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Patriots 30-49ers 21: Frustrations are bubbling...

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I just got back from Candlestick Park and frustration is probably the best word to describe how I feel.  I feel frustrated because this team shows signs of putting it together, and follows that with serious regression.  They'll put together a great offensive drive and then follow it with multiple 3 and outs.  They'll get pressure on Matt Cassel and bring him down, and then they'll follow that with Cassel having all damn day to pass the ball.  They'll make a key stop on second or third down, only to have a stupid penalty called.

I try to look at the positives after a game, and while there were positive signs today, they were follow by too many negatives.

The Defense
I'm willing to forgive the Moss bomb early because he's still an athletic freak and these things happen no matter what defense you're running.  My problem is with the lack of adjustment in this bend but don't break defense.  The theory behind a bend but don't break is to give up some first downs, give up some field goals and once in a while a touchdown, but in the end make stops more often that not.  In practice, the 49ers are struggling with the whole stopping offenses issue. 

As I was watching it seemed like the Patriots were getting first downs at will.  Cassel struggled early on but once he realized the defense was giving him a 10-15 yard cushion he picked them apart like a seasoned veteran.  It felt like the 49ers were practically running a prevent defense in the way the Patriots picked up first downs in the latter two thirds of the game.  Even though the Patriots did not have a high yards per carry, their running game still seemed wildly effective.

In just looking at the statistics, one might try and argue the pass rush was finally effective, sacking Cassel 5 times.  That person would be wrong.  The pass rush was all or nothing today as either Cassel was quickly sacked or he had plenty of time to throw the ball.  J.T. O'Sullivan was only sacked once, but it seemed like he was scrambling around in the pocket half the time.  I don't know this was planned or not, but the Patriots defense consistently forced JTO to his left side so that he had no chance to plant his feet after bootlegging out.  That was not the case with Matt Cassel and he made the quick throws he needed to.  The QB hurries and knockdowns are just as important as the sacks.

J.T. O'Sullivan
Oh JTO, what are we going to do with you? Considering he only threw for 130 yards, it was a very active day for fearless leader.  He had several ugly overthrows, he had some dropped passes and he seemed to scramble to his left every other play.  High risk/high reward is fine but things got out of hand today.  He's got 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on the season, to go with 20 sacks.  I think the best description of him is a poor man's Brett Favre.  A VERY poor man.  Favre would make an incredibly bad decision but followed it up with 2 or 3 huge plays.  JTO, on the other hand, will make one huge play and follow it up with 2 or 3 bad decisions.  Not quite the ratio we'd like to see.

I think you'd be a blind fool to argue the offense isn't better than it was last year.  It's not pretty in the slightest, but it is better.  I didn't hear the broadcast, but in the game thread Cruithear mentioned that the CBS crew said that the passing game would look better as they get more time together.  Clearly it's better than last year, but there are definitely some timing issues that need to be worked out.  I thought it would be a roller coaster with JTO and it truly has been so far.

Mike Martz
It is completely true that one minute he seems like a genius and the next minute you're pulling your hair out in frustration.  Clearly he's made the offense better and made this a more competitive team.  However, several areas continue to drive me batty.  First, Frank Gore.  Frank the Tank touched the ball 16 teams and had one incomplete pass thrown his way.  Considering how close this game was for the first three quarters, that's simply unacceptable.  When you're averaging close to 5 yards per touch (16 touches/78 yards), you simply have to do more with him.  I understand you're not going to run Gore on a 3rd and 4.  However, a short screen pass to him probably has a higher percentage of success than a 15 yard toss to our newest entrant as hands of ston, Vernon Davis.

My second issue, look at the drive chart.  J.T. O'Sullivan led the 49ers on 13 drives today.  TWO of those drives were for more than 30 yards.   ONE drive lasted more than 10 plays, and that drive was the only over 5 plays.  The 49ers finished the game having possessed the ball for 20:08, while the Patriots had the ball for 39:52.  It was definitely week 1 all over again, as several of you mentioned in the game thread.  I think this goes somewhat back to Frank Gore, but better use of the running game and more short completions will get that clock ticking a little bit more.

Isaac Bruce
I wanted to end this tantrum on a positive note.  Isaac Bruuuuuuuuuce is probably running a close second to Frank Gore as 49ers offensive MVP so far.  Bruce finished with 3 catches for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns.  After his monster game against the Seahawks, he has settled in as a nice, solid receiving option.  This is clearly not Jerry Rice ending his career in Seattle or Johnny Unitas in his last year as a Charger.  Isaac Bruce may not be the receiver he used to be, but he is bringing some serious game to the 49ers.  I never thought I'd root for a former Ram, but Bruce is the kind of quiet professional that anybody can root for.

Looking Forward
As some of you pointed out in the game thread, this division is still up for grabs.  The 49ers sit one game back of the Cardinals.  Of coure the next two weeks could bring some serious misery as the 49ers host a likely angry Philadelphia Eagles squad and then travel to the Meadowlands to face a bad-ass New York Giants squad. 

The Seahawks are no gimme even in their current form, so the 49ers better be careful or they could go into the bye week at 2-6.  In reality one win might be all they get before the bye.  Two wins would be absolutely amazing, but they have to at least get one.  I won't say the season is on the line in the next three weeks, but this is as important a 3-game stretch as any.

Oh, and thanks again to everybody who took part in the thread today.  Even in my absence the commentary has been fantastic.  We finished with 28 commenters and 656 comments.  49erLou and Cruithear lead the way with 89 and 86 comments respectively.  The full list is after the jump.

Name # of Posts
49erLou 89
Cruithear 86
Bob On The Coast 72
sam23 66
wjackalope 59
Swager 52
Black 49 Razor 40
shlecko 37
CB30 34
pfzilla 27
good as gold 20
majman1 13
groug 12
AndYourBirdCanSing 8
jtoj 8
Bitter Fan 8
baybruin415 4
Young_To_Rice 4
Kestrel 3
anaheim angels 3
warriorfan4life 2
marcello 2
dylanj 2
SSreporters 1
lincypoo i wuv u 1
howtheyscored 1
Muy Macho 1
Nosetackle Supreme 1