Saturday, September 23, 2006

Week 3 Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

Each week so far this season the Niners face a bigger challenge than the previous one. Last week the team was victorious over the St. Louis Rams, but things get tougher this week as San Francisco takes on the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles lost a heartbreaker last week, giving up a 17 point lead and allowing 23 points to the New York Giants in the fourth quarter and overtime to lose 30-24.

The timing for this game probably favors the 49ers, as starting left tackle Jonas Jennings should be back this week while the Eagles lost their best pass rusher in Jevon Kearse to an knee injury last week. Also out for the Eagles are starting cornerback Lito Sheppard and nickelback Roderick Hood. This leaves a very inexperienced Joselio Hanson starting at corner for the Eagles. I think this could be the key matchup for the Niners, as this may be the biggest weakness we can exploit in the Eagles vaunted defense. I expect to see Antonio Bryant matched up against the second year man Hanson.

The Eagles gave up only 86 yards on the ground last week to the Giants, however with New York playing from behind for three quarters, they only rushed the ball 26 times for a 3.31 yard average. I expect the Niners to be able run the ball more effectively than this, just as they have in both of their previous two games. I fully expect to see Frank Gore go over the 100 yard mark again this week, behind another strong game from our offensive line. I'd also like to point out once again how well the offensive line has played this year. They have lead the way for the running attack to average 4.6 yard per carry through two games, as well as allowing only one sack in 62 pass attempts. This type of play continuing will only help the young offensive stars of this team grow and become better quicker than most imagined.

On the other side of the ball, the Niners have their work cut out for them this week. The Eagles offense has gained 892 yards in 2 games, 237 yards on the ground and 655 through the air. The passing game worries me the most, as I'm still not sold on Walt Harris or Shawntae Spencer, even after a decent game last week. I'd like to see them contine that same play this week, but I'll admit a bit skeptical of it happening. If the front seven can continue to put pressure on the quarterback at the rate it has so far (9 sacks in 2 games)we'll hopefully see some rushed throws and possible turnovers. However, the Eagles also have provided strong pass protection so far this year only allowing 2 sacks. This could be the biggest matchup for the Niners defense, can they get consistent pressure on McNabb and keep the Eagles passing game out of a rythym? It remains to be seen.

My Prediction: 49ers 28 Eagles 24

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Week 3 Picks

I have been making picks for my office pool in previous 2 weeks, so I thought I would post them to see your feedback on my reasoning behind my picks. Maybe you guys could help me find out why I lose the games I pick wrong. Currently my record is 25-7. I went 12-4 in week 1 and 13-3 week 2. I am doing well right now, but I would like to sweep one week, so hopefully you guys can help me see what I am getting wrong.


Carolina at Tampa Bay 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

Carolina has come off 2 very disappointing games, but those were both against much better teams then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chris Simms has looked horrible in his 2 previous outings; I don’t expect any different from him against the Carolina defense.


Chicago at Minnesota 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

Chicago’s Defense will be too much for the Vikings to handle. Even with Steve Hutchinson on the line, I think the Chicago will be able to stop Chester Taylor from making any big gains.


*Cincinnati at Pittsburgh 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

Ben Roethlisberger didn’t look quite him self last week. Granted that he was facing a tough defense against Jacksonville, he still didn’t seem to look comfortable in the pocket and wasn’t too accurate on his throw as he usually is. With a short week I don’t think it will give him enough time to out score Cincinnati’s great offense.


Green Bay at Detroit 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

Brett Favre is coming off an improved performance against the Saints, but it still resulted in a loss. Favre doesn’t have the line to protect him or the running game to back him up. Even though the Detroit offense is not much better I still see them coming out with the victory in this one.


Jacksonville at Indianapolis 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

Jacksonville’ defense stopped the Pittsburgh offense, but they have a much tougher task at hand this week. I don’t think they will be able to stop the highest scoring QB-WR duo in the history of the NFL.


N.Y. Jets at Buffalo 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

Buffalo’defense was able to go into Miami and limit them to only 6 point in the whole game. The Jets’ defense was only able to limit the bland offense of the Titans to 16 points.


