It was a mostly unimpressive 2011 debut for the San Francisco 49ers, and that wasn't entirely unexpected. We know that what was going to see the field yesterday was going to be something not entirely unlike a professional football team, but also not quite there. Alex Smith couldn't get anything going for his seven passes, and Colin Kaepernick showed poise early on, but struggled late. The offensive line was, in so many words, atrocious. To put it quite simply, there weren't ready for the blitzes that Greg Williams and the New Orleans Saints sent their way.
Alex Smith was 2-for-7 and had a whopping ten yards. His first completion was a beautiful pass to Braylon Edwards, a slant route if I recall correctly. His first pass to Edwards was a little ... less beautiful. It was behind Edwards by far, and one of the reasons Smith didn't inspire much confidence. He also had one to Vernon Davis that landed way short of Davis, and prompted the Pro Bowl tight end to throw his hands up in the air, asking Smith what the deal was with that pass.
But aside from those two (and an overthrow to Delanie Walker in which some serious wires were seriously crossed), what can we tell about Smith? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It wasn't even a thing where Smith dropped back and could have avoided the sack, it was a play where Joe Staley was immediately put on his butt and Smith was quick to follow. There was another just like it, where Vernon Davis didn't pick up the correct rusher. It wasn't pretty.
A lot of it was the same for Colin Kaepernick. The rookie came in and showed some poise, and he impressed me with his game readiness. However, he did a lot of things bad as well. The dropback wasn't there, and his accuracy was very, very hot and cold. With an emphasis on cold. He was uncomfortable back there, and it wasn't just rookie jitters.
All of this was because of the enormous pressure the Saints put on the 49ers. Some have said that it's kind of a dirty tactic - all the blitzes that New Orleans dialed up. I don't necessarily agree to any extent that would qualify as "outrage", but it definitely seemed excessive. They didn't need t do that to evaluate their blitz packages. Even Alex Smith noted as much:
Obviously, they were pressuring us quite a bit, if anyone could not see that on the TV, but heavy, heavy pressure. First preseason game, you usually don't expect to see that kind of pressure, but they brought it. It will be good film for us to watch and learn from.
So what do you think, was it excessive .. dirty, even? There was very little game-planning going on, and in the end, it's easier to run at a guy and hit him than it is to prepare for a specific skillset of pass-rush moves. The offensive line will often look worse in this scenario.