425 yards of total offense by the 49ers tonight against the Chicago Bears. Last week, 355 yards of offense against the Green Bay Packers. Take a minute to soak those numbers in. While it is only the preseason and backups were in for significant chunks, we can still enjoy ourselves on occasion.
While the 49ers only won by 7 tonight, I really don't think the game was that close. Even when it was tied 20-20, I actually felt like the 49ers offense could pull this thing out. I can honestly say I don't remember the last time I had that feeling with the 49ers. Even when they were 2-0 last year, the team had struggled in victory. The year before most of us were surprised when they were 7-9 so we didn't expect anything. The two previous years they were 4-12 and 2-14, nuff said.
The Bears defense finished up pretty abysmally last season and they look well on their way to another horrid season in 2008. The way I look at it, the 49ers offense is clearly not 34 or 37 points a game good, but they're clearly not as bad as they were last year. If the defense can get some teeth, a league average offense could be more than enough to make some noise.
So, preseason game #3 is in the books and we had some more questions answered. Some questions will not be fully answered until the season starts, but we're getting some nice hints of things to come.
QB situation: It's official. J.T. O'Sullivan is the starting quarterback for this team. Maybe he loses the job midseason, but on September 7, O'Sullivan will be leading this offense against the Arizona Cardinals. Whether you still prefer Alex Smith, I think it's safe to say that O'Sullivan has not done anything to lose the job. Maybe he didn't deserve all the #1 snaps initially, but he showed he can make plays. He won't throw the prettiest pass and I'm sure he'll make at least one vomit-inducing poor decision every game. However, he knows this offense and will move the chains. I've got thoughts on Alex Smith, but I'm going to leave them for another post involving a whole lot of film breakdown. Suffice to say, his accuracy (or lack there of) is the death of him in the Mike Martz offense.
And briefly as to Shaun Hill. I realize he has a sizable fan contingent. As Rishi pointed out in the game thread, he was one of the lone bright spots in a season of crap. I do agree that he deserved better. At the same time, the physical attributes simply aren't there. I realize you don't need to have all the physical tools as many professional athletes have shown. At the same time, I think JTO has done enough for now to hold onto the job. I'm sure he'll have me eating my words within the first two quarters of the regular season.
Offensive Line: They only gave up one sack and O'Sullivan et al. seemed to have enough time in the pocket most of the time. I do need to rewatch the offense again to verify my thoughts. This is more just insticts (which have been wrong many times). I'm still anxious to see how they perform once the regular season gets here, but this is one question that I feel is hinting towards a rebirth. I think Eric Heitmann needed last season to reach a full recovery and should be solid this year. I'd like to keep De La Puente but I don't think the numbers will allow it. As for their abilities in the running game?
Running Backs: Thomas Clayton is officially THE MAN against backups! While partially joking, I'm serious in the fact that I really don't know what he'll be for the 49ers. If he goes back to the practice squad he can be signed by any other team. If your running backs are banged up, or you lack depth, wouldn't you take a flyer on the second year Clayton?
And what else needs to be said about Frank Gore? Frank the Tank looked to be in midseason form. I believe he shed some weight and he definitely seemed to have a little extra shiftiness tonight. He was bobbing and weaving and finding holes like the Pro Bowler that he is. Throw in the succesful screen plays and it's safe to say that Frank Gore is due for one hell of a season. Martz may be a passing fool, but his use of Gore has me excited.
Wide Receivers: After back-to-back impressive performances, Morgan was thrown to three times tonight and had no receptions. He got creamed on one over the middle play so I won't go calling him Alligator Arms (like our boy B. Lloyd). He's a rookie so there will be the occasional regression. He has no worries about a roster spot but this certainly didn't help his bid to score a starting spot.
Jason Hill on the other hand made some nice plays and combined with Morgan leaves me somewhat excited about the future of the wide receiver position for now. One disappointment will be if Zeigler doesn't make the team. I'm going to put together a 53-man roster look tomorrow or the next day and see what it would take to get him on the roster. He's been really consistent receiver with 4+ catches each game and making plays at opportune moments. They keep saying he'll be easy to slip through waivers to the practice squad, but I'm not so sure anymore.
Special Teams Coverage: Like clockwork, the 49ers had major headaches on special teams. The Bears averaged 40 yards per kick return and 20 yards per punt return. If this keeps up, the 49ers will be in trouble because the defense can't constantly defending only 50 or so yards per series. I honestly have no answers for these problems. Any ideas? I'm going to see what I can dig up.
Pass Rush: After a pass rush run wild against the Packers, the front seven was contained this week. I think this preseason sums up what we can expect from the pass rush. There will be some truly amazing performances, but there will also be some wild inconsistencies that make us want to pull our hair out. Ray McDonald ripping a couple sacks, followed by a couple offsides penalties. Hopefully it's more of the former, but we'll see.
General Thoughts: Normally I would say to myself, oh don't get too excited about high scoring in the preseason. However, I do NOT think this is a complete aberration. The running and passing game will lead to some high scoring games. While there will be struggles, the offense is clearly better than last season. In last year's preseason, the 49ers scored 13, 26, 28 and 13 points. So far this preseason it's 6, 34 and 37. Preseason is clearly the ultimate in small sample sizes, but nonetheless I'll take what I can get to stay excited.
Participation: Finally, another SB Nation site came up with an interesting website that allows me to plug in the game thread and figure out who commented in the thread and how many comments they posted. Aside from myself, bondslegend had 216 comments, 49ersLou had 98, Cruithear had 43, 408 had 26, CB30 had 6, Muy Macho had 4, and Rishi, gatling, jtoj and metal_militia all had 1 comments. Thanks to all for participating. Always good to get everyone's insights on the game.