The 49ers were not expected by many to win Sunday’s game against the Falcons as soon as the schedule was released last spring. Those expectations were certainly not diminished when the team opened the season with three straight losses. A 2-2 record at this point would have been quite acceptable. Instead, they are 0-4.
The team has played three road games so far — more than any other team in the division, maybe more than any team in the league. And the only home game was against the Super Bowl champs. The schedule makers did us no favors this year.
But we now have two straight home games, both winnable, followed by a road game against another 0-4 team, Carolina, and a London “home” game against Denver, before the bye week. It’s time to rally boys. 4-4 at the bye would definitely get the fans hearts beating again.
Winning four straight games has not happened in Ninerville for probably eight years or so. A four game winning streak tends to instill a Winning Attitude on a team. It would also come in October, a month that has been brutal for the Niners in recent years, featuring four game losing streaks that squashed the optimism of the team’s usual 2-1 start. Either we are reversing that trend this year, or we’re talking about the 2011 Draft and our new Head Coach for the rest of the year.
It’s hard to keep playing the “encouraging signs” mantra week after week, but the Atlanta game had many. As the national and local media pushed hard to create a disintegrating franchise image, personified by the Michael Lewis quitting saga last week, the team showed up to play from the first snap of the game to the last. Lewis’ replacement, Taylor Mays, had a very good game and is now the starting SS, where he will be located for a long, long time. This is a definite upgrade for the secondary’s speed. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that they played such a good game Sunday. Monday, Lewis was released without much of a blip on the media ticker tape. Just another “player transaction” line. Clearly, Mike Singletary had not lost the team and the media was foiled once again in its endless efforts to portray Singletary as a buffoon. It was the best 49er east coast road game performance since the Buffalo game two years ago. The game that turned around the 2008 season and played a big role in Singletary getting hired to replace Mike Nolan.
But the most encouraging sign was the new OC. It did not show up on the score board, but the offense did move the ball with regularity and a lot more creativity, the three and outs diminished, and there were very few Frank Gore plows into the line for no gain moments. There is reason for hope. With Jimmy Raye, there was none.
Below, we’ll take a look at one of the new formations introduced by the new OC, Mike Johnson.
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Here’s a new formation we used last Sunday, or at least one I don’t remember seeing before.
It’s an 11 personnel package with RB, TE and three WRs. It has Zeigler split right and Gore behind him, Crabs split wide left and Morgan in the slot with Davis lined up behind him.
This is the play that resulted in Atlanta’s first sack so we can examine the problems with it here. Atlanta is in a nickel D and the MLB #50 is lined up behind the Right End. The Left End drops to cover the flat and the remaining three down linemen tie up our O-line trying to block them. The MLB comes around Staley as the protection slides to the right and Alex steps to the left into him.
Anyway, I’d love to know how this play was drawn up to work and avoid the LB sack which seems like an obvious protection to plan.