There has been a lot of discussion about Tommie Harris and his ejection Sunday against the Cardinals. He popped Deuce Lutui in the face, leading to a fairly early ejection from the game (video after the jump). There has been some jabbering about whether Lutui had it coming, but either way, it was certainly a poor decision on the part of Harris. According to the Chicago Tribune, folks are not expecting Harris to be suspended. Apparently, since the ejection was so early in the game, it's more or less a game suspension, and so the league will simply levy a large fine.
Whether we agree with that or not, having Harris on the field tonight certainly helps a somewhat beleaguered Bears defense. The Bears roll out a front seven that includes Harris, former 49er Anthony Adams, Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown, Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer, and Nick Roach. Certainly talented, but not quite a murderer's row.
As we are discussing week after week after week, the question is whether the 49ers offensive line and general blocking scheme will be able to provide time for Alex Smith and holes for Frank Gore. The Bears currently sit 25th against the pass and 18th against the run. Many teams would be able to take full advantage of that, but many of those teams don't have the truly awesome offensive line the 49ers have.
The 49ers will be without Glen Coffee tonight, but that probably isn't all that big a deal given how he hasn't provided much of a contribution when Gore has played. So we'll get plenty of Gore, but it's a question of how the team utilizes. I'd imagine of all the skill positions, the contribution of Gore will have the broadest impact, as usual. In the rare instances when the team has gone to screen passes, they've been fairly successful. When they mix in the outside pitches, they've been fairly successful. My favorite running play has been the fake handoff to the fullback, followed by a quick pitch to Gore going outside. It's obviously not something you run every single play, but on 2nd and 1 or 2, and 3rd and 1 or 2, the 49ers have been able to catch defenses sleeping with that play.
As always it comes down to a mix of playcalling and execution. As I said earlier this week, I do think Jimmy Raye has attempted to mix things up. However, as somebody pointed out at some point on Monday I believe, it's almost like they swung too far the other way. It's turned into a matter of finding that perfect (or even somewhat close to perfect) balance. Over at ESPN.com, Mike Sando made a good point after reviewing the 49ers-Titans game tape:
How does Raye's vision for the offense mesh with personnel changes since his hiring? The team added Crabtree unexpectedly. Smith is now the quarterback. Davis is becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber target. The offensive line isn't very good in protection. All things to weigh. It's Week 10, but adding Crabtree and Smith to the mix so late means the offense is in a formative state. What will the identity become?
As always, even with a struggling Bears defense and potentially solid play-calling, it comes down to execution. Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree have been working out when special teams practice is going on, so maybe this will bring us closer to better execution (we'll conveniently ignore the offensive line issues in that last sentence).