The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners

The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners
A review and commentary on the history & lastest events surrounding the 17 time NFC Western Division & 5 -Time World Champion San Francisco 49ers. From 1946 and the All America Football Conference to 2009 and the road to a 6th Super Bowl title - For true fans of the scarlet and gold! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just When You Thought They Couldn't Get Worse

Ray Ratto, San Francisco Chronicle

If Mike Nolan has the answer to his team's disintegrating confidence now that this season has gone from merely lost to singularly dreadful, he is not offering it. He wants you to believe that the 49ers' seven-game losing streak isn't inducing a loss of will or desire, despite the collective body language that marked their 24-0 loss to the Seahawks on Monday night. "I think we're the same team we were seven weeks ago," the bereft 49ers coach said when asked if his team was losing heart. He did not offer clarification, and as a result, was not very convincing. True, he might not have been in a very expansive mood given the events of the weekend. He admitted to thinking about his late father, Dick, a couple of times during the misery of the game he chose to coach, but not to the point that he lost sight of what he was doing, or what was being done before his eyes. But ultimately, a night in which the 49ers achieved essentially nothing caused him to avoid the subject of his feelings, or of his team's catastrophic collapse from mediocre to poor to full-throttle unwatchable. And that is where they are now - dramatically worse than the loss in Atlanta a week ago Sunday, which was worse than New Orleans, which was worse than the New York Giants. Even if nobody wants to say it, the 49ers show every sign of having lost heart and belief, in themselves, in their teammates, in their situation.

Defensively, it could be seen in the way they allowed the Seahawks 27 first downs, and 380 yards, and three drives of 12 plays or more. Offensively, it could be seen in another horrific performance by Alex D. Smith (12-for-28, 114 yards, badly errant throws from start to finish) and the inability to convert more than one of 15 third- and fourth-down situations, including a 4th-and-a-half-yard from the Seattle 2 in the third quarter. Even the trick plays and special-teams moments were miserable failures. Wide receiver Arnaz Battle took a direct snap at his own 7-yard line and was tackled for a 2-yard loss. Punter Andy Lee, whose hours of practice on Sundays showed again Monday night, couldn't induce the Seahawks to jump offside on a 4th-and-3 at the 49ers' 41. Marcus Hudson couldn't hold the onside kick to start the second half, even though as Nolan said with both disappointment and detectable sarcasm, "He was the one guy who knew it was coming." Michael Robinson ran from his position as the short man in punt formation to behind center, but ended up taking a delay of game. In all, nothing worked. Nothing at all. The 49ers didn't move the ball, they didn't keep a Seattle team without its starting running back (Shaun Alexander) and best wide receiver (Deion Branch) from moving it, and couldn't convert a single exotic play. They far exceeded the Raiders for unwatchability, and well before the end of the game, they showed that they were losing faith in the whole exercise by their inert demeanors on the sideline during the third quarter.

Of course, some of the residual anger for such a comprehensive stinker will redound upon Nolan, although far more will be rained down upon Smith, who might be losing his coach's faith. When asked if he was worried that Smith might not be the long-term answer at quarterback, Nolan deviated from the standard script to say, "We'll let the season dictate that at the very end."

Even knowing as we do that Trent Dilfer is not a feasible alternative to Smith, the chill in the room was palpable. Polar bears could live on ice that thick. It is fair to leaven some of Nolan's discouragement upon the loss of his father, but the game was too poorly played, too devoid of emotion, too full of resignation for it not to have a large measure of truth. Even two early third-quarter turnovers the defense forced (Michael Lewis' fumble recovery and Nate Clements' interception) died for lack of support, and the killing play, Frank Gore's fourth-down plunge into linebacker Kevin Bentley at the Seattle 2, didn't stand out nearly as much as it would have had the 49ers been competitive in any other avenue.

This was not merely a step back, but a fifth full step back - a continued barrel-roll into a field they thought they'd left three years ago. The 49ers are deteriorating as fast as the games come to them, and not even the presence of the St. Louis Rams, Sunday's opponent and one of the two teams the 49ers actually have beaten this year, seems likely to change that. The 49ers might have played worse games in their history - the years 1977 through '79 inclusive were sort of a gray smear of competitive inertia - but this was among the worst, because it might have signaled the moment that they gave up thinking it could be otherwise. Trapped in a crumbling world of their own making, and having no idea if, or how, it can be fixed.

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