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The San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh are off to a fast start in the 2011 season, moving to 3-1 after an inspiring 24-23 comeback win in Philly against the Philadephia Eagles. The team certainly feels different this time around than in previous years, as cornerback Carlos Rogers will admit. Don't get on the bandwagon, though: Harbaugh likes his team best when people doubt them, according to a report from ESPN.
In Harbaugh's words: "We'd rather prefer that all that is written is written against us...When honey words or praise are flowered upon us, we begin to feel exposed before our enemies." That's a good move by Harbaugh to contain the hype around his team after Sunday's highly-publicized comeback against the Eagles.
Harbaugh would have you continue doubting his team, but the 49ers have set themselves up very well in the season's opening quarter of play. The 49ers are at least two games up on each of the other three NFC West teams and have proven that they can win on the road with back-to-back road victories in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The 49ers could also be looking at an undefeated 4-0 record right now if they had managed to hold on to a 10-point lead against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.
San Francisco can continue to build on its early season success by maintaining the same mentality and playing the same way that it has over the past few weeks. A lot of that stems from a we're-better-than-you-think stance, and Harbaugh recognizes that in his team. Regardless of whether the media actually buys in on the 49ers as a legitimate team or not, Harbaugh will continue pushing his players and challenging them against the world.
Earlier today, we took a look at the sacks given up by the 49ers offensive line, or more accurately: Anthony Davis. Now, we'll look at something positive: the specific run blocking for rushing plays that went ten yards or more. The 49ers had rushes of 40, 10, 25 and 12 yards, and Frank Gore ended up with 127 yards and a touchdown on just fifteen carries. Below, I'll take a look at each of those runs and what happened exactly to get the yardage gained. Three of the plays went to Gore, and the last one went to Hunter.
12:13 1st Quarter 1st and 10
49ers line up with Smith under center, Vernon Davis in blocking position on the right side of the line, Delanie Walker standing on left side of line, with a receiver split out wide on each side. The ball is snapped and Vernon Davis immediately occupies the left end. Anthony Davis and Adam Snyder both ignore the next guy on the line, breaking into the second level with Jonathan Goodwin handling the third. Delanie Walker gets good push on the last Eagles player on the line, while Mike Iupati pops out and occupies the second lineman, who had to think he had Gore good.
Iupati seals the man off and Gore chooses that as his lane. By now, Joe Staley has made his way to the next level and is hitting a linebacker, the corner is too far away on the right side, Snyder pushes into the player that Staley is blocking and Anthony Davis seals the hole off on the other side by blocking the other linebacker. Gore is through the hole, made mostly by Iupati, Davis and Staley, and is brought down after forty yards by Nnamdi Asomugha, who might have been able to make a play earlier, but Anthony Davis' block of the linebacker got in his way.
It was a product of good run blocking and good decision-making by Gore. The fact that he hit the hole with more burst than he has so far this season helps, as well.
:08 2nd Quarter 3rd and 8
The half is about to end and the 49ers just run the ball to kill the clock, but it's a good run, at least. The 49ers line up in shotgun formation, with three wide and Vernon Davis on the left side of the line. Gore is to Smith's right, and he takes the handoff and goes to the left side. Vernon occupies his block, Snyder backs up from the right guard spot and runs to the left side in front of Gore. Snyder crashes into Asomugha with a great block and Michael Crabtree pushed Joselio Hanson back a good five yards before he was able to tackle Gore after a 10-yard gain.
5:51 4th Quarter 2nd and 7
49ers line up in the shotgun, with Crabtree and Joshua Morgan split out to the right side, and Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker directly to the left of the line, Walker on the inside. Gore is to Smith's left. Smith takes the snap, and the blockers get going. Vernon Davis runs an out route on the left side, while Walker just impedes Jason Babin enough on the left side of the line (RDE position) to where he can't get to Gore, who is rushing up the middle. Mike Iupati engages with Mike Patterson and that's where the hole begins. Iupati keeps Patterson standing and locked up, while Staley moves around him and runs out to block the linebacker to the right of Iupati, creating the hole.
Anthony Davis successfully blocks his guy, Adam Snyder chips his and Jonathan Goodwin handles his well, turning with him and preventing Gore from being stopped before he can make it to the hole. Staley runs headlong into his linebacker and begins pushing him backward. Walker has moved out from his chip of Babin and is targeting the safety. Walker runs across, past Iupati and in front of Gore to push the blocker out toward Staley, and Gore has big yardage: between Iupati, Staley, Goodwin and Walker, Staley pushed his guy about ten yards, and the play goes for 25 yards before Gore is pushed out by Jarrard Page.
