mike Iupati. But when he loops around to the outside, there is no one there to pick him up. Gore pops out into the flat for a pass and Snyder seems to yell something to Gore after the play. Smith holds the ball about four seconds before being sacked for an eight-yard loss.

3rd quarter

2nd & 11, SF 42 -- The 49ers are totally confused and overmatched on this play. The Bengals line eight defenders, including safety Reggie Nelson, along the line of scrimmage. Six of them rush with two linemen dropping into coverage. Three Bengals quickly converge on Smith: Nelson, linebacker Howard and linebacker Manny Lawson. Howard lines up on the right side of the 49ers offensive line. Anthony Davis seems confused about who he should block, and Howard goes around him untouched. Lawson is blitzing from the inside. Rookie fullback Bruce Miller correctly picks him up, but Lawson easily beats Miller. Nelson is at the bottom of the screen, on the left side of the offensive line. He beats Kendall Hunter, and all three meet at Smith at the same time for a seven-yard sack. However, defensive tackle Frostee Rucker is flagged for offside, negating the play.

1st & 6, CIN 6 - After a beautifully thrown 39-yard pass to Vernon Davis gets the ball deep in Cincinnati territory, Smith locks in on Michael Crabtree to his right and left tackle Joe Staley is overpowered by a bull rush by Rucker, who buries Smith for a six-yard sack. The Bengals rush four on the play.

3rd & 5, CIN 5 - The Bengals rush three, which puts eight defenders into a small space. Smith doesn't find anyone and takes off up the middle for the end zone. He's caught by his ankles by Geno Atkins for no gain, which is technically a sack.

2nd & 10, SF 20 - The Bengals blitz, overloading the right side of the 49ers offensive line with two extra rushers, linebacker Dan Skuta and safety Chris Crocker. Again, Miller and Gore come out of the backfield and correctly pick up the extra rushers. But Gore can't handle Crocker to the outside, who grabs a hold of Smith, and Miller doesn't handle Skuta, who soon joins his teammate. Smith loses eight yards. Gore, who is usually excellent in pass defense, has sprained his ankle at this point, which may impact his blocking.

About the Crabtree non-challenge: FOX finally shows a replay on the play after Crabtree's apparent touchdown. But it's an aerial view that doesn't give any insight into whether the receiver indeed stepped out of bounds. Four snaps later, the network gives a much better view that casts doubt about whether Crabtree stepped out. But would that angle have been enough to overrule the call? Probably not. But a challenge may have led officials to review better looks at the play.

The worst play of the game: The designed run by Smith in the second quarter. Smith, who had suffered a concussion last week, is sandwiched by Fanene and cornerback Nate Clements who tags Smith after a five-yard gain. Clements' initial contact is shoulder-to-shoulder but the cornerback's helmet ends up smacking into Smith's whose head also bounces off the artificial surface. Commentator Jim Mora questions the play call. "That is not Mike Vick right there," Mora says of Smith.

Best play: Both of the deep throws to Vernon Davis led to scores, a field goal (and perhaps shoulda been touchdown to Crabtree in the third quarter) and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The first throw is particularly impressive, landing in Davis' bread basket just beyond safety Nelson.

-- 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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