49ers Blog and Q&A

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

October 8, 2012
Film review: 49ers snuff out Williams; Willis, defense not too shabby

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The lesson after Week 5: You don't want the 49ers singing your praises as they prepare to play you.

Last week, the object of the 49ers' affection was Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, whom the 49ers compared favorably to their own Justin Smith and who they said was the unrecognized (by everyone else) star of the Bills defensive line.

On Sunday, they made sure that Williams didn't shine. He entered the game as the Bills' sack leader and tackle leader among defensive linemen but was held to three stops. Although guards Mike Iupati and Alex Boone were Williams' chief tormentors, every 49er offensive lineman had a shot at Williams Sunday. On the longest play of the game - the first-quarter, 53-yard throw to Vernon Davis - right tackle Anthony Davis is responsible for Williams and holds him up at the line of scrimmage.

It was similar to the recent games against the Lions in which the blocking schemes were focused on eliminating Ndamukong Suh. The 49ers offense seemed to pivot off the blocks against Williams and the other interior rushers.

This was yet another game in which you could lavish praise on any member of the offensive line as well as tight end Delanie Walker, who continues to lay big hits all over the field. Davis, however, stood out, including on this play:

Following a tripping penalty on Walker, the 49ers faced third and 10 at their own 3-yard line. The call was a handoff to Kendall Hunter, who was supposed to follow his blocks left. The Bills, however, clogged the left side and Hunter cut back to the right where he found enough space to pick up the first down.

The reason he had so much space to the right? Davis had blocked Mario Williams, responsible for back-side pursuit, practically out of the television screen. Later in the quarter, left tackle Joe Staley was blocking Williams one-on-one on the touchdown toss from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree. Smith, who had been sacked 12 times heading into Sunday, was not sacked at all by the Bills. He had nearly four seconds to throw on the touchdown to Crabtree.

Mario Williams did beat Davis on the play in which Smith injured the middle finger on his throwing hand. In re-watching the play, Williams hits Smith low as he was throwing to the right to Vernon Davis, and Smith braced himself with his right hand as he fell to the grass. Smith doesn't seem overly concerned with the hand after the play, and he ran the ball on the next two snaps. However, he did not make another throw the rest of the afternoon as he was then taken out of the game, presumably because the 49ers were so far ahead.

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Smith's last run was a naked bootleg to the left for 17 yards. The fake out was so good that Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham is still searching for the ball at the line of scrimmage.

More Smith: I thought his best throw of the day was the rainbow, 24-yarder on third down he threw to Davis. The ball descends just beyond the left shoulder of linebacker Arthur Moats and into Davis' breadbasket. Davis rarely is covered by linebackers these days, and the matchup is an automatic target for Smith.

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The 53-yard pass to Davis is the 49ers' longest play of the season. Randy Moss had another quiet game - one catch for 11 yards - but he went deep on the Davis play, drawing double coverage and clearing the way for Davis' big gain. That is, Moss has a big effect on the defense even when he is not directly involved in the play. The same thing happened on a long pass to Walker last week.

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The 49ers' defensive effort was eclipsed by the offense, but it deserves mention. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman had to play a lot of pass coverage, and both were very good. Bowman was, at times, matched against C.J. Spiller, perhaps the fastest running back in the league. Willis covered tight end Scott Chandler all game and forced the second-quarter fumble that marked the turning point in the game.

Chris Culliver's interception at the goal line also snuffed out a potential Bills' scoring drive. Give an assist to Ahmad Brooks on the play. He crashed the pocket from the right side of the Buffalo line, preventing Ryan Fitzpatrick from stepping into the throw. Instead, the ball hung in the air like a punt, and Culliver was in position for the easy pick off.

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As far as the first-quarter coverage woes ... The holding penalty that rubbed out an 80-yard touchdown return by Leodis McKelvin was a legitimate call. Tramaine Brock definitely was held on the play. But it still would have been a big return had Brock not been held. It also was a penalty that easily could have been missed by the officials.

On McKelvin's big kick return, Darcel McBath seems to have an easy shot at McKelvin at the 19-yard line but overruns the tackle. Again it's Brock who saves the day for the 49ers by Darrel Green-ing McKelvin after he runs 40 yards and into San Francisco territory.

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Noted: Another bit of history Sunday: Best fake-out ever by Mario Manningham, who sold an inside move at the goal line so well that there wasn't a Bills defender within 15 yards on his 10-yard touchdown from Smith. That's why Manningham is called The Eel (ok, I'm the only one who calls him that) - he's so damn slippery.

• When Frank Gore broke free on a 31-yard run in the third quarter, he had a rather large escort. Right guard Boone nearly beat the running back down the field. (Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus deserves recognition, too, for getting in on the tackle, although he ended up steamrolling his own teammate on the play).

• The 49ers' heavy-jumbo offensive line package seems to defeat the 49ers' offensive philosophy of keeping the defense guessing at all times. That is, by sending the jumbos - Leonard Davis, Daniel Kilgore and Will Tukuafu - into the game, the 49ers are signaling their intent, and the defense is able to be aggressive and get a jump on the ball. Then again, perhaps the jumbos soften up the defense. The 49ers have been ripping off big runs routinely in the second halves of their recent games.

• In re-watching the game, I thought the CBS announcer duo of Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots did a nice job. Yes, Harlan called Colin Kaepernick "Kyle" at one point. But otherwise, they seemed to hit all of the right notes and obviously had done some homework in Santa Clara. Not bad for a crew that rarely has the 49ers.

• The officiating team led by Ladies Man Jerome Boger also was good. The 49ers were hit with seven penalties for 53 yards - four on third down - but nearly all were legitimate. (The tripping penalty? Meh)

-- 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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