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There are quite a few things to take away from the 49ers' losing effort at Candlestick Park against the Philadelphia Eagles. Off the top of the head, the Niners are now 0-5, and no team has ever started the season with five losses and ended up in the playoffs. The defense didn't play well and the offense didn't fare much better. Chilo Rachal, Anthony Davis, David Baas and Joe Staley all had bad games on the offensive line and even dependable veterans Joe Nedney and Frank Gore had very bad games. Nedney missed a 40-yard field goal after previously putting in from 50 yards out, while Gore coughed up two very costly fumbles.
Crabtree caught nine passes for 105 yards, both single-game highs for the second-year receiver who has yet to play a full 16-game season in the NFL. He looked fast and agile, he showed reliable hands and most importantly, was on the same page as his quarterback. He snagged a touchdown reception on the team's first offensive drive (the game-opener) and had an 11.7 yards-per-reception rating.
It's perhaps one reason why Alex Smith could keep his job as the starting quarterback going into Week 6. When asked about it, Singletary said "It's possible," that a change could be made at the position. Building some kind of connection with one of the team's highest-potential players and getting some production out of the previously invisible receiver is certainly a case for argument on the part of Smith.
He also connected well with tight end Vernon Davis, who has to feel underutilized this season. But on Sunday night, Davis caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown of his own, with a 20.8 yards-per-reception rating.
The San Francisco Giants, fresh off a series-shifting win in Atlanta, have lived by the mantra "Giants baseball:torture" all season long. Our beloved Niners seem to have followed suit. The only problem is the Giants actually win a fair share of games; the Niners don't win any.
Another aggravating loss Sunday night against the Eagles that left the team an incomprehensible 0-5. The Niners started off the game with a touchdown drive, a slant pass from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree. And the Niners looked good.
Then the Niners proceeded to do what they've been doing all season: find ways to lose football games. The Eagles responded on their first drive with a TD of their own, a scramble and fling by backup superstar Kevin Kolb to Brent Celek. Then Frank Gore fumbled the next drive. Then the Eagles kicked a field goal to go up 10-7. Then Smith threw an interception. Later on, the Eagles scored another TD on a LeSean McCoy 29-yard run. The Niners managed a measly field goal to go into halftime down 17-10.
The Niners started off the second half of the game on a good note though (insert sarcastic bitter voice here)- Gore fumbled for the second time in the game. Thankfully, nothing bad really happened though this quarter in terms of the deficit growing.
Then came the fourth quarter, hence the Niners new mantra: "Niners football: torture, followed by a loss, followed by grieving." Smith opened the quarter apparently trying to look as ridiculous as possible, attempting a throw with a defender in his armpit. The predictable result was a fumble returned for a touchdown by the Eagles. The next Niners drive they went four-and-out, two passes from Smith skipping across the field and one hitting Gore in the hands as he looked up in surprise. Boo birds came out in droves.
And this is where it got interesting. Coach Mike Singletary started chewing Smith out, reminiscent of the infamous Vernon Davis spanking last year. Smith was yelling back. Chants of "We want Carr!" filled the air. David Carr took off his jacket. Carr started to go on the field for the next Niners drive. Then Singletary pulled him back and Smith got one last chance.
He didn't disappoint-well, almost. On the next two drives, Smith led the team on two touchdown drives, regularly hooking up with Crabtree and Davis and looking as accurate as freakin' Drew Brees. Coupled with an Eagles field goal, the Niners found themselves only down 27-24 with 1:28 remaining after a defensive stand inside the two-minute mark. Then Smith threw an interception to end the game with the Niners about 15 yards from field goal range. Yep, that's torture alright.
Some notable stats:
Alex Smith: 25-for-39, 309 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Kevin Kolb: 21-for-31, 253 yards, TD
LeSean McCoy: 18 rushes, 92 yards, 5 receptions, 46 yards
Michael Crabtree: 9 receptions, 105 yards, TD
Vernon Davis: 5 receptions, 104 yards, TD
Frank Gore: 18 rushes, 52 yards, TD, two fumbles
The 49ers have certainly kept their infatuation with shooting themselves in the foot. After an impressive first drive that resulted in a touchdown, things quickly broke down on both sides of the ball.
Alex Smith threw a bad interception where wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. didn't even attempt to go up and get it, while the offensive line commits penalty after penalty. Smith is consistently under pressure and Frank Gore can't get much on offense. Michael Crabtree is the lone bright spot for the 49ers offense through one half.
On defense, they've given way to LeSean McCoy and have allowed quarterback Kevin Kolb to play an almost perfect game.