3:52 4th Quarter, 3rd and 7
Smith under center, Kendall Hunter in the backfield. The 49ers split three wide, with Vernon Davis on the right side of the line. Davis motions to the other side and lines up in front of Jason Babin. Iupati grabs his man next to Babin, while Staley collapses back. Anthony Davis falls down and cuts off the man Iupati is blocking, while leaving the left defensive end uncovered. It's a toss to Hunter on the left side, so that linemen has no chance of making a play. Snyder and Goodwin break to the left side, and Iupati passes off his blocker to Goodwin, before falling forward into a linebacker at the second level on the right side. Crabtree is up and making a block on Nnamdi Asomugha, and Staley assumes the lead blocking role for Hunter. Babin was handled expertly by Vernon Davis, and Hunter is off. Mike Patterson, the player first blocked by Iupati, is free and has a shot, but Hunter is too fast for him. Josh Morgan blocks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie back about six yards and Hunter gets the first down.
Adam Snyder neglected to block Jamar Chaney while running across the field, so he makes first contact on Hunter. Hunter stays up though and gets another two or three yards out of it before coming to the ground. Snyder did help him get another yard by assisting Crabtree with his block. All-in-all, a great play for twelve yards made possible by a Vernon Davis block, and assisted mightily by strong blocking from wide receivers Crabtree and Morgan, and Joe Staley.
After allowing six sacks to the Dallas Cowboys and five sacks to the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Francisco 49ers were certainly looking for something positive from their offensive line. They had problems throughout the whole lineup, and even had issues with the running backs and their pass protection. The worst of the bunch has been Chilo Rachal, who, along with his propensity for getting penalized, has given up his fair share of pressure.
So when Adam Snyder got the start at right guard, the spotlight was on him to show that he was better than Rachal, but if 49ers fans noticed Snyder at all, I'd be surprised, considering all three of the sacks they gave up against the Eagles came from one man: second-year right tackle Anthony Davis. He's raw, everybody knew that coming into this year ... he's bound to be at just 21-years old, but Jason Babin beat him three times for sacks in the 49ers 24-23 comeback win. Had they lost that game, you can bet that Davis would be receiving a lot more flack right now.
Below, I take a look at each of the three sacks and what exactly happened on the play.
1st Sack: 15:00 2nd Quarter, 3rd and 8
Alex Smith lines up in the shotgun with Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan to the left side of the line, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker to the right side of the line and Frank Gore on his left. Adam Snyder was in at right guard (Chilo did get into the game, but Snyder was the guard on all three sacks given up). Good snap from Goodwin, and the Eagles rush four. Gore goes into the left flat while Walker and Davis run their routes on the right. Joe Staley and Mike Iupati occupy their blocks, while Snyder doubles up with Goodwin. Davis pulls Jason Babin back well in a circle, but can't stay with him and Babin grabs Smith from behind and it's a three-yard loss.
At first glance it looks like Staley completing his block and throwing his man down may have got in Davis' way, but upon re-watching, it's clear that Davis had lost Babin by that point. Smith, though, held onto the ball for too long on the play, and most would call that decent protection to get a pass off.
2nd Sack: 1:46 2nd Quarter, 1st and 10
Smith in the shotgun again, with four wide and Gore to his left. The Eagles rush four again, with men directly in front of Snyder and Anthony Davis. Snyder occupies his man and Davis moves over to help him without even registering that Babin was there. Gore goes for the left flat at the snap and Babin moves untouched to Smith, who fumbles the ball before contact is made. It looks like a missed assignment for Davis, but it's possible he thought Gore was supposed to stay in to chip, hence letting Babin through untouched.
3rd Sack: 12:26 4th Quarter, 3rd and 10
It's the shotgun once again, with three wide, Gore on his right and Walker on his left. Philadelphia rushes five (the fifth rusher being a delayed rush from a linebacker) and it's bad from the very beginning. Gore looks to occupy a phantom sixth rusher, Walker hesitates, but isn't necessarily out of place. Staley and Iupati finish their blocks just fine, Snyder was supposed to double up with Goodwin, but the rusher was in Goodwin's face and Snyder has to turn around to try and block, and poor Anthony Davis is all alone again on the right side.
Goodwin was likely going to lose his block and give up a sack, but Davis is burned so badly by Babin on this play that there wasn't a chance for that happening. Babin was untouched for a couple yards before Davis finally got himself turned to try and stop him, but he's beaten by the speed rush and Smith goes down for an eight-yard loss.
So while the whole line did look a little bit better in pass protection and certainly better in run blocking, one can only hope that it was just a matter of Babin having Davis' number on Sunday. It's unlikely that's the case though, because Davis has struggled with speed rushers since coming to the NFL. Snyder missed some assignments but his actual blocking looked good, with more time as a starter, he'll likely get back into a more consistent form.
But hey - three sacks is better than five - which is better than six. Progress?
