Well, for the first time, we get a chance to look at the 49ers Formula for Success after a not so successful effort. The 49ers struggled in most of the formula, so it's no surprise they came away with an L.
1. Total Ball Security
3. Dominate the trenches
4. Create great field position
Total Ball Security
Funny how we get to start off with the one area of success. Neither team turned the ball over today. Given how DeShaun Foster struggled last week, it's a nice change of pace to see him hang onto the ball. Shaun Hill didn't throw any interceptions, although I would have preferred him to take a few more chances in the red zone. The biggest fumble threat was probably Dominique Zeigler, making his first appearance as a punt returner since high school. As awful as he was at times, at least he held onto the ball. A+ all around.
The defense did not execute against the pass in the first half, but they stepped up in the second half in shutting down the Dolphins. Given the fact that they kept the team in the game when it mattered most, I'll give them a B+. The second half performance more than made up for a relatively poor first half.
I'd have to give the offense a C-. The good news is the offense dominated time of possession and moved the ball fairly well up and down the field. The bad news is they could not punch the ball once they got into the red zone. The red zone struggles tempted me to give them a D, but I think the red zone struggles can be worked on and corrected eventually. Or I could be completely wrong.
Special teams had its ups and downs. Joe Nedney was lights out as usual. Andy Lee booted the heck out of the ball but seemed to outkick the coverage as the 49ers gave up 17.3 yards per punt return. The negative was Dominique Zeigler, who showed how long it's been since he last fielded a punt. Given the Rossum and Clements injury, he deserves a bit of a pass. All in all though, I'd say C+.
Dominate the Trenches
It's hard to really assess how the battle in the trenches went. On the offensive side of the ball, Shaun Hill went down five times, including the game-ender. Of course, the rushing attack showed a little more consistency and Hill did manage to find time to throw for most of the game. I have to wonder whether Adam Snyder gives up that late sack as he was starting to find a bit of a groove at right tackle. Barry Sims is definitely not a long term answer in any sense of the word.
On the defensive side of the ball, there really wasn't a whole lot of pressure on Pennington as he had plenty of time to burn the 49ers. The Dolphins averaged 4.5 yards per carry, but in his recap, MM pointed out that much of the blame goes to the guys on the outside. Without looking at the game tape, I recall that Brown and Ricky Williams seemed to have most of their success outside the tackle-box. All in all, I'd give the team a C+ in the trenches.
Create great field position
Whereas total ball security was the issue last week, field position was the big problem this week. Their best start came on their last came on their last drive, at their own 39. In fact, seven of their nine drives started no better than their own 21.
A big part of that problem was having Dominique Zeigler back returning punts. His second fair catch on his own 4 showed the inexperience. On the two chances he did get to make a return he was stopped very easily. It's amazing how much this team misses Allen Rossum. F.
Given the red zone struggles, and of course the finish to the game, there's not a whole lot that needs to be said here. They had opportunities to win this game and just could not take care of business. As far as I'm concerned, "finishing" means TCBing it. I give them a D-, but only because Nedney did manage to finish on his opportunities.