It seems that throwing away big leads is de rigueur for the 2011 season, but I’m sure it’s a fashion the Eagles had no intention of choosing when they went up 23 to 3 with 9:34 left in the third quarter. However, two missed field goals under 40 yards, some awful coverage in the short zones and a fumble as they were driving for the winning score, first let the 49ers into a game that should have been well out of reach and then allowed them to finish it off.
Complete despair for Philadelphia? It shouldn’t be. The NFC East looks like any of the teams could still win it and the Eagles have the talent to finish at the top but need to be much more consistent.
The 49ers have obviously done themselves a lot of good by winning two on the road but only the continued paucity of opposition in the NFC West suggests their struggling offense is not going to leave them well short by the time the playoffs come round.
San Francisco – Three Performances of Note
1) Gore Comes Good
While Frank Gore (+3.3) may have started the first three weeks of the season, his numbers have looked much more like those of the journeyman back-up than the 49ers main offensive weapon. In order he’s averaged 2.7, 2.4 and 2.5 yards per carry but, to be fair, nearly all of it (87%) has come after contact. His line haven’t done much to support him and only back-up fullback, Bruce Miller, has done more good than harm.
So here was Gore, hobbled by an ankle injury and the proverbial “game time decision”, playing but not starting; the signs weren’t good. As it transpired after breaking a 40 yarder with his first carry, Gore just got stronger and stronger and as he ran out the clock looked very much his usual self. He cut well, showed acceleration on all his better runs and showed plenty of drive and determination, particularly on his touchdown run where he rode Asante Samuel’s tackle at the five yard line into the end zone.
2) First Rounder Gets Pressure
Up until this game Aldon Smith (+3.5) had averaged 36% of snaps as a hybrid pass-rushing OLB/BE. He’d done his bit, been broadly average and picked up a couple of both hits and hurries. While this game wasn’t exactly an explosion onto the NFL scene, it was by some way his best performance to date and will give 49er fans a lot of hope he’ll deliver production to go with his undoubted athletic ability.
Here, he got more playing time (up to 54% of snaps) and rewarded his coaches with two sacks, a hit and four hurries; one of each coming at the expense of Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters. In fact perhaps his only mis-step was a missed tackle on LeSean McCoy half way through the final quarter.
3) Wrong Side of the Line
One thing that just doesn’t seem to improve is the right side of the San Francisco offensive line. After a couple of average games original starting RG Chilo Rachal got benched in week three following three penalties against the Bengals and was replaced by Adam Snyder (-4.5). Now, with the starting job, Snyder was, if anything, worse. While he didn’t give up a penalty this was about all that went right as he allowed a hit, three pressures and was abused by both Cullen Jenkins and Trevor Laws in the running game.
Perhaps the only thing keeping the guy to his right in a job is the lack of a viable alternative as RT, Anthony Davis (-3.5), continues to fall well short of the required grade for NFL tackles. In the 20 games of NFL action he’s seen to date we’ve graded him positively only four times, with none so far this year. In this game Jason Babin picked up three sacks – all against him and he was penalized twice for tripping.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
1) Wrong Side of the Line (revisited)
It’s not just the 49ers who have problems with the right side of their O-line; the Eagles also have similar, if not as pronounced, issues in that regard. At RT Todd Herremans (-2.8) is doing his best with a difficult late transition from LG and is still to give up a sack but has allowed three hits (one here) and 13 hurries (five in this game). In this encounter he also had problems with Amad Brooks, the run defender, and twice allowed the LB inside him to make tackles for either loss or short gain.
Kyle DeVan (-4.6) has actually done OK blocking for McCoy but it’s his awful pass protection that’s got us mentioning him here. Both sacks of Michael Vick were down to him and he also gave up four hurries to Ray McDonald who regularly managed to get inside the ex-Colt and force Vick out of the pocket.
2) Nnamdi Asomugha Plays Zone
The questions are already starting. Has Nnamdi Asomugha (-5.0) always been a poor tackler and it’s only just being noticed, since he’s being targeted more often or has he regressed? Can he only play man because from what we’ve seen to date he struggles in zone? Whatever the final answer is deemed to be the current state of play has him badly underperforming his contract and showing real tentativeness in his coverage.
Another two missed tackles and numerous completions aside, perhaps the play that best demonstrates his lack of confidence was the dump off to Kendall Hunter that resulted in a 44 yard gain. If you can tell me what he has in mind as he passes off his man and then runs backwards towards the right sideline, you’re clearly more in touch with zone concepts than me because my take on that is he hadn’t a clue what he was doing.
3) Down but Not Out
Michael Vick (+6.6) may have been better advised last week to just keep his mouth shut and play, because when he does just play, he does it very well indeed. The Eagles may have lost this game but that’s not really on him. Yes the pass that Carlos Rogers intercepted was a forced affair, as was the one which Reggie Smith dropped with 7:07 left in the fourth, but overall he overcame a lot of pressure (both physically and mentally) to put his team in a great position to win. The way he escapes the rush will always make the highlight reels, (particularly if he then turns a sack into a TD as he did in the first quarter on his throw to Clay Harbour) but he throws a very nice pass from the pocket too when given time and some of his downfield throws on post routes were of the highest quality. When you take away the batted passes, times he was hit as he threw, dropped passes and throw-aways he only missed on eight of 46 throws and that is usually enough to get it done.
● Alex Smith threw only six times over 10 yards but completed all but one of those passes.
● Ray McDonald played every one of the 72 snaps San Francisco was on defense.
● Isaac Sopoaga played eight snaps at FB, more than a third of what he played on defense.
PFF Game Ball
Frank Gore, HB, San Francisco 49ers
For toughing it out, making a difference when it counted and finishing off the game with some tough running.
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