Plenty of problems for offense to fix


Plenty of problems for offense to fix

BALTIMORE -- Quarterback Alex Smith was under constant pressure, and the 49ers had no answers for the Baltimore Ravens' defense.Smith was sacked a career-high nine times Thursday night in a 16-6 loss to the Ravens, as they were unable to neutralize the Ravens' onslaught. He was also called for one intentional grounding to avoid a 10th sack.
"We definitely expected some pressure," Smith said. "There were times I felt they were a step ahead of us. They have a very good defense, and it seemed like we were in third-and-long all night."I don't want to take anything away from them. They have a good front. They're a physical group and they feed off the crowd. As a quarterback, you have to be cold-blooded and keep coming back against a team like that."
Other than Michael Crabtree, who caught six passes for 54 yards, the 49ers got virtually no production from their wideouts. Crabtree said afterward there are positives that can come out of a losing performance.So what kind of positives can from from a game such as this?"Play-calling, I mean, just pointed at the play-calling, but you know how it is," Crabtree told CSNBayArea.com.When asked to explain, Crabtree said, "Different situations we were in, we didn't capitalize on. It always shows up on film. You can always go back . . . It's good to be in these situations to learn from it. You know what I'm saying? If it's third and so-and-so and you don't convert, you can always go back and see what play could've worked. What would be easier? You can always get better."Where there plays to made Thursday against the Ravens?"There are always things," Crabtree said. "You always leave something on the field, win or loss. Even if you win, you still leave some on the field. I felt we did that last week. It's a loss, man. It's a loss."It could be a good thing. It's always good when you can fix something that's going wrong. It's a loss. Those guys came out and played hard against us. We couldn't really stop the blitz. Alex was under a lot. He couldn't really do too much. All I can do is make plays when the ball comes to me."That was the theme in the losing locker room, as the 49ers said this will force the team to do some self-examining to fix the many problems that occurred Thursday night."I think this will benefit us in the long run," left tackle Joe Staley said. "It will make us tougher. We will take this, correct our mistakes and improve. This team has plenty of character and will take advantage of this to get better."When asked about the short week of preparation, Staley said the club would not use that as an excuse."We felt good coming into this game," Staley said. "It was a night game, that that was a little bit of extra time. We just didn't play well. Obviously, we didn't give Alex enough time in the pocket, but they did a great job covering down the field. That was part of the problem."Wide receiver Ted Ginn caught two passes for 21 yards, and Braylon Edwards had one catch for 5 yards. Edwards and Smith also had a key miscommunication at the end of the first half that resulted in an interception in the end zone."I left the ball inside and he went outside," Smith said of the pass in which cornerback Lardarius Webb intercepted.
The loss snapped an eight-game win streak. And this loss felt a lot different than defeats of previous seasons, Smith said."We've haven't felt like this in a long time," Smith said. "But we are 9-2. This was a very tough game. Every guy in the locker room is hurting. No one is OK with this. That's a big difference from previous years. We invested in each other so much and that's why we are winning. This has left a bad taste in our mouths."

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.