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After the beatdown in week one, it was really easy for 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh to explain away the offensive woes, most notably those of the offensive line. The Saints blitzed an awful lot more than one would expect in the preseason (especially in week one), and the team had only been practicing for twelve days - some players only had for five or six days. In short, Harbaugh noted that the team had looked worse a week before and should look better a week later.
Well the Oakland Raiders came to town and the 49ers did look a lot better: they stopped the blitz and protected their quarterbacks, and everybody figured Harbaugh was on to something. Now after week three, it's up in the air as to whether or not the 49ers simply looked good in week two because it was ... well, the Oakland Raiders. That's not to say Oakland has a terrible defense, just that they were disappointing, something they've been prone to do lately. Or maybe the 49ers offensive linemen were just on in week two, but whatever it was, Harbaugh has some more explaining to do.
Because the Texans abused the offensive line once again. It wasn't a pretty site, especially considering the fact that they didn't aggressively blitz like Greg Williams and the Saints did - they were just consistently winning their battles one-on-one against the 49ers offensive linemen. Alex Smith had quite literally no time to complete any passes. He was hit on five of eight dropbacks, and only was able to complete passes on a three-step drop and a designed rollout to the right side.
As noted by Eric Branch of the Chronicle, when Harbaugh was asked about the offensive line's woes this time around, he didn't beat around the bush:
It really was not real complicated what they were doing up front," Harbaugh said. "But they were getting us, they were beating us.
Colin Kaepernick didn't have an easy time behind the line, either. Rookie jitters probably played a part in his propensity to panic and make errant throws and have a predisposition to tuck-and-run at the first sign of pressure, but rookie jitters are probably severely intensified playing behind an offensive line that has shown they're less of a bank vault and more of a revolving door.
So all of this bad offensive line play is mucking up the rest of the offense and the coach's ability to determine who should stay and who should go. Who should be San Francisco's starting quarterback? Is it Alex Smith, who was only able to complete two passes without being hit by marauding Texans? Or is it Colin Kaepernick, who looked every bit the scared freshman out there on the field at Candlestick?
Essentially, this means what we all saw in week one was a lot more than "not enough practice time", and changes need to be made. Free agent signee Jonathan Goodwin hasn't fit the billing of former Pro Bowl center, while supposedly deeply-ingrained starters like Joe Staley and Mike Iupati were getting beaten with regularity. At any rate, Harbaugh's excuses will no longer hold up, as he himself noted above. Look for some shuffling to occur in week four, before the regular season begins.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh held a conference call after last night's Texans-49ers debacle, and there wasn't much he was positive about concerning the performance, particularly regarding the offense. He referred to the offensive performance as akin to "being violated", even though the Texans defensive scheme wasn't all that complex from his viewpoint.
Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Sunday afternoon in a conference call with reporters if Crabtree would be cleared to begin practice this week.
"We'll see," Harbaugh said. "It's possible."
Crabtree sustained an undisclosed left foot injury on June 6 while running routes during a players-led workout at San Jose State. He has not been seen running full-speed routes since that time.
Harbaugh has said Crabtree has been "outstanding" in meetings and with his understanding of the offense. And once Crabtree is cleared to practice, Harbaugh said he'll be making a quick evaluation to see how he envisions the No. 10 overall pick of the 2009 draft fitting into the offense.
"Everything in terms as it reales to his position and how quickly he can get back to full speed and get caught up with the rest of the unit," Harbaugh said.
With both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick struggling to make the offense go, Crabtree's return becomes all the more important. The 49ers offense needs all their weapons on the field to provide effective offense, and Crabtree is perhaps the most crucial cog.
Additionally, the 49ers have yet to resolve the center battle. Adam Synder has been starting most games, but Jonathan Goodwin has also been taking snaps at the position. Having the quarterbacks deal with two separate centers has to be an additional burden to deal with.
I wouldn't count the Niners quarterbacking situation as a lost cause quite yet; Crabtree and a firm starting center could do a lot to help alleviate offensive woes. If there are still clear deficiencies, then it might be time for Harbaugh to reconsider what he should do with the quarterbacking position.
After the San Francisco 49ers embarrassing 30-7 preseason loss at the hands of the Houston Texans quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick took some time to speak to the media, talking about some of the shortcomings that occurred during the game.
Starting quarterback Alex Smith talked a bit about the lapse of protection he received from his O-Line:
Pass protection was so good last week against the Raiders, did you think you had solved that issue? That that was sort of not an issue anymore?
