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.