I was enjoying my time in beautiful Santa Barbara Sunday morning, and getting ready to watch another 49er's clinic of fundamentally sound football vs. the lowly Arizona Cardinals. However, instead, we saw one of the worst 49ers offensive outputs of the year, and it just so happened to come against one of the NFL's most generous defenses.
They were in Arizona territory for most of the first half of the game, but could only come away with David Akers field goals, and that's what ended up costing the team. Yes, they did give up a lead late and their defense let them down a bit, but if they perform like they should have on offense inthe first quarter and the passing game was more in tune, it would have been a blowout early rather than a field goal parade. Three times in the first half the 49ers got inside the 10-yard line of Arizona, and were held tofield goals on all three trips. The turning point in the game though, in my opinion, came in the 2nd quarter when the 49ers executed a fake field goal perfectly when holder Andy Lee hit All-Pro center Jonathan Goodwin on a perfect lob pass that would have put the 49ers inside the 5-yard line, or possibly into the endzone. However Ken Whisenhunt threw a challenge flag for the previous play a spit second before the snap, challenging the previous Kyle Williams catch which put the Niners in field goal position. It was a such a bad luck play for San Francisco because replay booth didn't even allow the officials to challenge the play so it was all moot anyway. Then Akers went on to miss the 50-yard field goal attempt, giving the 49ers zero points instead of 7. Then to top it off, Josh Skelton hit Early Doucet on the very next play for a 60-yard TD pass and it was all down hill from there.
The 49ers didn't play their normal hard-nosed style defense either, as their front-7 failed miserably at getting after Josh Skelton. They shut down Wells and the running game, and did a fair job in pass coverage except for a few big plays they gave up.
Skelton's TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald was classic Fitz, beating good coverage and going up to get a tough pass then taking it to the house. The Doucet TD, then that little Andre Roberts dump off TD pass were each plays the 49ers stop when they're on, so that was more than a little concerning to see them play like that. The offense struggled all day long, and Alex Smith completed just 48% of his 37 pass attempts while Frank Gore was running wild on them early (10/72 TD) but then Harbough abandoned the run in the second half. Basically though, if Alex Smith plays Sunday like he has for most of the 2011 campaign, the 49ers win this game, but we got pre-2011 Alex, and it caused a ripple effect. It's not entirely his fault, as receivers dropped balls all day, including one by Kyle Williams in the end-zone, and also a key one by Vernon Davis. They better get right this week, cause they have Pittsburgh next Sunday and if they show up like this against them, they're in for another loss and another hit to their attempt at a first-round bye.
On the Raiders front, it was a mess, again. You can really see how important Run DMC was to that team cause they've been a mess without him. Their receiving corps has been banged up all year and their best pass catcher can't seem to stay healthy. Carson Palmer is trying to work with what he's got, and I think the Raiders don't have too far to go to really improve themselves, but a makeover on the O-line as well as their secondary would be a good place to start.