You don't need me to tell you how wretched the San Francisco 49ers looked against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2, but I'm going to anyway. Last week, I broke down sacks the 49ers managed against the Minnesota Vikings, and then I took a look at the big blocks in the running and passing game. Unfortunately, what I have to look at from Week 2 is a whole lot of bad.
Who are the real San Francisco 49ers?
The 49ers have put up polar opposite performances in the first two weeks of the season. Which team should we expect to show up over the next 14?
The 49ers were bad on defense, with Kenneth Acker particularly poor and Eric Reid making a lot of mistakes that a player of his caliber really shouldn't be making. The 49ers had no pass rush to speak of and Ben Roethlisberger looked as comfortable as he has in years. As someone who takes any opportunity to really take it to defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, I don't think that performance was on him.
It was a sloppy individual effort for many, many players.
But we're not looking at the defense today. No, we're going back to a simpler time, when there was still hope. Do you remember that, folks? Well, we're going to go back to the exact moment that hope was slaughtered forever. We're going back to the drive at the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter, when the 49ers were down by eight points, and driving effectively.
It was a 17-play drive for the 49ers that started effectively. They were moving down the field. Carlos Hyde rushed for 10 yards and caught a pass for 11 yards, and Kaepernick rushed for 14 yards. They looked good and were set up with a first and goal from the 10-yard line after a successful third-down pass to Garrett Celek.
Things did not go well from there.
(12:48) 1st and 10 at PIT 10: Mike Davis right tackle to PIT 14 for -4 yards, PENALTY on RT Erik Pears, Holding
In some ways, I prefer to get the holding penalty here, at least as far as the 49ers' playmakers are concerned. If used effectively, I think guys like Vernon Davis in the seam work better with that little extra space and should be able to make up the difference, but, well ... none of that happened. What did happen was Mike Davis got a toss and the 49ers all moved to that side of the field to block for him, and exactly none of them got the kind of push they wanted (except for Joe Staley).
What a poor start.
(12:25) 1st and 20 at PIT 20: Colin Kaepernick pass short left to Torrey Smith for -3 yards
But there was a holding penalty so now it's a first and goal from the 20-yard line. The 49ers try to set up that short pass to Torrey Smith and, unfortunately, the blocking just isn't there. The Steelers sniff it out and what's worse, they're totally set up on the other side as well. The Steelers are very, very good at quickly shutting down short plays and the 49ers played right into that.
If the wide receiver blocking was better, that might have been something. You will notice a couple Steelers players who are unsure which way Kaepernick is going to go with the ball, and those seconds of uncertainty really could have made for a good play.
(11:44) 2nd and 23 at PIT 23: Colin Kaepernick pass short left to Carlos Hyde for -4 yards
Here's a play that looks solid in theory, but even if the first Steelers there didn't stop it, it wouldn't have went for a big gain because San Francisco's blocking made it clear that play was designed to go to Hyde and only to Hyde. The receivers ran out to clear out the defensive backs, but the second they saw offensive linemen and blockers rumbling to the next level, they abandoned their coverage and came up. Fortunately for them, they didn't need to make a tackle or anything because the defensive front had already made the 49ers look foolish on the play.
Timeout #2 by San Francisco at 10:58
Crucial third down coming up and ... the 49ers call a timeout. That's a pretty 49ers thing to do.
(10:58) 3rd and 27 at PIT 27: PENALTY on James Harrison, Neutral Zone Infraction
Hey, the Steelers actually help them out here! That's pretty rad -- James Harrison gets called for a neutral zone infraction and the 49ers pick up an extra 5 yards for their troubles.
(10:58) 3rd and 22 at PIT 22: Colin Kaepernick sacked at PIT 29 for -7 yards
The extra five yards did not do them any good. Alex Boone is the guy who gets beat on the play. He gets beat handily too, and has to bring his guy to the ground. His guy still managed to get a hand on Kaepernick and bring him down for the sack.
As you can see from the coaches' film above, Kaepernick had multiple receiving options, but they were all underneath and had little chance of going for touchdowns. There was the man real deep that started to beat his guy and maybe could have caught something on the left side of the end zone if he cut out and in that direction, but Kaepernick would have needed perfect protection and, most importantly, a perfect throw.
The 49ers settled for a field goal to cut the Steelers lead to 8-3. The 49ers would go on to give up 21 unanswered points.