I took my usual dozen pages of notes while watching last night's game. But I'll restrain myself and try to keep the volume down to a reasonable read.
1. Alex Smith -- probably his best game ever as a Niner; several absolutely GREAT throws; he can be a very good QB when he gets adequate protection.
2. The OL -- especially the rookies; also, Snyder's best game in a long time.
3. Frank Gore -- strong performance except for the INT off his hands.
4. Josh Morgan -- probably his best game ever; he gets better with each outing, I think a function of his self-confidence.
5. Justin Smith -- is simply a beast!
1. "Play call communication" -- Alex using a wrist band seemed to work MUCH BETTER.
I CAN'T MAKE UP MY MIND ... AND I'M BECOMING SCHIZOPHRENIC ABOUT IT!
1. Jimmy Raye's play calling --
On the minus side, I look at the first ten play calls of the game (first three "drives"):
Gore up middle; Gore up middle; center over Alex's head (presumedly a pass called?); kick; Gore up middle; Gore up middle; Westbrook in wildcat up the middle for no gain; kick; a PASS on first down (although it was a jail break with Alex running for his life); Gore up middle; in summary -- 10 plays: 6 runs up the middle for little gain, a safety on a bad center, one pass and two punts; and, zero creativity! At this point, if you're Alex, you've got to be pissed!
On the plus side, considering the entire game, Raye's run / pass distribution was better than it has been in some time -- 45% run / 55% pass -- Alex 72% completion ratio.
On the other hand: he used Westbrook in one play, made little use of Crabtree, and threw mostly to the TEs and RBs.
On the other other hand: they gained 417 yards in total offense.
1. Poor special teams play (with some exceptions like Mays as a gunner).
A poor kick after the safety -- New Orleans starts their first drive on their own 46; kickoff returns -- poor average return yardage; holding on opening kickoff (costing 25 net yards); punt returns -- fumble on their own 14 and penalties; kickoff coverage -- NO return to their own 39; punt coverage -- Bush returns punt for 41 yards.
2. Our old friend ... poor clock management, again!
3rdQ, after NO TD and then NO kickoff -- delay of game! Absolutely unbelievable! Net result: start with 1st and 15 and end with 3 and out. This is inexcusable! I couldn't help but wonder what Gruden was thinking at this moment.
4thQ, 2 minutes left, down by 8 points, and we have NO time-outs left!
3. Moran Norris. I've beat this one to death -- nothing more to add.
1. Self-inflicted wounds! two fumbles, two INTs, a safety, missed blocks and missed tackles.
2. Although the defense generally played very well, there were two glaring difficulties:
a. The total inability to defend the screen pass and/or the drag pass to the TE; this has been an ongoing problem for a LONG TIME. Why can't we learn how to play a screen or drag? IF we could learn to just be average at this we would immediately become one of the top two defenses in the NFL! There were MANY examples, but here are just a few:
Q1 -- 18-yard screen pass to fullback, totally uncovered; Q1 -- Bush beats Willis badly for a NO TD; on NO's game-winning drive, two screen passes to Thomas for 8- and 14- yards; for the game, Thomas caught 8 passes for 57 yards, all screens!
b. The total collapse on NO's game-winning drive -- we knew they had to throw and they still completed three critical passes and on only one of those was the coverage decent. What the hell happened?
No surprise! New Orleans didn't beat the Niners, the Niners beat the Niners! The Niners outplayed the Saints on both offense and defense; New Orleans was far superior on special teams.
Two fumbles at critical times and locations; two INTs, only one of which should have occured; a safety on a bad snap.
Turnover opportunities not cashed in --
Lawson has INT thrown right to him, but drops the ball; Bush fumbles a punt, but recovers with two Niners nearby.
A very, very entertaining game, well played except for the turnovers, but also a painful outcome once again.