After a week off, we return with Mike Singletary's Formula for Success. Although there are certainly issues to be dissatisfied with, I think we can all look at the bright side of things this morning. It may have been the "same old sorry Rams," but a dominant defensive performance like that is good no matter who the opponent is. One plus to doing it to the Rams is that they were a team the 49ers were supposed to beat badly, and they did just that.
For those that don't know, last season Mike Singletary introduced something he called his Formula for Success. It consisted of five concepts, where if the 49ers have success, they put themselves in an excellent position to win a ballgame. Each Monday (for the most part), we take a quick look back at the previous day's game and see how the team did in each of these concepts. These concepts are:
1. Total Ball Security
3. Dominate the trenches
4. Create great field position
After the jump we apply the Formula for Success to yesterday's 35-0 pasting of the Rams.
Total Ball Security
The 49ers did very well in this area on both sides of the ball. On defense, the aggressive 49ers made plays happen in one instance (Willis TD), and took advantage of atrocious Rams mistakes in other instances (McDonald and McKillop TDs). The defense took a big step in converting turnovers into immediate scores. John Lynch said it several times, and it bears repeating. Good defenses force turnovers. Great defenses seem to accumulate an impressive number of defensive touchdowns. I have no proof to back that statement up, but it does seem like the all-time great defenses have made points on their own.
On offense, the 49ers offense continued their pattern of protecting the ball. Maybe it's a product of a conservative offense, but after the first half of last season, a low number of turnovers is welcome. The team did seem to open the playbook a little bit yesterday and there were no turnover repercussions. There were of course the pass plays, but they also mixed in some sweeps. Sweeps generally don't lead to turnovers, but with a rookie running back, you never know what might happen.
Defensive execution was stellar yesterday. The Rams did convert 5 third downs, but their offense was never really much of a threat. The defense did a good job stopping the run yet again and I'll continue pointing to the open field tackling abilities of the secondary. Michael Lewis is primarily a run stopper. Nate Clements is a solid cover corner, but he's a spectacular open field tackler, particularly when stopping running backs. I realize covering the receiver is the flashy part of his big contract, but his contributions in the run game cannot be minimized. While a ball-hawking pass defense is great, seeing every 49er defender swarming on running backs in the backfield is so much fun to watch.
Offensive execution had it's ups and downs. When I post this week's Jimmy Raye Approval Rating, I'll go into more detail, but his play-calling was not the problem today. The play-calling was in fact creative and played to the passing strengths of the team. Heck they even mixed in some outside sweeps for Coffee. The problem was in execution. They get credit for excellent execution on the two touchdown drives, but they also get negative marks for most of the rest of the game. As has been pointed out this is primarily due to the offensive line. Singletary has said he thinks this could be a great line and that they're sort of getting in their own way. As long as the o-line struggles, it will remain a concern.
Dominate the Trenches
As was discussed above, the offensive line did not dominate the trenches. Glen Coffee couldn't get much going and Shaun Hill took quite the beating. Hill was asked after the game how he felt physically and he said, "I feel like I played an NFL football game." He was sacked four times and took 5 hits (not sure if those 5 hits include the 4 sacks). Either way, he spent a lot of time getting knocked around.
Defensively, as with every aspect of the game, they dominated. Steven Jackson found some holes on occasion, but for the most part was contained. The linebackers and secondary made plays outside the tackles, but inside the defensive line opened up some serious holes for the linebackers to pounce on Jackson. It carried over into the passing game as the pass rush was nothing short of beastly. Five sacks and nine QB hits likely left Kyle Boller rather discouraged. It was a bad Rams team, but this kind of game can only help a defense's confidence. Particularly with a tough Atlanta offense coming to town next week.
Create great field position
It was intriguing to see Allen Rossum deactivated this week. Aside from a called back TD return, Rossum has been pretty much non-existent. I'm extremely curious to see how this continues to develop. However, the defense did help create good field position. The first touchdown came after a Rams punt DEEP in their own territory left the 49ers starting at midfield. And of course, you can't get much better field position than scoring on defense. I remain concerned about the kick return game and am curious how this all develops. Spurlock AND Rossum were inactive, but we saw very little from Jason Hill and Brandon Jones. It's hard to decipher the situation at this point. Any thoughts?
This was the best "Finishing" of a game I've seen in a long time by the 49ers, on both sides of the ball. The 49ers were up 21-0 and easily could have gone into 3 rushes and punt for the last 20 minutes or so of the game. Instead, they went for the jugular, which is exactly what we like to see. On offense they continued to open up the passing game, leading to the Josh Morgan touchdown. Why go three and out when you can go deep!
As for the defense? Well, they never let up the entire game. I'm guessing they really wanted that shutout, and that kept them a little extra motivated. I'm trying to remember the last time a 49ers defense put together this kind of complete effort for 60 minutes. A quick look back and it might have been Dennis Erickson's debut game against the Bears in 2003. The 49ers won the game 49-7, forcing 5 turnovers, sacking the QB 5 times and holding the Bears to 127 total yards. Let's just move on and avoid any future comparisons to a Dennis Erickson coached team.