Did you hear the people calling for the benching of Frank Gore yesterday, in much the same way that they have been since the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks? If you did, then you should check yourself into some sort of mental hospital, because you're hearing voices. Gore's game against the Philadelphia Eagles speaks a lot as to his ability and how much he has left in the tank.
Now, the Eagles have had a pretty awful rush defense this year, so it doesn't mean that Gore is suddenly 100% and in his prime - but he did show a lot of things that some folks were beginning to doubt. If you heard some of the 49ers fans leading up to this game, they were calling for Kendall Hunter and for Gore to be benched, saying the latter had no acceleration and no power left. One fan even remarked that Anthony Dixon likely has more power in his running at this stage than Gore does.
Yeah. About that ... Gore ran for 127 yards on 15 carries and had a touchdown. A touchdown that tied the game and set the 49ers up for the David Akers extra point to give them the lead they didn't relinquish. His first run of the game went for forty yards and he had a few other big runs along the game. Gore hit the hole well and showed burst like we expect of him. He was caught from behind, but that's indicative of a normal Gore - he's never had the top-end speed to beat every defensive back. The offensive line did block a little bit better, but for the most part, it was a healthy looking Gore fighting for every yard. At the end of the game, on a third-and-one, Gore fought hard with a second effort to get the first and seal the deal.
In short, don't freak out and assume a guy is done with only three games to go on. True, Gore didn't look himself through those three, but anointing Hunter the starter after them is not just irresponsible, it's idiotic. If Hunter plays that whole game, the 49ers probably do not win. It's just as simple as that.
Though it is worth noting that Hunter looked good. He didn't have a lot of rushing yards, but when he got the ball, he looked close to breaking away just about every time. The 49ers utilized him like a change-of-pace back and it worked, tossing the ball and having him bounce out to the outside. He had a key 12-yard run in the third quarter to set up a Vernon Davis touchdown, and generally looked good.
The Eagles did start to catch on though, and in the first half, it seemed like the 49ers were trying to force the ball to Hunter out of desperation. Philadelphia keyed in on it and started to stop him, and that reflects what I said last week - Hunter needs to remain a change-of-pace back, because he's so good at catching people off balance. He's also too raw to shoulder so much responsibility, the 49ers need to make sure they get him his touches, just probably not all on one drive.
At any rate, the 49ers have two healthy and capable running backs to work with.
Are the San Francisco 49ers back? Sure, their 24-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles is just one game, but it also can be viewed as a turning point in the franchise. Battling back from a 17 point halftime deficit when it looked like the Eagles were well on their way to a rout, to take a victory against a quarterback with 501 yards of total offense and seven trips to the redzone? Call me a homer, but I find that impressive.
Let's take a look at some of the facts, shall we?
Frank Gore had a 100 yard game, Alex Smith had a 112 passer rating, the defense had three key turnovers (thanks Ronnie Brown!), and the Niners are in first place in the NFC West.
Not bad huh?
Like I said before, it's just one game. And this is, after all, the National Football League; a place where any team can win any game any week of the year. That being said, this is one of the best wins in recent memory for this franchise, and hopefully a start of something really good for the San Francisco 49ers.
There was definitely a story line for David Akers, heading into the 49ers' week four matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent twelve years in Philly and was replaced by a rookie in the offseason after missing two field goals in a first-round playoff loss. Akers had missed the field goals just days after learning of his daughter's ovarian cancer, so it makes sense that his head wasn't in the right place - but that didn't stop Andy Reid, the team and the fans from criticizing him immensely following the loss.
Coming into this return to Philadelphia, Akers said there was no ill will and that it just felt like any other game. Now, we're not going to say that he's lying or anything like that - only he knows what was going on in his head - but Akers had a pretty rough day kicking the football.
Akers was one-for-three, one of them was blocked and one of them was just a bad miss. The miss sailed wide and was doomed from the start, the block was probably a product of missed assignments from Chilo Rachal and Mike Iupati, but Akers did kick it really low. If it was a more "textbook" kick it would have been higher from the start and it would have been out of the reach of King Dunlap.
To his credit, the missed field goal probably should have came back, but the referees missed an obvious leverage call.
Hitting just a third of his field goals in uncharacteristic for Akers, and the 49ers should just hope that it was the Philadelphia atmosphere and bad memories that affected him on Sunday; not some regression of talent. Still, had to feel good leaving there and seeing all those angry Philly fans (which is normal, but postgame is also mixed with sadness).
With all of the talk about the San Francisco 49ers problems on offense, maybe their solid defense went without notice.