Tennessee at Miami 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

Tennessee are going through a negative media attention after Billy Volek and Titan’s head coach Jeff Fisher are swapping comments after Volek was traded to the San Diego Chargers. This probably shouldn’t affect most players, but it does put a lot of pressure on the coaching staff after committing to Kerry Collins as their starting quarterback.


Washington at Houston 10:00 am PDT/1:00 pm EDT:

The Houston Texan must really regret not picking Reggie Bush after losing starting running back Domanick Davis for the rest of the season. The Texans will be starting Wali Lundy at running back who is averaging 3.4 yards per carry in the last 2 games. Washington’s offense should perform much better against Houston’s lack luster defense.


Baltimore at Cleveland 1:05 pm PDT/4:05 pm EDT:

Baltimore’s defense has only allowed 6 points combined in their previous games. The Browns’ offense will not be able to do much better than the Raven’s previous opponents.


N.Y. Giants at Seattle 1:15 pm PDT/4:15 pm EDT:

Seattle’s Rush defense has been one of the best in NFL, only second to Baltimore. Seattle should limit Tiki Barber from breaking out a big run. This makes the Giants defense very 1 dimensional.


Philadelphia at San Francisco 1:15 pm PDT/4:15 pm EDT:

This is probably the spot where I should say that my picks are not based on who I want to win, but rather on who I realistically think will win. I would love to see the 49ers beat the Eagles, but realistically I am going into this week expecting a loss. Donovan McNabb is going into this week’s game second in total passing yards. This should be a tough task for the shaky 49ers secondary to defend against.


St. Louis at Arizona 1:15 pm PDT/4:15 pm EDT:

This should be a very close game, but I think Arizona’s offense will be able to work through the Rams defense. Edgerrin James should do better than his previous 2 outings since he is facing the Rams’ lackluster running defense.


Denver at New England 5:15 pm PDT/8:15 pm EDT:

New England’s defense will put pressure on Jake Plummer and force him to throw. I expect there to be a lot of turnovers by the Bronco’s offense.


Atlanta
at New Orleans MNF 5:30 pm PDT/8:15 pm EDT:

Atlanta’s rushing offense just seems to be unstoppable and New Orleans’ pass defense isn’t anything great, so the Falcon’s offense should have no problem scoring points.




Winners

*Upset Special

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mid-Week Link Dump and Discussion

Well, it's Wednesday, the single most boring day during football season. Monday Night Football was two days ago, we don't have another game until Sunday, ugh. I thought we'd open things up for some discussion today on the Niners of old. By old I mean the dynasty of the 1980's. Montana, Craig, Rice, Lott, Taylor, Carter, Griffin, Rathman, and the bunch. My question for everyone is simple, which year in the 80's do you think the Niners had their best draft? What year gave us the best mix of star players and depth? What year did you see the draft picks we made and all you could say was "Wow"? I'll post my pick later in the day, hopefully I'll have some arguing to do on the subject. :)


Now for the rest of today's topic: the Link Dump. This is a daily feature over on Athletics Nation , it's a great way to share with others articles you've read about a myriad of topics, not just the Niners or sports in general.

Here's one of my favorite "NFL blogs", even though it's part of ESPN Insider. Seth Wickersham

Here's an article about the Cowboys(boo!), but it really relates to the Niners and their where their talent on offense lies, NFL's Two Tight End Trend

I'm going to close the link dump today with a link to part of a thread from Athletics Nation. It really has nothing to do with sports, but it has a message everyone needs to hear. You can find it here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Week 2

AT :

The 49ers have gone from their expected baby step on offense to giant leaps. This cannot be the same team that I cringed as I watched them give up an interception in a key point in the game or fail to score after the defense gives them the ball in the opponent’s side of the field. While watching these past 2 games I don’t doubt that Alex Smith could throw for a touchdown or that Frank Gore could break open a big run on any play. Most of the new success on offense can be attributed to the vastly improved offensive line. The protection for Alex Smith has been extraordinary; Smith has had enough time on all his throws to hook up with his receivers. Week 1 the 49ers’ offensive line proved that they could protect against the middle of the road defense of the Arizona Cardinals. Week 2 they had a tougher task at hand with Rams front seven. In the offseason, the Rams had bolstered their front seven with the additions of defensive tackle La’Roi Glover and middle linebacker Will Witherspoon. In addition to the strengthened defense, the Rams still had their potent offense for the 49ers defense to worry about. The duo of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are still one of the wide receiver pairs in the NFL and Stephen Jackson is coming off a game where he rushed for 121 yards.