"You know, yes I had the couple sacks there and then obviously felt the pressure on the pick and felt like getting hit. I have to look at it. It'd be hard for me to say at this point. Who knows what happened. I don't want to rush into conclusions or judgments or anything like that. Obviously there's room for improvement for all of us, so we'll see what the film says. It kind of sucks at this point just after the game, but it's kind of the truth. I'm not playing. It's tough to see what was going on at the front sometimes."
Where would you say the offensive line is right now?
"It's not something I'm worried about to be totally honest with you. We've got a great group up front. Those guys work as hard as anybody. They're talented. I think tonight-and protection doesn't always just fall on them, it falls on everybody sometimes. We'll look at it and see. I think a couple times, the guys got on edges and it can be tough, so."
I hope Alex is right, for the sake of his own health.
I'm sure Alex really appreciated this question:
[Texans QB Matt] Schaub played good the first half, just about every starting quarterback in the NFL played through the first half in this third game. You didn't. Would you have liked to have gotten into a rhythm and played that long?
"Under normal circumstances I'd say maybe I want to play a little bit more, but to be honest with you, coaches have done such a great job at practice, we get so many reps in throughout the week. It's the way he wanted to do it, and don't see a problem with it. I've been in years passed where we've put a lot of stock into preseason, and we've put up really good numbers and win a lot of games, and two weeks into the season, no one really cares. So coach took a different approach to it a little bit, and I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. Obviously we took our lumps tonight. It was a rough one for all of us, and you look at it and get better."
Harbaugh's vision to 'shake things up' in and around the 49ers will come with it's growing pains, and I think that was evident in Saturday's loss. Hopefully the next few weeks will be enough time for the 49ers to look like an NFL team again.
As for Kaep, he definitely knows how to talk to the media, keeping things extra P.C. and making sure not to step on anybody's toes.
How hurried did you feel? How rushed did you feel back there? It seemed like you guys were under a lot of pressure.
"That's something you have to deal with as a quarterback no matter where you are at. Right now we're still trying to pick up on things. We're trying to adjust to different things. So, right now every position is going to have problems from time to time."
Truer words have never been spoke.
Were you disappointed and would you like to see more points scored offensively?
"Yeah, being an offensive player, you always want to put points on the board. You want to put as many up there as you can, but right now there's still a lot of learning we're doing. There's a lot of progressions we're still going through, and really we're trying to get amped up for this season. This is practice for this season to make sure everything is right then."
Kaep did a great job with this question. "Would you have like to see more points scored offensively?" Is that a serious question? No, I think Kaep wants to make sure his offense scores zero points for the next five months.
Was there anything positive you took from tonight's game?"
You can learn a lot from games like this. As much as you hate to have them, sometimes you learn more from losses than wins."
Knowledge dropped. Wise beyond his years.
For more on the Niners, head over to Niners Nation for juicy discussions and analysis of the Red and Gold.
After the San Francisco 49ers demoralizing preseason loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday, head coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't sugar coating anything in his post-game presser. Harbaugh told it like it is, being professional enough not to put his players on blast while at the same time pointing out problems they had. Here are some tidbits from his press conference Saturday evening:
Would you put most of the offensive struggles on bad pass protection or were your quarterbacks struggling there a little bit?
"It's a bitter pill to swallow, when you're beaten that thoroughly in pretty much all phases. I think defense wasn't quite as bad as special teams and special teams weren't quite as bad as offense. Specifically with the offense, we didn't get any kind of rhythm going at all. It's on everybody involved with the offense: protection, route running, decision making - all those things."
Real talk from coach here, although the Niners seemed not to have much of a game plan before the game. He was asked about that as well.
How much would you say the fact that the Texan's game planned and you guys didn't game plan have to do with the result.
"There's no excuses. We're game planning, too, so that's not an excuse."
It certainly didn't look like there was a game plan.
The Niners kept running back Frank Gore out of the game, possibly signaling some more beef between the pro-bowl back and his new coaches.
Why did you not play RB Frank Gore tonight? What went into that thinking?
"That was a decision that I made. I talked to Frank and told him what I was thinking and that was my decision."
Without Frank, you might as well put a fork in this team.
Neither Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick did anything spectacular on Saturday, leading some to wonder about Kap's status as the possible starter.