The Niners defense had their hands full with Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, forcing three turnovers along the way. And coupled with a terrific second half by quarterback Alex Smith, San Francisco earned their first back-to-back road win since 2006 by the score of 24-23 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Philly got out to a 20-3 halftime lead after a pair of touchdown passes from Michael Vick and two field goals from Alex Henery, while San Francisco could only counter with a David Akers field goal as Alex Smith and the running game simply couldn't get out of the gate. But the defense showed some signs of life in the first half with a Carlos Rogers interception and a goal line fumble from Ronnie Brown, setting things up for the Niners second half charge.
Alex Smith went off in the second half, throwing a 30 yard touchdown pass to Joshua Morgan and a 9 yard toss to Vernon Davis in the third quarter to get San Francisco within a touchdown, then went ahead in the fourth quarter behind another strong drive and a 12 yard TD run from Frank Gore. The play of the game came from Justin Smith, forcing a down field fumble from Jeremy Maclin with around two minutes left in the game, closing the coffin on Vick and the Eagles for good. Alex Henery's two missed field goals in the second half didn't hurt either.
Smith finished the game 21/33 for 291 yards and no interceptions as well, capping off his best game of the year thus far, while Gore ran for 15 carries and 127 yards, his best game of the year as well. Vernon Davis finished with 4 catches for 45 yards, while rookie Kendall Hunter added 38 yards on 9 carries as well as 62 yards receiving. Michael Crabtree led all receivers with five catches for 68 yards.
Despite Michael Vick bobbing and weaving in and out of Niners defenders and finishing 30-46 for 416 with 2 TD's through the air and 75 rush yards as well, he simply couldn't get the job done. Philly made seven trips to the red zone with only 23 points to show for it, with 10 of their points coming from 49ers mistakes (blocked Akers field goal and Alex Smith fumble). There were numerable mistakes made by both squads, but the Niners somehow came out of it with the W today. And even though it's been the opposite of pretty, the Niners are 3-1 and atop the NFC West.
Full box score can be found here.
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation to get in on the action.
After some adjustments at halftime Jim Harbaugh and his San Francisco 49ers have charged back into the game after the Philadelphia Eagles jumped out to a big first half lead. Alex Smith lead the way on two touchdown drives, the Niners D is keeping it close, and the Eagles lead has widdled down to six by the score of 23-17 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Smith connected with Josh Morgan for a 30 yard touchdown drive, set up by a huge reception by rookie running back Kendall Hunter for 40 yards. And after forcing the Eagles into a four-and-out the Niners responded again, marching down the field for a nine yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis.
The 49ers were looking very outmatched in the first half but are firing on all cylinders in the second. Look for Alex Smith to keep opening up the field and hopefully stealing a victory in Philly.
It's been another ugly day so far for the San Francisco 49ers offense, thought the same can not be said for the Philadelphia Eagles. Led by a somewhat banged up Michael Vick, the Eagles made 5 red zone trips in the first half of the game extending their lead to 20-3 at halftime at Lincoln Financial Field.
Alex Smith couldn't get much going at all, except for a two-minute drill fumble towards the end of the second quarter that led to another Philly TD pass to Lesean McCoy. He finished the half 8/16 for 90 yards. Frank Gore had an excellent 40 yard run in the first quarter but has been quiet ever since, carrying the ball 6 times for 59 yards as well as two receptions for 12 yards so far. Vernon Davis has one catch for 26 yards, Michael Crabtree has two for 25.
The Niners defense has kept the game much closer than it should be, forcing a goal line turnover as well as a Carlos Rogers interception on two promising Eagles drives. Nevertheless, Michael Vick already has two touchdown passes, is 16/25 with 214 yards passing, as well as 62 rushing yards in the first half alone. DeSean Jackson has 74 receiving yards already on only two catches.
The rain is starting to fall a bit heavier in the City of Brotherly Love, which may be a factor in the upcoming second half. The 49ers are going to have to figure something out and in a hurry or this is going to a be a good old fashioned blowout at the hands of Vick and the Eagles.
After a week long experiment in Youngstown, OH the San Francisco 49ers looked ready to play at Lincoln Financial Field against the Philadelphia Eagles; they just didn’t take advantage of their opportunities.
Frank Gore bust out for a big first quarter, breaking out a 40 yard run and 49 rushing yards on four carries in the period, while Alex Smith went 5/9 for 42 yards, hitting both Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis for big gains already. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it done in the red zone after David Akers missed field goal, taking advantage of the Eagles still in-progress defense.
The same could be said about the Eagles as well, working their way through the Niners D for a wide open Clay Harbor for a 16 yard TD pass. Michael Vick is 6/8 for 65 yards with a interception to Carlos Rogers as well, though has been taking lots of shots down the field against the Niners weak secondary.
Just as quickly as word was out that Frank Gore was starting, word quickly changed per @albertbreer to Gore coming off the bench and Kendall Hunter starting. This is an intriguing twist, although it doesn't surprise me given how Jim Harbaugh does sort of what he wants regardless of what he tells the media.