The key to winning this game was preventing the passing game from getting rhythm. The only ways that the 49ers’ defense could of done this is by either the secondary shutting down the receivers or the front seven putting pressure on the quarterback. The latter was much more expected than the prior, because the 49ers’ linebackers are the strength of their defense. The 49ers made sure that Marc Bulger never was comfortable throwing in the pocket. Bulger rushed a lot of his throws and the 49ers limited him to 19 completions for 185 yards and a long of 24 yards.

Frank Gore carried his excellent performance in Week 1 into Week 2. Gore rushed for 127 yard and a touchdown, but what really impressed me was his power in his running. The Rams had trouble all day taking him down. At one point, Will Witherspoon had to hold on to Gore for the good part of 5 seconds till her received assistance on the tackle. The announcers told a story about Frank Gore that showed just the kind of intensity he has as a player; during last season right after a loss Frank gore walked out to the player’s parking lot and saw that some of his teammates were having a party out there. Frank was so astonished by this reaction to a loss that he went and called his cousin and mentor, Rodney Best. As he told Best about his teammates out in the parking lot laughing and dancing right after a loss, Gore became so frustrated that he broke into tears. This shows to me that Gore wants to do nothing, but win. He has the intensity to become a team leader in the locker room. The only complaint I have about Gore right now is that he has been fumbling a bit. He has fumbled once in each game and is hurting drives that could put more points on the board.

Another player that is showing intensity is Antonio Bryant, but Bryant might not be showing it in the way that most would like. Antonio Bryant came off the field throwing up his arms in disgust after the pass from Alex Smith intended for a wide open Antonio Bryant extremely overthrown. After the play, veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer went over to Bryant to calm him down. Antonio Bryant said after the game that his frustration was from the offense not being able to score a touchdown not because he wasn’t getting the ball. Alex Smith also commented saying that Bryant and he are good friends and they are not fighting. Later in the game Smith and Bryant hooked up for a 72 yard touchdown pass.

Arnaz Battle had a 56 yard recption in the 1st quarter. Battle gained 40 yards of the 56 yards after the catch and 15 of those yard were with cornerback Fakhir Brown’s arms wrapped around him. Antonio Bryant had a key block on safety Oshiomogho Atogwe to help Battle make the big gain.

All in all the mistakes the 49ers made didn’t hurt them that much, but even though they did come out with a +1 in the win column I think there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Injury Update:

Jonas Jennings says he will play in next weeks game against the Eagles after seeing improvement in his sprained right ankle.

Larry Allen will be out at least one more week with his sprained right knee.

If Jonas Jennings does comeback the 49ers could move Adam Snyder to left guard to replace Larry Allen.

Ronald Field suffered a shoulder stinger in the game against the Rams, but is expected to play in the next game against the Eagles.

Final Score: 49ers win 20-13

49ers Season Record: 1-1

Next Game: vs. Philadelphia


Alex Smith about to throw a 72 yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Top Performers Week 2

Offense:

Frank Gore
29 ATT 127 YDS 1 TD

O-Line
No Sacks Allowed

Defense:

Walt Harris
7 TAK 3 PD

Manny Lawson/Chad Williams
3 TAK 2 SACKS EACH


Well, I was just a bit off on the score but the outcome was right. The Niners picked up their first win of 2006 in front of the home crowd today. Walt Harris and Shawntae Spencer did a very good job of limiting the damage Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce do today, with the duo total just 10 receptions and 107 yards. The Niners pass rush was in full force this week, registering 6 sacks of Rams QB Marc Bulger. Rookie OLB Manny Lawson and S Chad Williams both registered two sacks, with Bryant Young and Marques Douglas each adding one.

