Now, did that San Francisco 49ers team look like a group that was unhappy with its leader? Putting the silly Jim Harbaugh talk firmly behind us, that was a pretty solid game and 28-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys to get the season underway. It wasn't perfect, but I'm also not going to come out and say it was an altogether "sloppy" win. There's a few issues, some things I'd like to talk about, and I figured I'd break it all down into three categories.
Those categories are simple: things I'm not so worried about after that one, things I definitely am worried about and then three other things I couldn't categorize because I'm lazy. What all do you want from me? Anyway, let's get to this quickly so I can get back to enjoying some stress-free football on Sunday night:
Not So Worried
1. Jonathan Martin
I can't stress just how bad Jonathan Martin was in pass protection when he was with the Miami Dolphins. I can't stress how poor he looked during this preseason with the 49ers. When the announcement was made that he'd be starting at right tackle in place of Anthony Davis, I thought two things.
The first is that the 49ers are sticking to their guns, and when they bring someone in as a swing tackle, then he's a s wing tackle. The second is that it was going to be a long, long game for that side of the line. Fortunately, Martin actually played quite well in both the running and the passing game. He did get beat once or twice, and it was clear there were a few communication issues, but I doubt we heard his name more than once on the broadcast and that's a good thing. He looked exactly how you want your backup tackle to look.
This is kind of an odd one given that Tramaine Brock got beat a handful of times before he sustained his injury. Then Chris Culliver went down with an injury, and we were looking at Perrish Cox and two rookies. They ended up playing quite well, especially Dontae Johnson. I thought he covered Terrance Williams well, even if he was in coverage on two big Williams catches.
I think that has more to do with the play-call than Johnson's inability to stop Williams, though. He played a lot of coverage up close to the receivers and responded very well to them, but Williams' huge 21-yard reception just before the two-minute warning saw the 49ers backed up in zone. The two-yard touchdown also had Johnson backed up far more than he probably should have been. Aside from those plays, I was really pleased.
I don't know the exact numbers when it comes to the 3-wide set with both Stevie Johnson and Vernon Davis on the field (or Brandon Lloyd in place of Johnson), but the 49ers used it enough to placate me for the time being. I was worried that the talk of trying to establish the pass offense was just overblown, but even seeing them use that formation a few times was enough to get me excited.
Now there's some confidence in San Francisco's ability to call a game properly. You can argue that they let up a little bit in the end, but don't forget that they were up four scores at one point. Also, as a side-note, Colin Kaepernick looked solid progressing through his reads when the 49ers had all of those receivers on the field. Good stuff.
A Little Worried
1. Phil Dawson
Overreaction? Maybe, but David Akers isn't too distant a memory right now. Dawson has been very good for the 49ers, but he missed an easy one or two in the preseason, and this miss today, from less than 40 yards out, was inexcusable. There was no wind and relatively little pressure given the lead the 49ers already had. Get these misses out of the way early, I guess.
2. Mike Iupati
I'm not going to be polite ... Iupati was bad today. He was bad, and this is a trend because he looked miserable in the preseason. He also didn't look great down the stretch last year. We have too many concerns with the center position and the right side of the line to be worrying about Iupati ... he's supposed to be the solid one. Iupati isn't getting over-powered or run over, he's flat-out missing assignments and whiffing big time. Something has got to change, especially given that he's in a contract year.
3. Stupid penalties
We'll talk about the bad calls from the referees later. I'm more concerned with Ahmad Brooks getting dinged three times in one drive, two times for illegal use of hands and one time for a neutral zone infraction. Then the 49ers were called for holding twice on one drive. There was even an offside penalty on special teams. Come on.
1. Carlos Hyde
He looked great running the ball, didn't he? I think the most impressive thing about his game is his burst ... he looks so fast once he has the ball in his hands. I don't think he has the speed to outrun everybody, but he hits the line of scrimmage so fast it overwhelms the defense. Also, he took the primary backup carries, which was expected but is good to see.
2. Bad calls from the refs
The drive in which the Cowboys made it 28-10 was pure nonsense. Both illegal contact penalties were bad, but the one against Jimmie Ward was particularly egregious. On the ensuing 49ers drive, Brandon Lloyd was looking for the football when the Dallas defender wrapped his arms around him, and Lloyd was called for offensive pass interference. This needs to stop ... like immediately.
3. Vernon Davis body-catch
This will never, ever change. It's something we're stuck with forever, but man is it frustrating. Davis dropped a big pass that hit him right in the chest because he refuses to catch with his hands, and he jumped for no reason on his touchdown reception and nearly dropped it for that reason. We'll take the bad with the good, obviously, but still frustrating.