Gore is still expected to get some playing time, but it will be interesting to see how he is mixed in with the rookie Hunter. This has certainly gotten a whole lot more interesting rather quickly.
Editor's Note: Latest news has Kendall Hunter starting and Frank Gore getting playing time. More to come...
The latest news out of Philadelphia indicates that Frank Gore will start at running back for the 49ers when they face the Eagles Sunday at 10:00am PT. Gore has been limited in practice all week with an ankle injury but ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and NFL Network's Albert Breer both reported Gore is expected to start.
Shortly after those reports Gore was out on the field working out the ankle and has been subsequently working in the handoff and pass play pre-game practice. It would seem to indicate he's ready to start. The big question is how long he'll last. He is off to a slow start and the team has Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon waiting behind him for a chance to show their stuff. Hunter had a strong fourth quarter last week against the Bengals. Even if Gore is healthy he could see an increase in his workload coming off his solid performance.
For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers will try and improve on the season to 3-1 when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles. The 49ers are trying to deal with an injured Michael Vick while making sure that injured Frank Gore doesn't come back and hurt the effectiveness of their offense in this week's game.
Kickoff: 10 AM PDT/1 AM EDT
TV: FOX. Check out whether you will get the game on this handy regional map (mostly Northern California and most of the Pennsylvania/South Jersey regions seem to be covered, and that's about it).
Announcers: Ron Pitts, Jim Mora Jr.
Radio: The Bone 107.7 FM, KNBR 680/1050 AM in the Bay Area; KTHU 100.7 FM Chico; KATA 1340 AM Eureka, CA; KNCO 830 AM Grass Valley, CA; KEZK 730 AM Medford, OR; KMFB 96.7 FM Mendocino, CA; KESP 970 AM Modesto; KPRL 1230 AM Paso Robles, CA; KJFK 1230 AM Reno; KCTC 1320 AM Sacramento; KKJL 1400 AM San Luis Obispo; KION 1460 AM Salinas; KUIK 1360 AM Hillsboro/Portland, OR; KJDX 93.3 FM Susanville; KPUA 670 AM Hilo; KRKC 1490 AM King City; KBLF 1490 AM Red Bluff; KFIG 1430 AM Fresno; KKXS 96.1 FM Redding, CA
Radio announcers: Ted Robinson, Eric Davis, Rod Brooks
The NFL's Week 4 of practice wraps up and teams head into the weekend and the 49ers and Eagles have released their final injury reports for Friday. There were no notable surprises on the 49ers end, as receiver Braylon Edwards has been declared out for this week's matchup, Frank Gore and Donte Whitner are questionable and Michael Crabtree is listed as probable.
WR Braylon Edwards (knee), RB Moran Norris (fibula)
RB Frank Gore (ankle), S Donte Whitner (hip)
WR Michael Crabtree (foot), G Mike Iupati (neck)
The question on everyone's mind is whether or not Mike Vick will play and he's been listed as probable, meaning a setback is the only thing that will keep him off the field with a non-throwing hand injury:
CB Brandon Hughes (hamstring), DE Juqua Parker (ankle)
DE Darryl Tapp (pectoral)
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation to get in on the action.
Week four of the NFL's regular season is nearly here and teams are making their final preparations for this week's game. With the San Francisco 49ers heading to Philadelphia to take on a talented-yet-underperforming Eagles team, they will need all of their star players healthy if they hope to pull off the big upset. Here is the injury report from Thursday for both teams:
Limited participation in practice:
Full participation in practice:
G Mike Iupati (neck)
Did Not Participate:
CB Brandon Hughes (hamstring), DE Juqua Parker (ankle)
Limited participation in practice:
Full participation in practice:
There are not too many changes for the 49ers from their latest injury reports, though the Eagles continue to get healthier by the day. Jeremy Maclin practiced after sitting out Wednesday and Michael Vick continued to practice for the second straight day. It appears Vick will indeed be playing on Sunday, which is not good news for the 49ers and their defensive unit.
For more on the 49ers, Niners Nation is the place to check out.
For the past few season the San Francisco 49ers offense has lived and died by the play of Frank Gore. When he gets hurt they struggle, but when he's healthy they flourish. But now with Frank the Tank's status in question this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles, he's not letting on at all about his hurting ankle or if he can play this Sunday in Philly.
"I don't know, man," Gore said. "I really don't know. If I can't go, I can't go."
The Eagles currently rank 30th in the NFL in rush defense, allowing a shade over 130 yards a game through the first three weeks of the season. Conversely, Gore has just 148 yards on 59 carries for 2.5 yard average per carry. Many have wondered if Frank's age is gaining on him, his high mileage style of play is catching up with him, or the offensive line has been ineffective in opening running lanes; which may all be the case. But Anthony Dixon and rookie Kendall Hunter are ready to go as his backups, which Frank apparently has no problem with.