The offensive line answered the call today, with Tony Wragge and Adam Snyder subbing for the injured Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings. The line allowed no sacks for the second week in a row, and they paved the way for Frank Gore's 127 yard performance today. It's good to see early in the year that we have depth on the O-line, this should build confidence in the players and the coaching staff that even if an injury occurs, we have players ready to step up and fill the void.

Antonio Bryant continued to be the deep threat the teams needs at WR, hauling in a 72 yard TD pass from Alex Smith among his 4 catches and 131 yards. Arnaz Battle also flashed some downfield potential with a 56 yard strike from Smith among his 3 grabs today. Smith put up another good game, going 11-22 for 233 yards and a score. I'll live with a lower completion percentage as long as Smith doesn't force passes and turn the ball over.

All in all, it looks like a good sign for the 49ers, as we made a step in the right direction today. If the team continues to play like this, we may see a turn around sooner than anyone expected.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Week 2 Preview: St. Louis Rams

The Niners come into week 2 having lost their season opener vs. the Arizona Cardinals. This Sunday, the Niners have their home opener against bitter rival St. Louis. The Rams won their opener vs. the Broncos 18-10. Surprisingly, the Rams won the game with a very good defensive effort. The Rams forced 5 turnovers, and got to Jake Plummer for 4 sacks. The sack numbers should be a big concern for the Niners, with Larry Allen out and the fact that Jonas Jennings might miss the game also with an injury suffered last week.

I would expect the Niners to give Kwame Harris some help vs. Leonard Little, and you might see the fullback used heavily to pick up the blitz, as it will come early and often this week. I would expect the Rams to flip or stunt thier defensive tackles, to have LaRoi Glover going after inexpeirenced David Baas or Tony Wragge. With Allen out, I think St. Louis defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will try and rattle young Alex Smith with blitzes, stunts, overloads, and twists coming at the Niners all day long. I'd also be very wary of the Rams sending Leonard Little against Adam Snyder if Jennings miss the game also. We need to make sure to give the O-line some help, either with short routes/drops, backs and tight ends chipping on blitzers, etc.

Protecting the ball will be a huge key to this game. If we can win the turnover battle here, I think we have a legitimate shot to win the game. I do think we can slow down the Rams offensive attack, we did a fine job of defending the run vs. the Cards. If we can hold Steven Jackson to a 2.9 average per rush, we'll be able to keep the Rams from controlling the clock. That will be easier said than done, as Jackson is a top back and has rare combination of size and speed. He's as likely to bull through the line as he is to break outside and blow by defenders. I'm actually not too concerned with Marc Bulger, I think sometimes he's a bigger negative than positive. I think we can force a turnover or two out of Bulger, and that could turn the tide of the game.

If we can run the ball consistently from the get go, I think we can negate the pass rush a bit. A solid rushing attack will force the Rams to play things more straight up, with less blitzing. Once the run is established, I'd work off of some play action to help keep the Rams D honest. I think the biggest offensive key is Frank Gore. If he runs the ball like he did last week, we'll throw a wrench in the Rams defensive scheme. Our offensive line is very important to Gore's success, especially with a potentially inexperienced left side. Snyder/Wragge/Baas will have to step things up against the Rams defensive line.

On the other side of the ball, our pass defense is under the microscope this week. We need to get some pressure on Bulger, as the Broncos got to him for 3 sacks last week. If he has to rush his throws, he's more likely to force a ball into Bruce or Holt, where hopefully we're sitting back and waiting to make the play. It's really a rough first two weeks for the secondary, first facing Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald and now Issac Bruce and Torry Holt. Holt is the real threat, shutting him down is crucial to this game. Bruce has dropped off a bit over the last couple of years, but he's still a guy you can't overlook. Walt Harris and Shawntae Spencer will have their hands full this week again, hopefully they are up for the challenge this week.

All in all, I think we could win this game. It's not going to be easy, but it's possible. I think as wonderful as a win would be, I'd also be happy with some continued improvement by the team. With a young team, sometimes you have to live with the baby steps they'll make each week and realize they have to crawl before they can walk, let alone think about running. If we get another solid game from Alex Smith, Gore, and the O-line, I'll be happy. I'd like to see some big steps taken in the pass defense. If we can improve the coverage, we'll get some more chances to get to the QB. Conversely, the more pressure we can put on the less time our DB's will have to lock a guy up. One or the other has to improve this week, and I'm going to bet on the pass rush.

