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

November 25, 2011
Offensive line reverts to early-season form


BALTIMORE -- A 49ers offensive line that led the way during the team's eight-game winning streak reverted to its flimsier, early-season form Thursday against the Ravens. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked nine times, matching the most sacks allowed by San Francisco since the statistic started being officially recorded in 1982. The previous high for the 49ers this season was six sacks in a Week 2 overtime loss to the Cowboys.

Nine sacks also tied a franchise record for the Ravens defense. Said defensive tackle Cory Redding: "It's Thanksgiving, man - there's a lot of turkey. We had to go out there and eat."

The problem spot initially was right guard. Starter Adam Snyder left the game at the end of the first quarter with a left hamstring pull and was replaced by Chilo Rachal, whose mistakes immediately cost the 49ers.

Rachal and running back Frank Gore combined on a chop-block penalty - Gore hitting the pass rusher low and Rachal hitting him high - that negated a 75-yard touchdown by receiver Ted Ginn. On third down of the same series, Rachal missed a block on an inside rush by Redding, who sacked Smith.

The Ravens blitzed as much, if not more, than any 49ers opponent had this year. They also used stunts that the 49ers offensive linemen had trouble handling. Smith seemed to hold the ball too long on some of the sacks in the second half.

Both Gore and coach Jim Harbaugh said the chop block technically was a good call. "You had one guy going low and Chilo put his hands on the defender," Harbaugh said. "It took away a big play and that was unfortunate."

Snyder returned the following series with a pronounced limp and played the remainder of the first half. Rachal, however, was back when the second half began. Both players had trouble with Baltimore nose tackle Haloti Ngata, who had two sacks and three tackles for loss and who was able to collapse Smith's passing pocket throughout the game. "Hats off to them," said 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin. "... We could have done some things better. But I don't want to take credit from them."

Snyder was limping badly after the game, which suggests his availability for next Sunday's game against the Rams also is in doubt.

Thursday night's game was billed as the one in which the league's long-time top inside linebacker, Baltimore's Ray Lewis, would relinquish that title to the up and comer, Patrick Willis.

Lewis, however, was inactive for the game with a toe injury that also kept him out of Sunday's game against the Bengals. It was only the 11th game Lewis, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, has missed in his last six seasons.

Albert McClellan, an undrafted free agent last year, played in place of Lewis at inside linebacker and finished with four tackles. Willis and NaVorro Bowman tied for the team lead with eights tackles.

Willis said he spoke to Lewis after the game and said he wished the veteran could have played. "Who knows?" Willis said, hinting of a Harbaugh-vs.Harbaugh Super Bowl. "Maybe I'll see him again this season."

Odds & Ends

* Rookie Bruce Miller, who has been the team's starting fullback since Week 3, did not play because of a concussion suffered Sunday against Arizona. Veteran Moran Norris, who fractured his fibula in Week 2, filled in at fullback.

* Sgt. Dontae Skywalker, who gave the 49ers a tour of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Nov. 5 in Arlington, Va., was on the 49ers sideline for the game. After the tour, Harbaugh and his assistants created a play called "Skywalker," which they unveiled during the game against the Giants. It gained 16 yards.

* The 49ers held Baltimore's Ray Rice to a 2.8 yards-per-carry average and 59 total rushing yards, marking the 33rd straight game in which the 49ers have not allowed an opponent to rush for 100 or more yards. The 49ers also have not allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 16 last season.

* The 49ers are 10-1 on coin tosses this season. They have kicked off to start the game every week.

-- 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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