Ugly as Friday's 24-3 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints was, it could have been even worse for the 49ers. Think about it: there's only been twelve days of practice, with some people having less than that (the free agent signings). Could you imagine just how bad it would have been a day earlier? Two days? A week? The team is coming together, and it's less of a finished product than any preseason prior, which is totally understandable.
Jim Harbaugh said as much in a conference call with reporters yesterday:
It's an offensive, defensive, special teams work in progress, work to get better. All those little things playing together, playing as a unit, I think it showed up the most on the offensive side of the ball. In this first game, where there's a level of each guy doing their job, but also a level of confidence in working together. That'll grow, that'll get better. It got better last week, had we played that game a week ago, it would have been messier than it was. I thought there was a level of execution that was raised dramatically in one week. We'll look for that same improvement next week.
So in a week, we should see a much different team out there. They'll have a better idea which guys they want to keep on the roster and they'll have a much better idea of which players should be playing where. By this time, teams are supposed to have an idea which players are camp bodies and which should be on the final roster. The game situations are supposed to just confirm or deny their suspicions, but now they're being used for the whole battles.
But yes, as Harbaugh said above, a week ago, things were pretty darn messy. On Friday, they were messy, but less so. Maybe when the Oakland Raiders come to Candlestick, the 49ers will look better. Harbaugh also talked about Alex Smith and how he responded under pressure, saying that he didn't think it was a negative, or rather, that there was no room for Smith (or any quarterback, really) to have a positive reaction:
I don't think he had an opportunity to ... I think he handled it as well as anybody could have. With the reps he had in there, he didn't have an opportunity to handle it any different than he did. There hasn't been an opportunity so far to really be a clear-cut, definitive winner in the quarterback competition.
Beyond that, Harbaugh defended his offensive line and didn't take an opportunity to express distaste at the Saints blitzing - saying that it was the 49ers' job to come up with a big play to back them off. He was also asked about the possibility of a veteran quarterback being acquired by San Francisco, and he answered rather shortly, leaving the door open, but not revealing anything, either, saying that it's a possibility, if the right person was available.