"Me, Kendall or Anthony Dixon, I think whoever's in there should have a pretty good game. Philly loves to get up the field. They're real fast. I just hope I'm in there. But if I'm not, I hope the next guy in there will do the job."
Seems that Frank is buying into the new team mentality under Jim Harbaugh, and has confidence is his counterparts in the backfield. Hopefully they can prove him right this Sunday.
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation to get in on the action.
It's looking more and more likely that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be in action on Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers come to town. As such, Vic Fangio will have to scheme up a definitive way to contain Vick and his rushing ability, not to mention that he's obviously a lot better than Mike Kafka is passing, as well. The worst thing a team can do against the Eagles and their offense is leave lanes open for Vick to take off in.
Fortunately, the 49ers have a great group of linebackers, especially in the middle, where Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman patrol the field. They're definitely two of the fastest linebackers in the league, and Bowman has really come into his own, as noted earlier today by Niners Nation. Bowman leads the team in tackles and has been a great asset with his athleticism.
It will probably be a combination of him and Willis on Vick all throughout the game, though the 49ers have already tipped their hands on that just a little. In week one, when the 49ers played host to the Seattle Seahawks, it was Willis who made sure quarterback Tavaris Jackson didn't secure any lanes to take off in. In the 3-4 defense, Bowman and Willis actually switched positions, though not officially. But Bowman was counted on for more coverage duties and was watching running backs and tight ends.
Look for more on that on Sunday. As Bowman continues to grow, coaches and analysts alike note that it's sometimes hard to tell if it was Willis or Bowman making the insanely athletic play, so Willis can be assigned to things that are better-suited for somebody with more seasoning and better instincts. What that really means is that the lines between MIKE and TED will be blurred for the 49ers, and Bowman will grow into much the same role that Willis has been in since the very second he stepped onto the field.
Many doubted Bowman's ability to come in and play TED, especially when Takeo Spikes was the starter. Bowman didn't have the size/frame to do what Spikes did, which was occupy blockers and be a karate-kick-throwing wall to any and all running backs. Those people were absolutely right in just about every way, save for the fact that Bowman was always billed as the kind of guy you need on the field, and somebody you adapt a defense to. So Bowman isn't trying to fill Spikes' shoes, he's got his own Willis-sized pair to work with.
So keep a look out on Sunday for which of the two will be covering Vick, because it definitely should be one of them.
With the whole team under the same roof for a week, you get a lot of time to get to know your fellow teammates for the San Francisco 49ers. As for quarterback Alex Smith, he's been taking a lot of time to get to know the Eagles' defensive schemes as well, preparing for what hopefully will be his third win of the young season.
Smith spoke with some media member Wednesday after practice to discuss a bit of the plan out at Lincoln Financial Field this weekend, but not too much:
Coach Harbaugh said there have been some changes with the Eagles defense so far. What have you seen from what you have studied so far?
"Yeah, very different from the Eagles from the past. There is much less pressure, in terms of linebackers and secondary. Before it was high pressure, a lot of different looks, giving me a lot of different things to think about. This isn't quite as much variety, but they're still giving as much pressure. I think they lead the NFL in sacks. The defensive ends are playing at a really high level. Obviously with the additions of [CB] Nnamdi [Asomugha] and [CB Dominique] Rogers-Cromartie, the secondary is an elite secondary in the NFL. Really good defense, playing at a very high level. Not a lot of weaknesses over there, but you try to find your matchups and take advantage of them."
If there's one thing Alex Smith is great at, it's sounding like he knows what he is doing in a press conference. Turning that knowledge into on-field success is another thing, which seems to come intermittently with him behind center. Everyone expects this game to be a shootout with the obvious gun-slinger coming in the form of Michael Vick. But watch out for Alex because if he's on point he can definitely get the gears grinding in the right direction.
Here, do you find you're focusing maybe more on football?
"Yeah, for sure. You're absolutely right. My commute time is cut down as well. To walk up to the 6th from the 4th is pretty quick. Yeah, for sure there are advantages and disadvantages. I think that was one of the great things we talked about as far as the team. Yeah you're going to come here and there will be some distraction, but at the same time it's really just a chance to be with your teammates and focus on football and really a chance to prepare to play a game."
How pleased were you to get Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis more involved in the passing game, as well as Bruce Miller, to get some different looks out there?
"It was, we were fortunate as far as the timing, to lose [WR] Braylon [Edwards] and then Michael to get back healthy, so excited to just get him back going. He missed training camp and the first weeks of the season, so he's still just trying to get revved up and I look forward to continue to keep him going. Yeah but Vernon, every time you can get Vernon involved, he's such a threat and such a playmaker. You love to get the ball in his hands. Nice little surprise to have Bruce, Bruce stepped up. The guy played defense last year and coming in and catching balls and blocking, so it was great to see that too, as well as everybody."
