San Francisco 49ers Report Card: Troy Smith Finds All Those Weapons
It is hard to believe there were any Troy Smith doubters left after his first two throws yesterday. He threw early an often, the result of a brilliant game plan by offensive coordinator Mike Johnson.
The 49ers had been predictable all season on offense, and with the coaching staff telling the Ram's defense to just follow Mike Iupati, well, this time Johnson and Smith made them pay.
The game was well planned, Smith played brilliantly and effectively by utilizing all those weapons we have been hearing about all season, but not always seeing.
It seemed like the game could turn into a route, however after a drive stalled at the three and the team had to settle for a field goal, the game stayed close, and even looked like it was getting away from the 'Niners early in the fourth quarter.
But this time a 49ers quarterback named Smith came through in the clutch and a 49ers defense made stop after stop. They did of course allow the game tying filed goal towards the end of the fourth quarter, but in the end they got the job done.
But let's not break out the party hats and horns just yet and declare the team playoff bound.
14 penalties for 105 yards.
When you see that stat line you have to wonder how this team won in spite of itself. Those penalties cost the team an interception by Nate Clements that would have had them inside the Rams 10-yard line. Of course you have to wonder if Rams quarterback Sam Bradford makes that through if he didn't see Ahmad Brooks jump off-sides.
It also cost them three, yes I said three, touchdowns!
But Smith just kept coming back and in the end pulled it out.
They were aided by the Rams 12 penalties for 135 yards as well, but most importantly, for the second week in a row they committed no turnovers.
"They have been addressed... we still have some things to work on."—Head Coach Mike Singletary
Perhaps converting some third downs before overtime should be on the list as well (and that one was by penalty).
If his stat line isn't enough (17/28 356 yds 1 td qb rating 116.7), consider this,
In six years, Alex Smith has only three times ended games with a quarterback rating of 115 or higher. Troy Smith has now done it twice in two starts with the team.
The Rams did everything they could to rattle Smith, but he his poise never wavered. He confidently threw into double coverage and more then naught, his his man.
Although he was sacked a few times in this game, his mobility still served him well allowing him to extend plays and finding the open man.
His arm strength was on display early and often in this game. Does anyone still think that 63-yard to Delanie Walker in the London game was "lucky"?
But most importantly, Smith never made a critical mistake. Facing relentless pressure from Chis Long and the Rams defense, Smith kept his cool and would not allow himself to force a bad throw.
Oh by the way, that play on fourth and 18 was pretty damn cool too—not to mention the third and forever play before it and the Crabtree touchdown after it. All of this in spite of the 6-yard sack by Michael Lewis and a touchdown called back because of a holding penalty on the drive.
All in all, Smith hit six different receivers—five of them for over 60 yards.
But that's another slide!
Now if he can just avoid some of those batted balls and perhaps tuck and run a little more often...but hey, am I asking too much?
Running Backs: B+
Frank Gore did see his amount of carries dip a bit in this game. He rushed 22 times for a respectable 87 yards and one touchdown, but it was those big runs that did the most damage.
His 23-yard burst in the second quarter to the Rams three, set up a Joe Nedney field goal giving the 49ers a 10-3 lead.
It may have been the Troy Smith show in regulation, but in OT, it was almost all Gore. He carried the ball on the first three plays for a total of 22 yards. After a pass interference call on the Rams, O.J. Atowge, moving the ball to the 23, Gore moved the ball up another 12 yards on two carries, setting up the game winning kick by Joe Nedney.
Gore was also one of those receivers that Smith utilized so well. He caught three balls for 67 yards.
Anthony Dixon carried once for a one-yard loss, and Brian Westbrook caught one ball for four yards.
I still would like to see Westbrook used more often. He still looks shifty enough to give defenses someone else to think about.
Wide Recievers and Tight Ends: A
How long have we been waiting for all of these weapons to be launched?
I've already discussed Frank Gore's performance, but he and Troy Smith had an outstanding supporting cast as well.
Delanie Walker was again Smith's favorite target catching four balls for 80 yards.
However, this time a healthy Vernon Davis was not far behind with four catches of his own for 79 yards. Smith and Davis hooked up on the first play of the day from scrimmage for 32 yards. Although the drive stalled after two consecutive sacks tacking the team out of filed goal range, the tone of the day had been set—not the same old predictable 49ers.
Josh Morgan had only one catch, but it was the longest play of the day going for 65 yards. Morgan caught the ball at the Rams 35-yard line and then just missed getting a touchdown as he went down on the one. Gore ran the ball in on the next play for a 49ers lead, 7-3, once Nedney converted on the PAT.
Michael Crabtree had four grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown, making up for his earlier touchdown that was called back due to a penalty.