You said you wanted to see QB Colin Kaepernick with your ones and against their ones. Did he show a little youth tonight?
"I think if you're just looking to find something positive to say offensively, it's not easy tonight. I'm not going to single anybody out. The players will hear it from us; they don't need to read about it as well."
Is there a chance you might be forced to start Kaepernick just for the simple fact that he is more mobile and he can escape out of trouble?
This screams to me that Alex Smith is here to stay. sigh.
In sumation, Harbaugh kept it very simple going forward:
Are you confident that you can have your team ready for the opener in a couple of weeks?
"Because we have to. It's not an option not to."
That doesn't scream confidence to me. Just because you 'have to' be ready certainly doesn't mean you will be. Sure is going to be an interesting season.
Down 24-7 at the half, the San Francisco 49ers had to come out of the locker room with a new mentality to start a rally against the Houston Texans. Unfortunately, the team continued to struggle on offense in the second half, and the Niners fell 30-7 to the Texans on Saturday evening at Candlestick Park.
Second string quarterback Colin Kaepernick had trouble throughout the game and completed only 6 of 16 passes for 52 yards. Alex Smith did not make an appearance in the second half, as coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to see what Kaepernick had to offer.
The second half was bereft of offense on either side, as both the Texans and Niners were unable to find the endzone. Matt Leinart played quarterback for the Texans in the second half, completing 7/10 passes.
Harbaugh used this game to take a look at his depth, and it's difficult to determine if his evaluation process was successful at this juncture. The lack of playing time for Alex Smith is quite puzzling, as the third preseason game is usually reserved for playing the starters as much as possible.
Head on over to Niners Nation to discuss the game and the 49ers.
The Houston Texans got off to a slow start against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park, but a costly mistake was quickly erased by an overwhelming offensive attack. At the half, the Texans lead the 49ers 24-7.
Things couldn't have started any better for the Niners, as linebacker Ahmad Brooks intercepted Matt Schaub's first pass attempt of the game and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown. With only ten seconds off the clock, the home team was already seven points up.
Before the game, head coach Jim Harbaugh made it known that he wanted to see how his second string QB, Colin Kaepernick, would look against the first string defense of the Texans. Harbaugh was hoping to see just how deep his squad is, and the results were not what he desired.
Kaepernick was erratic, completing only 1 of 5 passes, throwing a 73-yard interception returned for a touchdown by former Arizona State safety Troy Nolan.
Starting quarterback Alex Smith did not fare much better, going 2 for 6 on pass attempts in limited duty. Expect to see more from Smith in the second half, as Harbaugh cannot be satisfied with the production he has seen thus far.
Both sides of the ball struggled to find their footing in the first half. Schaub was able to complete 14 passes for 170 yards, showcasing his fantasy upside while taking advantage of top flight wide receiver Andre Johnson and erstwhile tight end Owen Daniels.
The Niners offense only converted three first downs, one of which was from a penalty. Between Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon, the running game managed 31 yards on ten rushing attempts. Without Frank Gore, this is an entirely different team.
For more Niners coverage (and to join in the commiseration) head on over to Niners Nation.
San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee will forego his punting duties Saturday and instead hold the ball during kicks, according to Matt Maiocco. Lee is dealing with a hip injury and hence will not see be called on to kick tonight.
The 49ers who are expected to miss the game tonight are cornerback Shawntae Spencer, safety Reggie Smith and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Though these injuries do hurt the 49ers, none of them face season-threatening injuries and should be back in due time.
Saturday's Week 3 preseason game features the 49ers at home against the Houston Texans. San Francisco looked solid last week in a 17-3 win over the Oakland Raiders, and the team will look to build on that moving forward. That win, however, came with most of the first-team playing limited minutes.
The starters should see plenty of minutes during the game. Once kick-off takes place at 5, the Texans (2-0 so far in preseason) should pose some interesting challenge.
The San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans square off Saturday evening in a week three preseason contest at Candlestick Park. While the Texans are looking to improve to 3-0, the 49ers will likely give some of their backups some playing time against the Texans first units. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is likely hoping they're far enough along where the team can still have a shot at winning the game. However, more than anything it is simply to see where they are truly at with one preseason game remaining.
Preseason records can be fairly meaningless as last year's 4-0 San Francisco 49ers will tell anybody. Rather, Saturday's dress rehearsal is a chance to see where the team is at as they get ready for the regular season. A win would be great, but the team will be looking for some cohesion on offense and defense, and of course to avoid significant injuries (fingers crossed, knock on wood!).