After hitting a 50-yard field goal, Joe Nedney missed on a 40 yarder at the end of the first half that would have made the game 17-13.
Eric Heitmann was on the practice field this week but it appears as though he doesn’t quite have his stamina completely back. The 49ers have Adam Snyder and Tony Wragge as their swing options at center, guard and tackle.
Kyle Williams hurt his middle finger catching a punt in practice Wednesday. There are so many puns that can come from this. Williams shouldn’t be catching punts anyway, I’ve sprained my middle finger staring at the TV set during Niners games, etc etc. Readers at sfgate.com had a field day: “I got a middle finger issue too and it is stuck in the same position and pointing in the same direction,” “Catching a punt? In practice? Blimey. Just cut the dang thing off there Kyle and get on the field.” Followed by, “Ronnie Lott would.”
This, of course, opens up the punt and kick return duties to Ted Ginn Jr., who should return this week and looks very stoic in his SB Nation photo. The Niners rank 31st in kick returns (that’s second-to-last) and 17th in punt returns this season.
And as David White points out, hopefully the Niners find a way to get Brian Westbrook on the field in the next game. Eagles coach Andy Reid said Westbrook “may be the smartest player he’s ever coached.” But, then again, having a smart guy in the huddle might disrupt Niner team chemistry.
I think it’s safe to say 2010 second-round draft pick Taylor Mays made the most of his opportunity Sunday against the Falcons. The former USC safety tacked on 11 tackles and made a huge play for the Niners, catching a blocked punt in the end zone while toeing the line. Coach Mike Singletary said Mays made only one mental mistake in his first start. Not bad, I’ll take one mental mistake on defense and one mental mistake on offense from this team any day.
Mays was considered a reach when the Niners selected him in the second round, but there’s no denying the speed and athleticism of the 6’3", 230-pound free safety. Hence the nickname, Taylor Mays “Hayes.” After Willie Mays Hayes of course. If you don’t know who Willie Mays Hayes is, I don’t know you.
Those of you unfortunate enough to watch Sunday’s Niners-Falcons game know a lot of things went wrong. I mean, A LOT of things. It was yet another game in which the Niners had a chance but made just enough bone-headed mistakes to lose. In the wake of the devastating loss, our own Nate Clements was picked as the third Least Valuable Player of the Week by Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner. If you didn’t see, Clements intercepted Falcons QB Matt Ryan in Atlanta territory with about a minute and a half to play and the Niners up, 14-13. He then proceeded to try to run for a touchdown and got the ball stripped. The Falcons took advantage of the extra opportunity and won the game with a field goal in the final seconds.
So, it seems like every piece on SB Nation Bay Area related to the 49ers begins with "the team is now ..." followed by a zero, followed by the game they've played thus far, signifying that they've yet to win a contest. Maybe at the end of this story stream that will be different, maybe not. But, since I teased you with it, the 49ers are an 0-4 football team going into week five against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reports coming out of Philly right now state that quarterback Michael Vick will be out on Sunday and that the 49ers can expect Kevin Kolb to get the start. Kolb entered the 2010 season as the starter after the team shopped long-time QB Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins. A couple of benchings later, coupled with the stellar play of Vick, and the Eagles soon had a new starter.
So it should be a good sign for 49ers fans, then, that the chapter in Michael Vick's comeback season will skip a few pages in week five and Kevin Kolb will pick back up, hopefully where he started the season. There's also a chance they'll be without their starting running back, LeSean McCoy, which is another good sign for the 49ers. Even without these two in the lineup though, it's a talented offense under the consistent guidance of Andy Reid, with playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson being the threat that the 49ers will be paying the most attention to in the film room.
On defense, the Eagles hover around the 11th overall mark in almost every category, but hold an impressive fifth in turnover differential, which seems like it will be the key once again for the 49ers offense: not shooting themselves in the foot. Two costly interceptions from Smith in the Falcons game (alongside Nate Clements's end-of-the-game fumble) and a staggering four deflating turnovers in New Orleans can't return, a repeat performance of any of those will surely result in the 49ers going 0-5 up against this opportunistic defense and strong, consistent offense.
Alex Smith and Mike Singletary are "attached at the hip," as CSN's Matt Maiocco noted recently. Singletary is standing by the oft-troubled quarterback, and while it's not the move many 49ers fans want, it's the only one that makes sense considering who is behind Smith: David Carr, Troy Smith and Nate Davis. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring group, to say the least.
The key to winning this game for the 49ers will be to use Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon. They need to run the ball, but they need to do it intelligently. New offensive coordinator seemed like a marked improvement over Jimmy Raye last Sunday against the Falcons and he'll need to improve even more to actually come out with a win.