We've seen it before.
A vanilla, conservative offense that seems strong enough to get by a couple of bad teams in the beginning.
A stout run defense backed by an abysmal pass defense. An iffy quarterback whom the head coach tries to hide behind a run game...and then that one game where the wheels finally come off and the quarterback shuffle begins.
The 2009 49ers? The 2010 49ers? No, the 2011 49ers.
I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.
For once I won't blame Alex Smith, even though he is part of the problem.
The conservative "control the ball and hold them on defense" mentality won't work with the 49ers because they're not built that way, even though they try and wish they were.
Now the Bengals are on the horizon. Most think that they will be a seemingly easy win, but a closer look at the teams might have 49ers set up for a big let-down.
The 49ers are number one in run defense.
The NFL is a league that favors the quarterback, not the running back. In a league where rookies are posting up 300-plus yard games, holding an opposing running back to under 100 yards doesn't have the impact that it did in the past.
Additionally, the stout run defense is a product of the porous pass defense.
Late in the past two games, teams abandoned the run and took to the air, an area of weakness for the 49ers, successfully exploiting an inconsistent pass rush and a stagnant offense that's content with holding on to a lead rather than putting games away.
Actions speak louder than words.
When you leave points on the board to pass up the opportunity to go first-and-10 on the opponent's 22, you're sending a clear message, not just to the quarterback, but to the whole offense: "I don't trust you."
Unfortunately, as with all of Smith's head coaches, they try to play that back and forth game of protecting Smith while seemingly being a step away from really opening up the offense and letting him play.
It's too bad that us fans will only see Smith open it up when the 49ers are down three scores at half time. And don't fool yourself: it's coming.
When rookies are posting up better numbers than Smith, a seven-year vet, there's something wrong. Again, I'm not really blaming Smith for this one; it's the play-it-safe mentality that's killing the 49ers.
The Panthers and Bengals have offensive talent that is comparable to the 49ers. The 49ers have a dynamic tight end duo, a great running back, and what seems like big-play potential in Ted Ginn Jr. and the young Kyle Williams.
Instead, the 49ers keep Davis on the line to block for dink-and-dunk passes that net four yards.
It was in the Dallas game like it was in the Seattle game. In the first half the offense was clicking and the defense was stifling. After halftime, the defense let's the opposing quarterback have all day to pass and the offense stays in the locker room.
Tony Romo having success is no surprise, but when Tavaris Jackson starts slicing you up and Doug Baldwin is giving you trouble, something is inherently wrong.
If a Dallas unknown is ripping off 80-yard catch-and-runs and Doug Baldwin is taking it to the house, how do you think the 49ers are going to fair against A.J. Green and the speedy Jerome Simpson?
Yeah, we'll stop Cedric Benson, but who cares?
If I was Dalton, I'd be watching 49ers film and salivating at the mouth. Perfect time for a statement game for Green and Dalton as home underdogs against an overrated 49ers team coming off a tough loss at home.
Kinda like last year, when the 49ers went to Kansas City.
9/18/11: Miles Austin 143yds/3 TD's
1/2/11: Larry Fitzgerald 125 yds/ 1TD
12/16/10: Vincent Jackson 112 yds/ 3 TD's
12/5/10: Greg Jennings 122 yds/ 2 TD's
Excluding Fitzgerald, who the Niners seem to have slightly under control, the elite wide receivers usually have an epic game against the 49ers' defense.
They play so conservative that it's counterproductive.
Against a banged-up Cowboys secondary, the 49ers rarely took a shot downfield, if they did at all. They didn't try to utilize the elite speed of Ginn Jr. or Davis and take a shot. Instead, they tried to dink and dunk their way downfield and acted like a team that didn't know what to do once they got the lead.
You have to be able to have a big play every now and then. You have to establish that the threat is always there to keep the defense on their heels.
Yeah, Smith got sacked six times, but they came in the second half. The 49ers did not seize the opportunity to run up the score on the 'Boys in the beginning.
Instead of making the Cowboys react to the 49ers, the 49ers tried to desperately hold onto a lead that the defense was never capable of holding onto without some help from the offense.
It's funny, the 49ers had the lead, yet it seemed like the they were only one play away from being defeated. On defense they were barely holding on, and on offense they seemed to be content with just not turning over the ball.
The 49ers will never get over that hump if they don't change that mentality, no matter who the quarterback is.