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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The 49ers wasted a fresh approach that gained 358 yards, 25 first downs and nearly 34 minutes in time of possession by committing four turnovers. Regardless of the circumstances, four turnovers is unacceptable. They weren't all Alex Smith's fault but the man does have 25 career touchdown passes against 34 interceptions. The spread approach cleared room for Frank Gore to rush for 83 yards and average 5.5 per carry. Jason Hill emerged from obscurity to catch two touchdown passes just as Isaac Bruce's career seems on the wane.

Those four turnovers by San Francisco's offense put the defense in an impossible situation of having to defend short fields much of the second half. The game plan was a sound one, however, as Titans quarterback Vince Young was limited to 172 yards passing, no touchdowns and 14 yards rushing. However, he did scoot 7 yards for a touchdown when the 49ers were in their dime (six-defensive back) alignment. The run defense against Chris Johnson was good until he broke loose for 41 yards in the fourth quarter. The secondary played only one ball badly, when wide receiver Justin Gage leapt for a 49-yard gain.

Andy Lee had a career day with three punts that had a net average of 53.3, highest of his career. The Titans got little on either punt or kickoff returns. Michael Robinson is developing into a capable kickoff return man for the 49ers, although he does not have the speed to break a long one. Brandon Jones is still figuring out the art of punt returns as he had three returns for minus-3 yards.

Bravo to Jimmy Raye for opening up the offense to take advantage of the skills of the players he has instead of stubbornly trying to be a power running team. The spread offense with two tight ends, two wide receivers and Gore as the single back suits Smith's talents. Having tight end Vernon Davis and rookie Michael Crabtree as receiving threats can only help loosen up things inside for Gore. On defense, coordinator Greg Manusky crafted another solid game plan, one that could not account for the pure speed of Johnson.

Although Mike Singletary still has the locker room and players believe they still can accomplish their goals, four straight defeats must be wearing on the 49ers. A 3-1 start is now 3-5 at the midpoint of the season. Anything less than six wins in the final eight games won't get it done come playoff time.

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