49ers Blog and Q&A

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

August 19, 2012
Film review: Bakhtiari, Dobbs, run game stand out; what went wrong


NFL coaches like to say that, after examining the film, games are never as good or as bad as they suspected they were leaving the field. The feeling following Saturday's game in Houston was pretty bleak, especially with injuries to Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James adding ominous notes to the tone of the game.

But the 49ers didn't play as terribly as you might suspect. For the second straight game, the starting defense - it was playing without OLBs Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith - gave up yards but not touchdowns.

When Matt Schaub and the Texans drove for a touchdown midway through the second quarter, it was against the 49ers second-team defense. Houston's first-team offense also got a field goal against the second-team defense. The defense would have gotten off the field early on the drive that ended in a touchdown. But Larry Grant overran a short pass to the tight end on the opening sequence, which allowed the tight end to get up off the grass and run for a first down that kept the drive alive.

On the offensive side, there were some issues with pass protection, which were documented in a previous post. But the run blocking again was excellent. The first-team offensive line played well into the second quarter, and the 49ers had 94 rushing yards at the half. Kendall Hunter, Frank Gore, Colin Kaepernick, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James had runs of 17, 14, 12, 8 and 8 yards respectively. There was a bogus holding call on Anthony Davis in the second quarter, which negated another nice run by Hunter near a first down. Instead it was just dominant blocking.

For the second straight game, Eric Bakhtiari led the 49ers in tackles (seven against the Texans). That's due in part to the fact that he played most of the game. But he was very good in setting the edge against the run and then knifing in when he had a shot at the tackle. As you would expect, Bakhtiari was a more effective pass rusher once the Texans starters left the game. He initially played right outside linebacker (Aldon Smith's spot) but switched to the left side in the second half.

Because the Texans use three wide receivers so much, the 49ers were in their nickel defense for a lot of the game. I thought it was interesting that Demarcus Dobbs came in and played right defensive end (what Aldon Smith played last year) in nickel situations. He didn't get any sacks, but he was able to collapse the pocket a couple of times. Saturday's game was notable because, for the first time, Dobbs was going against first-team offensive linemen. If Dobbs makes the team and is active on game days - I suspect both will happen - the 49ers have to think about giving him some action on obvious passing downs.

The 49ers had a tough time with Antonio Smith all night (see previous post), including on the 4th and 1 run by Anthony Dixon. Smith burst into the backfield as Dixon was getting the ball. He was hit by fullback Bruce Miller, but Dixon had to go around them, and that slowed his momentum to the line of scrimmage. The 49ers gave up the ball on downs. I thought Dixon had a nice game, although he averaged only 2.4 yards a carry. His future on the team may hinge on Jacobs' MRI today.

On the long pass to Andre Johnson, Tramaine Brock and rookie safety Trenton Robinson actually had good position. But Johnson was the only one of the three who knew where the ball was and was able to adjust to the underthrown pass from Matt Schaub. Brock was turned around again in the third quarter and didn't know where the ball was against the Texans backups. He was called for pass interference. It's going to be interesting to see if Perrish Cox, who should be back next week for his homecoming to Denver, overtakes Brock on the depth chart.

The zone-read between LaMichael James and Kaepernick again was effective. Against the Vikings, it resulted in a 78-yard touchdown run by Kaepernick. Against Houston, Kaepernick kept the ball on one run (a 12-yard gain) and handed it off to James on the next (8-yard gain). At the very least, it's something else defenses will have to think about this season when preparing for the 49ers.

The Texans safety seemed to have an easy time reading where Kaepernick was going to throw, and that resulted in two near interceptions. Kaepernick is great out of the pocket and great on the run. What he needs to work on his throwing from the pocket. That's not a surprise given the offense he ran at Nevada.

Having said that ... Randy Moss led the 49ers in receiving with three catches for 24 yards. He would have finished with four for 48 but he allowed a nicely thrown back-shoulder pass from Kaepernick to slips through his hands. Moss has been good, but not perfect, in practices. There have been several drops this summer.

On Arian Foster's 24-yard run before the two-minute warning ... Outside linebacker Kenny Rowe got shoved wide, Robinson was blocked and Chris Culliver missed an ankle tackle. The weird thing is that inside linebacker Tavares Gooden started pursuing the play, stopped and then began to run the other way and went out of the screen. I have no idea what that was about.

On the 9-yard touchdown from Matt Schaub to Lestar Jean, three defenders covered receiver Kevin Walter crossing in the back of the end zone. No one covered Jean, who went in for the easy touchdown.

I thought Ian Williams had another solid game. He read a delayed screen in the third quarter and was one of the few 49ers not fooled by a playfake/rollout later in the game. He was pushed back when double teams but otherwise didn't give up ground at the line of scrimmage. Williams is putting some good game film together, which means he will be difficult to get onto the practice squad.

Kourtnei Brown overran play and got caught inside on long run by the Texans. As he was catching up to the play, he grabbed his left hamstring and didn't return. That's yet another outside linebacker down with an injury, leaving Parys Haralson, Bakhtiari, Kenny Rowe and newcomer Ikaika Alama-Francis as the only healthy bodies. Brooks and Smith, however, may be close to returning. Alama-Francis did not play Saturday.

As far as Trindon Holliday's punt return for a touchdown ... Andy Lee's punt was good in that it seemed to pin Holliday toward the sideline. The 49ers just overran it. Cory Nelms and Joe Holland ran right past Holliday. Robinson, one of the few players on the field who actually might be covering kicks and punts in the regular season, took a poor angle and also overran the play. It was just bad awareness from everyone involved.

A.J. Jenkins had a nice game, getting open deep three times (two passes were overthrown). The catch he made - 32 yards down the sideline - was nice in that he left enough room between the defender and the sideline to separate from the defender and still make the catch. Jenkins's blocking on a designed rollout by Josh Johnson, however, was weak and needs work. That's to be expected from an undersized rookie.

According to the official gamebook, fullback Cameron Bell, center Jason Slowey, Alama-Francis and tight end Joe Sawyer were the only healthy 49ers who didn't play. Then again, the gamebook says that Nate Byham did play (he was released last week), so it's possible Sawyer slipped in for a play or two.

-- 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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