The Niners seem fired up and ready to play this weekend, but still don't know exactly what to expect from Michael Vick and his sore right hand, though I don't expect it to limit him much. Hopefully Smith can keep being productive and get another W.
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation.
San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is all about shaking things up, that's why he decided to have his team stay at Youngstown State in Youngstown, OH this week instead of flying back home or to the East Coast before facing the Eagles this Sunday. It's a team bonding experience that he hopes will bring the team together, as well as pay some dividends down the road.
Coach spoke to the media Wednesday after practice, alluding to the importance of this trip and of the city of Youngstown itself:
Do you try to keep this week normal or do you want everyone outside their comfort zone a little bit?
"I like the part that it's changing of the routine. Sometimes the normal business-like routine sucks the life out of everybody. I like that part of it. There are so many good opportunities here that you really don't have in San Francisco as it relates to friendship. Getting to know maybe one or two other guys better than you did before. Know two or three things about them that you didn't know.
It definitely seems like the college vibe Harbaugh is trying to push is important to him. You should 'go to war' with guys you know, and knowing everyone better can only add to team continuity. Can continuity equal wins? It certainly doesn't hurt, but you still have to put in the work, which they are most definitely doing at Youngstown State.
When you first knew this was going to happen, was it easy? Has it been an easy transition to move the entire, so to speak, complex here to Youngstown?
"Everybody's really busted their tails to do it. The staff has been great setting things up and everything has been organized. That's easy for us to do, I like doing stuff like that. Coaches, players, we're pretty adaptable. We're kind of like big kids, this is like being in little league. And then when guys are done with practice, they're not heading to their cars and heading home, they're here around each other having meals and watching Monday Night Football.
The 49ers are a midwest team at heart, and with football's roots right down the street in Canton, OH Harbaugh was amazed by the 49ers love there is back East:
Obviously this is in the middle of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Are you surprised how many 49ers fans are here in Youngstown first of all and, second of all to see that 49ers logo on the DeBartolo building if you haven't seen it already. What did that mean to you?
"It means a lot. I had a chance to be here in the summer and take part in a fundraiser that the family was putting on. I got to see the passion for the 49ers and the long history of following the team, which was very exciting. So no, it wasn't a surprise when I got here. It was when I got here back in June. Every time I had ever visited here to recruit, my perception was this was all Ohio State and Notre Dame country, and good luck getting a player out of here to go to Stanford or anywhere else but those two schools. I would say Ohio State, Notre Dame, and the 49ers."
Hopefully this all will produce some winning football in the City of Brotherly Love this weekend, though it undoubtedly has made the team more of a unit already.
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles will square off in Philly this weekend in the NFL's Week 4. Right now, though, both squads are hoping to get key contributors back before the game. According to Matt Maiocco, running back Frank Gore, receiver Michael Crabtree, and safety Donte Whitner were all limited during Wednesday's practice.
Gore sprained his ankle during last week's 13-8 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals but played through the pain. He is a little dinged up from the sprain, but Gore's limited status on Wednesday is likely just a precaution to ensure that he feels at or near full strength come Sunday.
Crabtree, meanwhile, played extensively in Sunday's game against the Bengals. He dealt with a foot injury during the preseason and through the first few games of the regular season, and it is likely that he was limited on Wednesday so as to preserve his health. Crabtree is still working himself up to game speed, and it is imperative that the 49ers don't rush him back too quickly.
Whitner experienced a hip contusion against the Bengals and is trying to work his way back for this week's game. He should be good to go by the time the game kicks off on Sunday, but re-aggravation of the injury or an unexpected setback could threaten his chances.
On the other side of the ball, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has stated he will play on Sunday. Vick is dealing with a deep bone bruise on his right hand but was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. Nothing is certain with Vick yet, and you have to wonder how cautious the Eagles will be with their quarterback on Sunday given that he has left the field in back-to-back games with injuries.
In the case of Whitner and Vick, there chances of playing on Sunday will become more apparent as the week progresses. Check back with SB Nation Bay Area in the coming days to monitor the status of these players.
It’s hard to keep a competitor like Michael Vick off the field if he’s able to, and according to sources Vick is more than ready to go this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
The pro-bowl quarterback took part of Wednesday practice, and was doing well enough that he and the team felt he will be ready to go this Sunday against the Niners. Vick injured his right (non-throwing) hand during last week’s meeting with the New York Giants, which the team originally thought to be broken. It was diagnosed as a deep bone bruise the next day by team doctors, and is still rather swollen and sore.
