San Francisco 49ers Poised for Another Long Season?
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Just when you thought it was safe to jump back on the San Francisco 49ers bandwagon, the red and gold travel to Kansas City and lay another egg, losing to the Chiefs 31-10.
The loss stakes the 49ers to an 0-3 start to a season in which the 49ers were heavily favored to win the NFC West and end a seven year playoff drought. It also follows an inspiring Monday Night effort against the defending Super Bowl Champions with the team's worst statistical performance on the young 2010 season (allowing nearly 500 of opposing offense).
It is important to note that the season is still young, and the 49ers could very easily rebound to win their division. However, with the hole they have dug themselves out of the gate, and the progression of the play over the course of the three games to date, a comeback looks unlikely.
A simple three-game winning streak could put them back at .500 and right in the mix of the division race before the Week 9 bye. But when you consider that in six of the last seven seasons, the 49ers have failed to author a three-game win streak, and that they face two very tough opponents in Atlanta and Philadelphia in the next three weeks, a 3-3 start seems almost unachievable.
However, a 6-3 stint starting next week could still put them in playoff contention late, so how can the 49ers achieve this feat?
The good news from Week 3 was that the 49ers did better than the last time they visited Arrowhead Stadium. But given that game ended in a 41-0 defeat, one must question what measure of accomplishment that truly is.
The game was a progression of frustration and disgust for the 49ers. Their offensive line play was sloppy and porous. Their defense was guilty of over-pursuit, allowing dump offs and long-developing gimmick plays, that should not even work in college, to end in big gains and touchdowns.
Worst of all, after showing some promise last week, the offensive scheme was anemic, ineffective, and predictable.
Much was made of the fact that 2010 was the first season Alex Smith had continuity in an offensive coordinator from one year to the next since he was drafted in 2005. But given the absolutely dismal production out of such a talent-laden offensive unit in two of three games so far, fans would be remiss not to question the abilities of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.
Raye and head coach Mike Singletary have preached a strong desire to dictate the tempo of the game, and inflict their will on offense and defense. But when desire gives way to hubris and a mule-like commitment to a plan that clearly is not working, even the most talented offenses can go astray.
Series after series, week after week, Raye has refused to adjust his game scheme to suit the flow of the game. Anthony Dixon and Brian Westbrook have been virtual non-factors in the first three weeks of the year, putting a heavy strain on Frank Gore and allowing opposing defenses to zero in and focus on stopping his particular skill set.
Raye has further refused to keep defenses honest by allowing Alex Smith to stretch the field and attack secondaries with deeper routes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. On the rare occasions Smith has been given these options, it has been in predictable down and distance situations, allowing defenses to apply pressure and force bad passes.
The 49ers showed what their offense could do late in the game against New Orleans, but they need to be willing to adjust their game plan and embrace the diverse capabilities of their full offensive roster. Thus far, Jimmy Raye has seemed thoroughly unwilling to do this.
After such a tumultuous half-decade of the offensive system in San Francisco, could the answer to a big turnaround be yet another change at offensive coordinator? If Jimmy Raye does not drastically change his approach, it could be the only option to save a make or break season for San Francisco, Mike Singletary, and Alex Smith.
The 49ers are not out of anything yet, but it certainly seems like they are. If they do not show drastic improvement against Atlanta, changes should be considered, and Raye should be at the top of the list.
Keep the Faith!
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