49ers vs. Bengals Week 3: 3 Ways Niners Can Get Back on Track

HJ MaiCorrespondent IISeptember 22, 2011

49ers vs. Bengals Week 3: 3 Ways Niners Can Get Back on Track

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    One win, one loss and a lot of work are the San Francisco 49ers after their first two regular season games.

    The following three slides point out in which areas the 49ers have to improve in order to get back on track.

    Week 3 sees the matchup between the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) and the Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.           

    Without a doubt a must-win game for the Niners, and here is how they come up with their second victory of the season. 

Running Game

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    The San Francisco 49ers played their first two regular season games virtually without any kind of running game.

    The Niners rank 29th of 32 NFL teams, averaging 2.8 yards per rush attempt.

    The team’s two-time Pro-Bowl running back, Frank Gore, has had 46 carries for only 106 yards, which equals 2.5 yards per rush attempt. That’s over two yards less than his career average of 4.6 yards per rush attempt.

    The 49ers second leading rusher is quarterback Alex Smith, who has scrambled for 43 yards and a touchdown.

    Gore’s backups Anthony Dixon and rookie Kendall Hunter have had a total of 3 carries for 10 yards so far.

    The San Francisco 49ers have to get a running game going in order to make the life of QB Alex Smith easier.

    If the team’s running game becomes a recognizable threat, opposing defenses have to concern themselves with stopping it and cannot focus solely on pass coverage. 

Play Calling

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    The play calling of new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has been an area of discussion for 49ers’ fans and experts alike.

    People argue that his play calling is too conservative, and that this shows his distrust in the abilities of his quarterback Alex Smith.

    Understandable considering Smith’s performances over the last six seasons, some say, it sends the wrong signal to teammates and fans if not even the head coach trusts his starting quarterback others say.

    The fact is Harbaugh took over a losing team, and started the regular season without having practiced nearly enough due to the lockout this offseason.

    Harbaugh’s conservative play calling might be great in order to gain confidence in his players and especially Smith, but as we have seen in the first two games it does not win games (The game against the Seattle Seahawks was won by two special team plays).

    Harbaugh has to let Smith lose if the time asks for it. 

Pass Protection

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    The offensive line has been the 49ers’ Achilles heel in the first two games of the 2011 regular season.

    The team was unable to open any holes in order to get Frank Gore and the team’s running game going, and they were unable to protect quarterback Alex Smith, who got sacked six times in Week 2 against Dallas.

    The reason why the 49ers offensive line plays so “disgusting”, according to left tackle Joe Staley, is the line’s execution.

    This problem has been obvious since the first preseason games and the coaching staff has not been able accomplish any improvement.

    Time to change it and get back to teaching fundamental techniques and the right mindset because so far the offensive line has been the biggest disappointment of the young season.