49ers running off rails : Packers Insider

49ers running off rails

December 2, 2010 by  
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Dec 2, 2010 ~ by Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel

~Singletary’s team doesn’t have much substance


Green Bay — The San Francisco 49ers are in the throes of a 4-7 season and could be headed for a coaching change much sooner than later.

Just don’t expect the 49ers’ disappointing season to affect how they operate under coach Mike Singletary when they meet the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

“They all try to imitate him and emulate his philosophy,” an assistant coach for a recent 49ers’ opponent said. “They think they’re a tough football team. They do stuff like come through your warm-up.

“They try to be like the old Chicago Bears. They’re not that, but they think they are, and as of right now they’re having a little success. They think they’re better than they are.”

The 49ers rushed for 261 yards in a dominating 27-6 victory Monday night in Arizona. Their most impressive performance of the season left them one game behind Seattle and St. Louis in the feeble NFC West.

“That division is a joke,” one scout said. “I don’t get excited about that little upsurge. They ran the ball against a very poor team. Do you think he (Dom Capers) won’t be prepared to stop the run? They’ll shut them down and Green Bay will score 28 to 30 points and win easy.”

San Francisco 49ers' Brian Westbrook (20) celebrates his touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals with teammate Frank Gore (21) during the second quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 29, 2010, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Oddsmakers moved the line up at least a point after running back Frank Gore, the hub of the 49ers’ offense, suffered a season-ending hip injury after five carries against the Cardinals. Veteran Brian Westbrook and rookie Anthony Dixon excelled in his absence.

“I think what you saw from Westbrook was more short-term,” another scout said. “He was fresh. San Fran would have to play their very best and Green Bay would have to turn the ball over a gazillion times.”

The Packers (7-4) are favored by 10 points. Last November, they were favored by six in their 30-24 victory over the 49ers in Green Bay.

“If Green Bay can’t run the football, they (the 49ers) have got a chance,” the coach said. “Of course they’ll miss Gore, but they’ll still do what they do and they can still run the football.

“Hey, all Green Bay’s got to do is spread ’em out and throw the football. That will hurt San Francisco. They want you to lock into a two-back and try to power them. They don’t want to be spread out and do all that stuff Green Bay does. The secondary is where they can be exploited.”



Coach Mike Singletary fired coordinator Jimmy Raye on Sept. 27 and replaced him with QB coach Mike Johnson. The 49ers emphasize a power run game featuring counters, tosses and pulling linemen. The passing game is built off play-action fakes. The 49ers are tied for 16th in giveaways (19), 23rd in yards (320.3) and 31st in points (17.0).


The entire offense revolves around Vernon Davis (6-3, 250). He’s as athletic and as fast (4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash) as any TE in the NFL. Because of his speed, he runs right by LBs and is a tough matchup for many safeties. His hands are improving all the time and he’s a good blocker, too. Backup TE Delanie Walker (6-1, 242) also is extremely fast (4.54) and can get deep. The No. 1 WR is Michael Crabtree (6-1½, 214), whose lukewarm production (38 catches, 509 yards) is mainly the result of inferior quarterbacking. He can snatch the ball and make tough catches in traffic, is a good route runner and has excellent body control. He just lacks blazing speed. WR Josh Morgan (6-0½, 219), a sixth-round pick in ’08, plays a strong, consistent game. He runs 4.49 and is a gifted athlete. WR Dominique Zeigler blew out a knee Monday night, leaving the top backup job to erratic Ted Ginn (5-11, 180). He can blow by anyone but always has dropped too many balls.


