49ers Vs. Ravens: Pass Protection Woes

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 24: Brendon Ayanbadejo #51 of the Baltimore Ravens tackles Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

If there was one thing to take away from the 49ers 16-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens it was the sacks. I'm fairly certain Alex Smith was sacked at one point heading to the locker room. It really was a crazy performance by the Ravens pass rush and struggles by the 49ers offensive line and Alex Smith to some extent.

I took a look back at the nine sacks from Thanksgiving and it was not pretty to watch. Of the nine sacks, I saw two where Alex Smith had time to either throw the ball away or throw it to a receiver. As to the latter option, I can't say whether receivers were open without the coaches' tape. But he did have time to potentially throw it away if he sensed pressure was on him. On one play he rolled to his left and pumped a couple times before getting sacked. On another play he pumped once and made his way up in the pocket before getting sacked.

The most common theme of the sacks was the right side of the line getting blown up. There were a couple sacks on the left side, but those were not as simple as the Ravens pass rush blowing up Joe Staley or Mike Iupati. On the right side, the Ravens seemed to simply overwhelm Chilo Rachal and/or Anthony Davis and/or the running back in protection.

On Thursday I didn't hear the announcers very much, but on rewatching it, I noticed Mike Mayock's comments about how a twist stunt was throwing off Rachal and Davis. The interior defensive lineman would cut towards Davis and the exterior lineman would then loop inside and it caused problems for both 49ers offensive linemen.

In reviewing the plays, it reinforces in my mind just how important Adam Snyder is to the right side of the line. He is not a perfect right guard, but he appears to be significantly better than Chilo Rachal. Additionally, it seems like he really does provide a steadying influence next to right tackle Anthony Davis. Ideally Davis would be solid no matter what, but that is not always the case.

Adam Snyder is a question mark this week with his hamstring strain. The 49ers don't have a gimme with the St. Louis Rams, but if Snyder is unable to play this Sunday, there are definitely worse opponents to be facing in this situation. It gives the 49ers a chance to really try and straighten out that right side of the line and try to establish some level of depth. If the line is going to fall apart just because one guy gets knocked out, that raises some serious question marks.

If Snyder is unable to play on Sunday, we might see Daniel Kilgore active for the first time this season. If Chilo struggles like he did against the Ravens, I've got to think the team considers making a change. Players have been benched before so it wouldn't be a shock.

It is worth noting that this was a fairly historic performance by both sides, which lends some credence to the fact that it might be an aberration in the grand scheme of things. As Eric Branch pointed out, the Ravens set a team record for sacks while the 49ers gave up the most sacks by the team since sacks were first counted in 1982. The 49ers gave up nine sacks after giving up seven in the previous six games.

So, while there are holes to be filled and problems to be fixed, it is not entirely the end of the world following that performance.

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