Game Date/Time: Saturday, August 27; 5:00pm PT
Location: Bill Walsh Field @ Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
TV Schedule, Announcers
49ers: CBS 5 - Dennis O'Donnell, Tim Ryan, Kim Coyle
Texans: ABC 13 - Joel Meyers, Spencer Tillman, Bob Allen
TV Distribution Map: The506.com
Radio Schedule, Announcers
49ers: 107.7 FM, 680/1050 AM - Ted Robinson, Eric Davis, Rod Brooks
Texans: 100.3 KILT FM, 610 AM - Marc Vandermeer, Andre Ware, Rich Lord
Saturday evening the San Francisco 49ers host the Houston Texans in the third preseason game of the schedule, which is often considered a dress rehearsal type of game. Starters are expected to go into the third quarter, which means fans get a decent idea of where their team is for the coming season.
The 49ers are expected to make things just a little bit more interesting however, as Jim Harbaugh has stated that he wants to get second string players some playing time against the Texans first string. Harbaugh looks at this as a chance both to see how the depth look, and also to see how far along some of his second and third string players are at this point.
As roster cuts approach there are several players on the bubble and strong showings against better competition could be the difference-maker for some of them. Additionally, there are players with just about guaranteed roster spots that will be looking to show they deserve more playing time, or in the case of some like Colin Kaepernick, a shot at any playing time.
Colin Kaepernick: Alex Smith is more or less locked in as the starting quarterback for the 49ers, but that doesn't mean Kaepernick can't force his way into the discussion. A strong showing on Saturday coupled with any Alex Smith struggles to start the season might mean a quicker hook on Smith. Kaepernick has faced second and third string defenses thus far so facing the Texans improved first unit could be a confidence-builder for the rookie QB.
Aldon Smith: The 49ers first round pick has impressed just about everybody in practice and against backup offensive players. He has likely worked his way into significant pass rush down packages. The question now is how long it will take for Smith to move into the starting lineup opposite Parys Haralson or Ahmad Brooks. Smith is looking to show he can be an every-down back his first year and not just a pass rush specialist.
DeMarcus Dobbs: The rookie defensive lineman has had a strong camp but could face a tough numbers game along the defensive line. Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Isaac Sopoaga are locked in as the starters. Ricky Jean-Francois is the primary backup on the line while Will Tukuafu has more experience than Dobbs at this point. At this point there appear to be differing opinions on whether Dobbs ends up on the roster (Maiocco, Barrows). It will be interesting to see if Coach Harbaugh gives him some extra snaps higher up the depth chart against the Texans prolific offense.
Bruce Miller: The 49ers seventh round pick has been working to convert from college defensive lineman to NFL fullback. He got some early snaps last week against the Raiders before Moran Norris came back on in his place. He appears close to supplanting Norris, but it's hard to tell for sure. If he can provide solid blocking ahead of the running backs, could it be the difference-maker?
Kendall Hunter/Anthony Dixon: Although Anthony Dixon is ahead of Hunter on the depth chart, the 49ers rookie out of Oklahoma State put up some monster numbers last week against the Raiders. In previous years, fans have been quick to get on board such numbers even though they came against primarily backups. If Hunter can get snaps against starters on Saturday, could he supplant Dixon as the number two behind Gore? Dixon will also be in a position to strengthen his grip on the number two job. If he can show that he isn't going to continue dancing behind the line, Dixon could be in prime position for a solid number of carries behind Gore.
Tarell Brown: The 49ers secondary has dealt with various injuries, the most prominent being Shawntae Spencer and his hamstring problems. Spencer hasn't practiced extensively since the first week of training camp. While he has solid historical tape to rely on, Tarell Brown would appear to be close to moving back into the starting lineup for the first time since 2009. Brown seemed to be in the doghouse with Mike Singletary after a brief run in the starting lineup, but he's fought his way back. It's entirely possible he could force the 49ers to stick with him as starting cornerback opposite Carlos Rogers, even when Spencer is back and healthy.
The San Francisco 49ers are hosting the Houston Texans for the ever-important third game of the NFL Preseason. The 49ers will be looking to get Colin Kaepernick and the backup running back time against the Texans starters, while Houston is installing a new defense. For more on the game and the team in general, head over to Niners Nation, SB Nation's 49ers blog.