Prediction: Niners 17 Rams 15

Monday, September 11, 2006

Week 1

AT :


I don’t like the term moral victories since a moral victory doesn’t show up in the win column, but for the 49ers this was one of the best losses they have had since the 2003 season. The 49ers went into the season with the stigma of being one of the worst teams offensively, and in Game 1 they needed to prove that they could put points on the board.


Their first task at hand was a tough one, the Arizona Cardinals. Many analysts pick the Cardinals to be the breakout team of the 2006 season and some even pick them to win the NFC West. With the Cardinals’ explosive offense, it is not a far-fetched idea that they could win the NFC West. The Cardinals have offensive threats like the tandem of young receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, their newly acquired running back Edgerrin James, and their accurate veteran quarterback Kurt Warner.

The 49ers came out quickly with a strong drive featuring Frank Gore that ended with short pass from Alex Smith to rookie tight end Vernon Davis that turned into a 31 yard gain and a touchdown. Unfortunately the 49ers lost newly acquired offensive guard, Larry Allen.

The Cardinals answered back with a touchdown. The 49ers had the Cardinals on the 49ers 44-yard line with 3rd and 10, but the Kurt Warner connected deep with Bryant Johnson to move them to the 49ers 5 yard line.

The 49ers lost Jonas Jennings in the end of the second quarter with a sprained ankle. Despite the loss of the 2 best players on their offensive line the 49ers kept rolling offensively. The backup offensive lineman that came in, David Baas and Adam Snyder, held up well. Alex Smith continued to scramble in the pocket to create missed tackles. Alex Smith was only sacked once in the game, despite throwing 40 passes.

The 49ers came back and nearly scored a touchdown on their first drive of the second half. The 52-yard pass from Alex Smith to Antonio Bryant in the endzone was called back due a holding penalty on Kwame Harris. The 49ers had to punt after not successfully getting the first down with a short pass to Frank Gore.

On defense for the 49ers, Walt Harris sacked Kurt Warner, forced a fumble, and recovered the fumble on the Cardinals’ seven yard line. Two plays later, Gore was in the endzone with a Niners score.

On the next 49ers’ drive, the usually accurate kicker Joe Nedney missed a 34 yard field goal. Nedney went on to make 2 field goals after the miss, one from 22 yards the other from 44 yards.

The game came down to the final pass after the 49ers got down to the Cardinals’ 36 yard line. Alex Smith threw 2 deep passes to try to win the game, but both were incomplete.

The most improved aspect of the 49ers was the offensive line. They prevented the defense from putting pressure on Alex Smith and gave Smith time to make his reads.

Frank Gore, who gained 87 yards on 16 rushing attempts and caught 6 passes for 83 years, showed that he deserved to be the starter in San Francisco and that trading Kevan Barlow will not be regretted.

Alex Smith and Antonio Bryant, connecting for 114 yard on 4 receptions, showed that the 49ers have another dimension to the offense, a deep threat.

Vernon Davis showed that he will have the explosiveness out of the tight end position that everyone expected him to have out of the draft, but he did make a rookie mistake by not protecting the ball when he fumbled in the first quarter.

The secondary has proved to be the weakness of the 49ers defense so far. The secondary allowed Larry Fitzgerald to gain 144 yard on 9 receptions and Anquan Boldin to gain 62 yards on 4 receptions and a touchdown. They will be tested next week when they face the strong wide receivers of the St. Louis Rams.


Injury update:

LG Larry Allen is expected to be out for 2-4 weeks with an injured knee ligament. The ligament is not torn so Allen will not require surgery.

Jonas Jennings is listed as doubtful, but he says that he feels he will be ready to return to play in Sunday’s game against the Rams.