Offensive Line: C-
This unit really played better than their given credit for. Of the five sacks "they" allowed, one was on Troy Smith for holding onto the ball for too long. Another was clearly on a play were the usually reliable Vernon Davis got smoked by Chris Long. Yet another was caused when Smith and tackle Joe Staley got their feet tangled up. One of the five "sacks" wasn't a sack at all. It was the play were Smith pulled the ball down and lost it. The play was ruled a fumble recovered by the 49ers, crediting the Rams James Hall with a sack. Replays should that Smith's arm was going forward at the time the ball came loose which meant the play should have been ruled an incomplete pass.
Anthony Davis had a tough day against the Rams Chris Long. He allowed two sacks and was called for a holding penalty which negated a touchdown.
When called upon to fill in for Anthony Davis, Tony Wragge did an admirable job. As he was trotting of the field, coaches yelled at him to get back in and sub for Staley. Although he returned to the game, it was later discovered that he suffered a fracture to his fibula—the same bone center Eric Heitmann broke back in training camp.
Adam Snyder played well stating at right guard for Chilo Rachal, Rachal missed some practice time this week as he was attending the birth of his son.
Both Barry Sims and Alex Boone were inactive for the game. With Staley's injury and Snyder injuring his shoulder, Sims and Boone are likely to see increased action going forward.
Now if they could just clean up some of those holding calls...
Mike Iupati was suppose to be the focal point of the Ram's defense, but the 49ers smartly changed up their game plan choosing not to run behind him so often.
He still game through when the call did go his way, however, opening some nice holes for Gore late in the game.
Denfensive LIne: B
Justin Smith had six tackles, a sack, and another quarterback hit. His sack came in OT on a third down play. It set the Rams back eight yards forcing them to punt the ball away.
Aubrayo Franklin added another three tackles and Isaac Sopoaga had two.
The unit did a nice job containing Rams running back Steven Jackson for the most part and added some pressure in the backfield.
Their strength really is setting up the line backers to make plays, so sometimes their presence in the game isn't always measured by their stat lines.
Probably one of the most underrated players on this unit is Ray McDonald. He always seems to come up big when his is inserted in the game. Although he recorded only two tackles one of those was for a loss. The play came on a critical third and one for the Rams in the fourth quarter. McDonald knifed through and wrapped up Steven Jackson for a one yard loss forcing the Rams to punt.
Patrick Willis played out of his mind yet again. He recorded 11 tackles and sacked Bradford early in the game for a 7yard loss. On the play he stripped Bradford of the ball, but it was recovered by the Rams.
Willis chased Stephen Jackson down several times preventing him from doing too much damage.
Takeo Spikes has 7 tackles and knocked a pass down. His understudy, Navorro Bowman recorded three tackles.
Manny Lawson didn't get a sack this week but he did put too pretty good shots on the Rams quarterback. He had five tackles as well, one for a loss.
Parys Harlason added a sack, a QB hit, and two tackles—both for loss.
Steven Jackson did manage 81 yards on 20 carries and a TD, but not too bad I think, considering the caliber of running back he is.
The unit didn't give up over 300 yards this week! Need I say more?
Well, I probably should.
As a unit they only allowed Bradford to throw for 251 yards and one touchdown. Not what many of us were expecting from the much heralded rookie.
On one particular play, Nate Clements got caught looking behind him and allowed Danny Amendola to get wide open for a 25 yard play.
That 25-yard play equaled the longest play of the day for the Rams.
The Steven Jackson run was the result of Dashon Goldson completely whiffing on his assignment, he should have had Jackson wrapped up in the backfield but instead Jackson scampers in for a 13-yard touchdown.
Aren't you in a contract year Dashon?
But outside of those two plays, the unit played better than it has in awhile.
Reggie Smith made the most of his platooning duties with Taylor Mays. He recorded eight tackles and was second on the team behind only Patrick Willis. He also added a QB hit.
Third on the team in tackles was Clements with seven.
Mays has a conspicuously quiet day.
Special Teams: C
It became apparent after the game why kicker Joe Nedney's kicks were uncharacteristically short.
He sprained his plant leg knee early in the game.
Even through the pain Nedney kicked three field goals (a long of 47 including the game winner in OT and two extra points.
Andy Lee was busy with eight punts for a very decent 47-yard average and a long of 61 yards.
Coverage units allowed a long kick return by Danny Amendola of 25 yards, but otherwise limited any serious damage.
Ted Ginn didn't have much of a chance to return any punts as they were all fair caught; however, he still looks tentative and unsure on kick returns.
His longest of the day was a 15-yarder that in retrospect, should have not been fielded as the touch-back would have netted five more yards.
I think it might be time to get Kyle Williams back into the mix.
A great offensive plan by Mike Johnson executed nicely by Troy Smith and company.
A defensive scheme that didn't give up the big play, and although didn't get a lot sacks, still managed to pressure Bradford throughout the game and especially in crunch time.
Another game and 0 turnovers.
However, neither did we recover any turnover either, although we came close.
Penalties have to be cleaned up and I am still not sure how you win a game by not converting any third downs.
I guess you have to convert on fourth?