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49ers Fall in Overtime: Pass Defense Still the Problem

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The San Francisco 49ers suffered a heartbreaking 27-24 loss to the rival Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. And as much it would relieve me to rant about the number of mistakes they made, I still believe this is an improved unit from last year and have to take the good with the bad.

And while the Niners seemed to have taken a step forward overall, the pass defense continues to be a serious issue. For years we have been vulnerable to the big pass plays and have repeatedly been unable to stop teams with even decent aerial attacks. The display against the Cowboys in week two was a perfect example of the 49ers inability to control the oppositions passing attack.

As some of you may have read earlier in the week, I had a feeling Miles Austin would be relevant against San Francisco's susceptible pass defense. And what do you know? Austin finished the day with 143 receiving yards and a career best 3 touchdowns. Though, the dagger came from rookie Jesse Holley on the Cowboys' first offensive play in overtime on a 77 yarder from Tony Romo.

Whether it was man or zone coverage, the defensive backs couldn't consistently defend the receivers for 60 minutes. Early on, the Dallas offensive game-plan seemed focused on getting tight end Jason Witten the ball but once the safeties began honing in on him, that opened up holes in the secondary for Austin to make plays.

With the new regime led by Jim Harbaugh and his new but experienced staff, I was not expecting a mirrored performance of a Singletary/Nolan-secondary. This defense is supposed to know their roles and play smart, sound football -- that did not happen Sunday against the Cowboys. The wide receivers for Dallas had catches that went for 77, two for 53, 33, 25 and 18 yards.

The 49ers front seven played strong for the second week in a row, swarming and stopping the run, as well as getting hits on the quarterback. However, the defensive backs weren't holding up their end. We cannot consistently get beat by the pass; so much so, that everyone who plays us knows to attack our vulnerable secondary. They did a lot of things wrong, but there were some positive things to take note of with 2 interceptions and a few crucial third down stops.

In his post-game press conference, Harbaugh said, "I thought we played well enough to win, but we didn't." So clearly, having hard fought a competitive NFC East opponent, the overall team performance wasn't a complete waste. There are a lot of new players and changes, so naturally, the 49ers organization is expecting growing pains.

New addition Carlos Rogers has been under the microscope, and even more so against Dallas. He is no stranger to them, having played in the same division with the Washington Redskins. Rogers had the hit of the game when he blindsided Romo on a corner blitz but his coverage was questionable at best. He had a couple of pass breakups but after the rain shower that took place all over the 49ers secondary, not much good can be said about anyone on that side.

Rogers was not locked on to Austin the whole game, so I can't blame him for all 143 yards but Rogers was a non-factor nonetheless. There was even a play where the quarterback completely missed his receiver and the ball hit Rogers in the facemask; a ball almost anyone else would have caught if they were paying attention. Rogers, along with Madieu Williams, was responsible for Austin's second touchdown of the day. Williams also tanked the play that led to Austin's third and final touchdown.

2nd year cornerback Tramaine Brock came up with his second interception of the season in as many weeks. He reacted to a Jon Kitna tipped pass and came up with the turnover, displaying good ball skills and awareness. His progression is one to follow, as Harbaugh and the staff have shown confidence in his ability by putting him out there.

At the moment, there should be some level of concern by the defensive staff regarding the secondary. But it's early, so it makes sense that they are not where they need to be yet. The Niners defensive backs missed tackles, allowed receivers too much cushion and failed to seize any of the moments where they could have put the Cowboys away. This is just a reminder that even though we would love results now, we still have a long way to go. We are not looking at the finish product yet, and hopefully San Francisco rebounds strong at Cincinatti after this defeat.


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