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49ers 20 - Arizona 17: The Day After

I think we've all sufficiently calmed down from an epic finish to an ugly victory.  It took me an hour to completely unwind from that finish.  There was some good, some bad a whole lot of ugly, but in the end the 49ers pulled out the key W.

Before we begin looking ahead to a tough, but very winnable Week 2 matchup at St. Louis, it's time for some constructive criticism of the team.  Firs though, some kudos to the defense.  The defense looked significantly better than they had all preseason.  They managed to force Matt Leinart out of the pocket and get penetration into the backfield.  Patrick Willis played like a man possessed as he was all over the field making plays.  Nate Clements and Walt Harris held the Boldin/Fitzgerald duo to a mere 42 yards combined.  While Edgerrin James finished with 92 yards, he definitely had to work for them as his longest run was only 9 yards.  Outside of a couple missed tackles, the linebacker corp looked like a strength.

The offense is another story entirely.  I think it is safe to say that the offense realizes it needs to carry more of its end of the bargain going forward.  Obviously they stepped up in the 4th quarter, but this is not going to be happening every single week.  The 49ers defense gave the offense several opportunities to put this game away early and they simply could not take advantage.

  • Alex Smith - The difference between 57 minutes of Alex Smith and final 3 minutes of Alex Smith was dramatic.  Most of the game Smith would drop back to pass and roll to the left or right and back throwing wobbly passes off his back foot.  During the final drive, Smith was stepping up into the pocket in the face of a quality pass rush and firing the ball with precision.  We definitely need more of 4th quarter Alex.
  • Offensive line - Just seemed overwhelmed for much of the game as Alex Smith got popped needlessly several times.  After Frank Gore rushed for the touchdown, he couldn't seem to find any more significant holes.  The line is supposed to be a strength of this team, but maybe they need some time to gel.  They've got a rookie and guys that missed tie due to injury last year.
  • Frank Gore - Aside from th 21 yard reception he had, Frank Gore seemed to struggle receiving the ball out of the backfield.  Maybe it's the hand, maybe not.  Thoughts?  I'm not sure if there is blame to be handed out to the line for his poor rushing performance, or if he was also shaking off a little rust.  At times he shot into the holes, other times he couldn't get more than a couple yards.
  • Wide Receivers - I still wish Lelie had seen the field more and I certainly wish Darrell Jackson cuts down on his drops...although that one at the end of the game was a tough catch for anybody.  The receivers looked solid in hauling in receptions on the last drive, so we'll see which group comes to play next week.
  • Vernon Davis - A complete non-factor in terms of receptions.  When I get home this afternoon I'm going to rewatch the game to see what his contributions were.  Sometimes it's difficult to keep track of the tight end when he's not hauling in passes.  I recall a solid block, but can't remember much else.  Anyone recall offhand?  One plus was that we didn't seem going all TO on least that I can recall.:)
  • Jim Hostler - For 3+ quarters, the play-calling was unimaginative and it actually felt like preseason calls.  A couple of runs followed by a short, incomplete pass.  Or, if the team had a penalty, they'd go for a cheapy screen pass on 3rd and 15.  Not the kind of imaginative play-calling we were hoping for.  Maybe Hostler was just trying to get his sea legs.  We'll just hope that's the case because the play-calling was definitely better late in the game.  Did we have ANY deep passes for the incomplete bomb to DJack?  The deepest involved a 10 or 15 yard overthrow.  And on 1st and 1, I think we all agree Frank Gore should be slamming it up the middle until you get first down.  Obviously Alex Smith made a magnificent play on 4th and 1, but he should not have been in that position.

Obviously that covers just about every offensive position.  The team definitely realizes there is plenty of room for improvement.  Normally when you win a stunner it's easy to overlook the negatives that forced you into a comeback situation in the first place.  The one plus about playing so atrociously is that it's virtually impossible to NOT realize how badly you performed.  We have some smart guys on this team and they are not going to rest on any laurels they may think they have.  I fully expect an improved offensive performance this weekend.