A running theme of the Mike Singletary era has been his reliance on 5 specific keys to victory, which he calls "49ers Formula for Success." It's been discussed over and over again by the beat writers and was featured early in yesteday's game on Fox. It's brought up repeatedly in practice so clearly these are things he strongly values. Singletary's keys to victory are:
1. Total Ball Security
3. Dominate the trenches
4. Create great field position
I'm thinking that as long as Singletary is running things (and as long as he doesn't change them), the morning after a game will involve a run down of his 5 keys to victory and how the team performed in each area. I'll even throw out arbitrary grades. Feel free to do the same.
Total Ball Security
Given the weather, ball security figured to be a big issue. In the end the 49ers fumbled the ball four times and the Bills fumbled twice. The good news is that the 49ers only lost one of those fumbles. Given the nasty, rainy weather it's not surprising that there were ball security issues. At the same time, one problem that continues to appear is on the center-QB exchange. This is at least the third game where Heitmann and Hill have had an issue. For the most part they've been able to recover the ball, but it's something that needs to be addressed. I'd say all things considered, for Total Ball Security, the team probably deserves about a B-. It'd be worse but I'll give them a pass becaus of the weather.
As Barrows wondered, what does this mean? On offense the team executed quite impressively on their opening drive but struggled to execute much of anything the rest of the way. Nothing really got going for them so I'd suppose that's not "executing." The defense gave had issues with bending, but in the red zone they absolutely executed. The 49ers have done fairly well in not giving up touchdowns in the endzone. That proved huge given Rian Lindell's field goal struggles. Special teams certainly executed as Nedney drilled an important 51-yard field goal and Andy Lee continued to drop punts inside the 20. All in all I'd say offensive execution is probably a C+ or B-, defensive execution gets an A (the red zone defense makes up for Marshawn Lynch running wild in my opinion) and special teams execution gets an A+.
Dominate the trenches
On the offensive side of the ball, there was not a whole lot of domination. Frank Gore simply could not get going, averaging a mere 2.8 yards per carry. Given what Gore has proven he can do, I consider this as much an offensive line issue as anything else. Shaun Hill was sacked 3 times but on the scoring drive he was provided enough time to make some big throws. Offensively I'd give the team a C+.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers didn't get a ton of pressure on the QBs, but they definitely got it when they needed it. It certainly helped that Losman more or less created the pressure for the 49ers by running around when it wasn't necessary. Marshawn Lynch had a big day running the ball, which would indicate poor performance in the trenches. The good news on that front though is that when the Bills got into the red zone they couldn't punch the ball in. Once again, the red zone domination of the trenches more than makes up for the earlier struggles in that regard. Defensively I'd give the team a B.
Create great field position
Since losing Allen Rossum, Delanie Walker has done a decent job on kick returns but nothing spectacular. Nate Clements is back on punts and had one small return. Clearly the team misses Allen Rossum. Hopefully he'll be back for the Jets game. The 49ers started inside their own 20 twice and in Bills territory twice although that was due in part to turnovers and not due to the return men. All in all, I'd give the team a B-. Nothing special but no mistakes.
In winning the game, this section brings kudos to the defense. The defense bent quite often this game, but always finished things when the Bills got into the redzone. More importantly, the Bills got the ball three times late in the game with a chance to score and the defense stepped up big time. The first time the Bills drove to the 49ers 7 and turned it over on downs thanks to some timely pressure. The second time the Bills started on the 49ers 25 thanks to a big Parrish punt return and a personal foul. A 3 and out later and the Bills missed a field goal. The third time was the Bills final possession in which Losman faced a ton of pressure and couldn't make the necessary plays.
Again, the defense's red zone performance is what makes this an A performance. The offense struggled, but for the most part they didn't do anything too stupid. In a knock-down, drag-out battle sometimes thast's all that's necessary. The offense will obviously need to put points on the board against the Jets, but as long as they can avoid turnovers, I think better weather will lead to improved offense.