Vick has throw from 605 yards already this season, completing 59% of his passes for four touchdowns and two interceptions thus far. His importance to this Eagles squad is incalculable, and anytime he isn;t on the field is a time that the Eagles are vulnerable. Let’s hope for the Niners sake he isn’t 100% on Sunday.
Rarely do you find a single player who can seemingly make or break a team’s chances of winning a ballgame, but that just might be the case with the Philadelphia Eagles and their quarterback Michael Vick.
The team has been cautious with Vick and his deep bone bruise on his non-throwing right hand, but will know if he is ready to go after practice Wednesday against the San Francisco 49ers this week. Though origianally though to be broken, Vick’s hand wont hinder him that much, and likely will be taking the field this Sunday in Philly.
“We have to get the swelling where it is manageable and he feels comfortable,” Reid said. “It’s about the same right now, and it’s not to say that he can’t play with the swelling, it’s just got to be where he can bend his hand where he can work with it.”
Vick has throw from 605 yards already this season, completing 59% of his passes for four touchdowns and two interceptions thus far. Any time lost could possibly give backup Vince Young some playing time,setting up a Vick-esque move , like that which occurred in 2010 with him and Kevin Kolb.
In week one, the San Francisco 49ers felt pretty good about their offensive line. The Seattle Seahawks don't have the greatest defense, but their defensive line has generally been decent with pressure, and they were manhandled by the 49ers offensive linemen. They didn't give up a single sack and everybody patted themselves on the back. And then DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas Cowboys came to town, and it was an absolute disaster.
Ware beat guys and was in the backfield consistently, with the offensive line and Moran Norris, the fullback, missing blocks left and right. Six sacks were given up then, and it didn't stop there. When the team hit the road to go to Cincinnati, they were blasted again, this time by the Bengals, giving up five sacks and giving up pressure to Smith many more times than that. Chilo Rachal was a revolving door, and Adam Snyder didn't do much better in relief. Anthony Davis continued to make mental errors and Joe Staley didn't look like a franchise left tackle while he was being dominated by Frostee Rucker for a few plays.
There's a lot of talent on this line, though. Davis is immature and needs to get better fast, Jonathan Goodwin has played and can play much better than he has been, Mike Iupati is the best of the bunch and we all know that Staley can be better than this. Is it possible they've all hit a ceiling and they are truly bad? Of course it is - anything is in the NFL - but we do need to take a closer look at a couple of the sacks.
For one, there was one change on offense, as Norris was replaced with rookie Bruce Miller at the fullback position. Now, Norris is a much-maligned player and the exact opposite of a fan favorite, but he was decent in pass protection, even if he whiffed on every other block when it came to the running game. Was Miller a step down from Norris? When you take account everything he did, no. But Miller was a factor in pass protection, or the lack thereof.
On at least two of the sacks given up by the 49ers, Miller was directly involved in the protection breaking down. Manny Lawson blew him up early in the third quarter, meeting two other Bengals players at Alex Smith, and Dan Skuta beat him to get to Smith late in the same quarter. One good thing about Miller's play at this point: he was able to identify who he was supposed to pick up correctly, which is a silver lining, considering he's still very new to the position. But he has to be able to block, and when your offensive line isn't playing well, a struggling fullback rookie will only impede things.
To make matters worse, Frank Gore was potentially in on two plays that led to sacks. One of them, the one where Skuta beat Miller, Gore also lost his battle and contributed to Smith's loss. The other one was a play where Gore stayed in to block, then popped out to potentially get a reception, but was yelled at after the play by Snyder, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.
Rookie Kendall Hunter also got beat, in the first play we mentioned including Miller. That's also one of the issues with Hunter getting more playing time, his blitz pickup is still very raw, and he's got a pretty small frame. If the offensive line plays like it has, it might be best to keep Gore in for that reason as well. Either way, two of the five plays in which the 49ers gave up sacks were not solely attributed to the offensive line, so that's an issue that needs to be worked on going forward.
Normally Monday Monday and Tuesday are when NFL odds open up for the coming week's games. For the 49ers and Eagles however, the game is going to remain off the board for now due to . While Vick does not have a break as initially feared, his deep bone bruise leaves his status questionable enough that odds-makers are not comfortable setting a line for the game. hand injury
As it currently stands, Vick is looking likely to play. But, when there is a chance Mike Kafka or Vince Young could end up out there, why risk a possible big loss with a line that will end up being a wild guess? If Vick had stayed healthy, I would suspect the line would have been in the touchdown range. Of course, now it's all up in the air with his hand injury. He'll likely be limited or not practicing Wednesday, but beyond that we'll have to wait and see how well the swelling comes down.
The 49ers head to Philadelphia for the second game of a two game road trip. We take an early look at a tough matchup for the 49ers. For more, head over to Niners Nation.
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