Also I wanted to tell people that our blog also has an RSS Feed which can be found at:
http://thecatch49ersblog.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Week 1 Top Performers

Offense:

Alex Smith
23-40 288 YDS 1 TD

Frank Gore
16 ATT 87 YDS
6 REC 83 YDS

Offensive Line
40 Pass Attempts 1 Sack Allowed


Defense:

Derek Smith
8 TAK 1 AST

Mike Adams
7 TAK 1 AST


Special Teams:

Arnaz Battle
3 PR 71 YDS


The offense had some big contributors in Vernon Davis and Antonio Bryant, in addition to Smith, Gore, and the O-Line. Third down situations are likely to get some work this week, as we were 0-9 on Sunday, although 2 of those were later converted on 4th down.

The defense has some work to do although the run defense was solid, allowing only 2.9 yards per carry.

Here's Vernon Davis on his way to his 1st NFL touchdown:



Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Day My World Fell Apart

A little introduction first. My name is Michael, and I've been a San Francisco 49ers fan since I started watching football at age 10 in 1989. This was the heyday of the 49ers, so even though I lived in Indiana I was able to see them almost every week.

Now, for the day my world fell apart. The date was January 20th, 1991. I was 11 years old and the day started out like most Sundays. The 49ers were on tv and they were destined to win. My Niners were facing the New York Giants in the NFC Championship, and I just knew we were one step away from our third straight Super Bowl victory. I remember laying on the floor in my living room watching the game with my dad. He was a Bears fan from years ago, so he really didn't have any real interest in the outcome of the game. I was a different story. I had so much emotional investment in the team, the game, and most of all my favorite player: Joe Montana. Joe was my sports hero, no athlete had a bigger place in my heart than he did. I even made myself a Montana jersey out of an old white t-shirt, placing a big number 16 on the front and back, with Montana written across the back as evenly as I could.

The game was a hard fought, defensive battle with the teams trading field goals in the first half leaving the score tied at 6. The third quarter held the lone touchdown, as Joe hooked up with John Taylor on a 61 yard score, giving the 49ers a 13-6 lead. The Giants cut the lead with another field goal, but Joe had the ball back and I was anxiously awaiting another big drive capped off by a touchdown that would surely break the Giants spirit and send my team onto the Superbowl.

Unfortunately, this is when my world came crashing down. Joe dropped back to pass and was sacked by Leonard Marshall. This time, Joe didn't bounce back up like usual. Something was very wrong. My heart was in my throat, and and tears welled up in my eyes as Joe was taken off the field with an elbow injury to his right arm, his throwing arm. For all I knew, his career could have been over. A rush of emotions came over me. Fear, anger, sadness, frustration. My hero wasn't invincible after all. My dad made some comment in an attempt to make me feel better, but it didn't. I ran up the stairs to my room, punching a hole in the drywall when I reached the top of the stairs.

I watched the rest of the game in my room, by myself with the lights off. The darkness in the room was nothing compared to the darkness inside of me at the time. My world was over. The Niners lost the game, after Roger Craig fumbled the ball and the Giants kicked a fifth field goal to win 15-13. It was the last game that Craig and Ronnie Lott would wear the 49ers uniform, and it signaled a change of the guard.

Steve Young took the reins of the team as Joe missed all of the 1991 season and almost the entire 1992 season. I hated Young for those first few years, as he was in Joe's spot. Eventually that changed, but it was hard to deal with at first. When Joe came back with the Chiefs in 1993 and 1994, I watched and rooted for him more so than the team he played for. I was a Niners fan, good or bad, Joe or not. I've lived through many incarnations of the team, and no matter what the future holds I'll still live and breath Niners football.

As I've grown older, I look back at moments in my live I thought were extremely important at the time. Most of them seem irrelevant and unimportant now, in the larger scheme of things. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the days when I had much less to worry about and things were more simple. Those days are long gone now, as there are much bigger things to worry about.

But for that one day in 1991, my world fell apart because of a single play in a Niners game.

Welcome!

Welcome to The Catch, a blog dedicated to San Francisco 49ers.

I will be posting my thoughts after every game the season.

Also I will post on any big moves like signings, trades, and cuts during the season and in the offseason.

I hope every 49ers fan that stumbles open this blog enjoys my posts and will put their comments when ever they have something to say.

Thanks!