RT Anthony Davis (6-5, 323) and LG Mike Iupati (6-5, 331), a pair of rookies drafted in the first round, have given hope to a scuffling line. Davis, the 11th pick from Rutgers, is on the lazy side and tries to get by on his raw athletic ability. After a slow start, Davis has improved. Despite his size, he has a major strength deficiency and struggles against power ends. Iupati, the 17th pick from Idaho, is a go-for-the-throat drive blocker with a withering punch and long, long arms (34¾ inches). He has played OK. LT Joe Staley (broken fibula) will miss a third straight game and will be replaced by old-timer Barry Sims (6-5, 300). At 36, Sims just tries to get in the way. Generally, he holds his own. RG Chilo Rachal (6-5, 323), a 2½-year starter, is stiff, strong and lumbering. He’s a finisher in close quarters but will overextend in protection. C David Baas (6-4½, 330), who moved from guard to replace injured starter Eric Heitmann (neck) in August, is a nasty, too-heavy mauler who’s slow and not very good. If Baas (concussion) can’t go, career backup Tony Wragge (6-4, 310) is serviceable.


Troy Smith (6-0, 217), a former Raven, has a powerful arm, enough strength to shake off rushers and just enough speed (4.85) to run for first downs. This will be just the seventh start of his career, and he has problems reading defenses and using the entire field. He scored 15 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. His accuracy is questionable, too. Deposed starter Alex Smith (6-4, 217) and David Carr (6-3, 216) are backups.


Minus irrepressible RB Frank Gore (broken hip), a good guess is 60% duty for Brian Westbrook (5-8½, 203) and 40% for rookie Anthony Dixon (6-0½, 233). Westbrook, an Eagles great from 2002-’09, couldn’t have been more impressive Monday night. He ran inside using subtle spins and shifts, didn’t give tacklers many clean shots, cut back instinctively and showed decent burst. He’s also a tremendously versatile receiver. Picking up blitzes is not his thing. Dixon, a sixth-round pick from Mississippi State, won’t be intimidated by his sudden change in status. Don’t let his size fool you. He has HB feet and will make tacklers miss, he runs 4.65 and he’s OK on blocking assignments. His problem is fumbling. FB Moran Norris (6-1, 242), who’s in his 10th season, still is willing to lay the wood on LBs.



Fourth-year coordinator Greg Manusky, a disciple of Wade Phillips, operates a 3-4 that is much better against run than pass. He prefers keeping the safeties back and pressures in moderation. The 49ers rank 10th in points (20.5), 11th in yards (316.8) and tied for 26th in takeaways (14).


RE Justin Smith (6-4, 285) is hard to dislodge, has a relentless approach and usually is near the football. He slugs away with his tremendous upper-body strength, will anticipate the snap count and is hard to cut off. LE Isaac Sopoaga (6-2½, 330), a three-year starter, is incredibly strong. At times, his leverage is off-kilter and he can be budged. He moves better than you think and sometimes is utilized standing up. NT Aubrayo Franklin (6-1½, 317) might be undersized but he clogs up the middle and makes some plays on quickness. He has natural leverage. Replacing Sopoaga on passing downs is DT Ray McDonald (6-3½, 290), who has some burst and a rapid first step.


The defense is set up for SILB Patrick Willis (6-1, 240) to make all the plays. The D-linemen take pride in his glossy tackle total (111), and on interior cross blitzes WILB Takeo Spikes (6-1, 242) always goes first as the clear-out man. Willis uses his speed to play sideline-to-sideline, is a tremendous athlete, shows power as a bull rusher and strikes a heavy blow as a tackler. He is much less effective taking on blocks. Spikes, a 13-year pro, has lost a lot of speed. However, in a short area and in coverage, he’s still solid. Rotating at LOLB are Manny Lawson (6-5, 240) and Ahmad Brooks (6-3, 259). Lawson, the 22nd pick in ’06, looks for mismatches as a pass rusher but lacks low-block shield when teams run right at him. Brooks is more of an athletic underachiever. Rotating at ROLB are Parys Haralson (6-1, 255) and former Titan-Cardinal Travis LaBoy (6-3½, 250). Haralson, who is iffy with an ankle strain, is a high-effort player who has started for four years. For a team without a dynamic pass rusher, his quickness off the edge is important. LaBoy, 29, has had a rash of injuries but is a well-schooled pass rusher.

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