The 49ers answered some questions Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. Some things were left open, too. On top of that, more questions were thought up as well. The least of which isn't "Glen Coffee who?" If you missed it, 49ers rookie running back Anthony Dixon ran hard for a good portion of the game.
The rookie showed good patience, reliable hands and a very tough running style and against the rest of the back-ups, he looked like a starter. With Glen Coffee retiring, Michael Robinson was the primary backup to Frank Gore - but Dixon stepped it up big time with 100 yards rushing with the bulk of the carries. He'll surely get plenty of looks next week as well.
Quarterback Alex Smith struggled against the Colts' starting defense. He only threw for 37 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. One could say that the interception wasn't his fault - but then again, one could argue that he shouldn't have thrown into that coverage, regardless of whether or not it hit the receiver in the hands.
When asked how it felt to play again, Smith said, "To tell you the truth, I felt really good. I felt like I saw things well, was moving well, just a matter of putting things together, I think that showed, finishing plays."
When asked about things he can improve upon, "Ball security is number one, the fumble on the first play and then having a pick. Then just moving the chains. I don't think you need to set any standards as far as things to go, but I think you want to look sharp out here. You want to be crisp, you want to make good decisions, see things well. As a team, as a whole, I think everybody needs to do that and move the ball a little bit."
David Carr fared better against second stringers, and Nate Davis was almost perfect in his throws. On the other side of that, Peyton Manning for the Colts was solid as always, but couldn't score any points on the 49ers starting defense, which was pulled after one series. He did march the team down the field against the second team on the Colts next possession, however.
Backup Curtis Painter was something else, though. Colts fans have to be wondering where to go from here because if Manning goes down in the regular season, it will be hard to hand the keys to that offense over to a guy as mistake-prone as him.
Taking over first team reps for injured center Eric Heitmann was David Baas, who didn't seem to have a bad snap and blocked well enough. When asked how it felt to play a game again he said: "It felt pretty good. I thought I was making the calls well and we were on the same page for the most part..."
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers gave up some plays. Nate Clements didn't look as sharp out there, but he did show good recovery and got back to the ball once positive yardage was being worked towards. Ricky Jean Francois got the majority of snaps at nose and defensive tackle and seemed to play well. Dashon Goldson deserves an honorable mention for starting strong.
Shining on defense was CB Reggie Smith, who had a 90+ yard pick six early on in the game, and two clutch tackles beyond that. He also broke up what would have been a touchdown reception. When asked which one excited him more, the touchdown breakup or the pick six, he responded, "Probably the return for a touchdown. I've never scored in the NFL, so it felt good to get that first one under my belt."
The other bright spot on the 49ers was Diyral Briggs, the second year undrafted linebacker out of Bowling Green. Briggs looked a lot bigger, clearly having packed on muscle. He was in on some key tackles and had an interception - which was then fumbled, but a good effort nonetheless. He's making a big push to make the final roster.
Moving on to the 49ers offensive line. Rookie Mike Iupati rarely had his name called except while making a key block to pave the way for RB Michael Robinson to get a score, and that's fine with most fans. His name not being mentioned meant that he was doing his job right. Unfortunately, the other rookie offensive lineman, Anthony Davis, showed some significant growing pains.
Davis excelled in the run game but was beaten more than once in pass protection. It's something the 49ers have to have expected though, he's very young and was viewed as a raw player from the get-go. Still, nothing game-changing was given up, so he retains his role for now.
The 49ers starting defense stopped the colts starting offense, and vice versa. Once the backups starting coming in, it was the Niners dominating on defense and offense alike. The team even boasted a credible return game, with rookie WR Kyle Williams looking poised to explode for big returns each time he was there returning them.
The receivers battling for the potential final wide receiver position didn't do a ton to distinguish themselves, but with Dominique Zeigler and Jason Hill both making good special teams tackles, it came down to who was more consistent - and that was Zeigler, with Hill dropping a potential big gainer.
Next the 49ers go back to Candlestick to host the Vikings for their second preseason game.