Needless to say, it was an inauspicious debut for the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 12, a 24-3 preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints. And yet it means nothing. Remember, this team raised expectations last year with a 4-0 preseason record yet finished the season at 6-10, earning a spot as one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams.
Looking back to the New Orleans game, 49er fans have to wonder, what is going on? Six sacks? The first four times Alex Smith drops back he’s whacked or sacked? There was no offensive continuity, only 109 yards in offense in the first half (and that on an improvised scramble by a rookie quarterback), and an overall sense that the Niners were waaaaay behind.
Or are they?
Remember, that was new coach Jim Harbaugh’s first game as a head coach. And it isn’t exactly the easiest place to play. First and foremost, the Superdome serves the Saints like few home fields do: It’s loud, it’s fast and they know how to inspire the crowd. Even though this game was not a complete sellout, it’s still like going into a hot basketball team who uses the home-court advantage to the fullest.
Which does nothing to excuse 49er miscues like poor execution and poor judgment? They are lucky to escape without any major injuries (to Smith in particular). But the game raises serious issues, and here are five questions the San Francisco 49ers have to answer before Week 1.