49ers

Willis confident in his ability to cover

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Willis confident in his ability to cover

It's difficult to ask Patrick Willis about what challenges an upcoming running back poses, because, well, he's Patrick Willis.There isn't any style of running back that the five-time Pro Bowler can't bring down. Speed back, power back, scat back, between-the-tackles, down-hill-runner, use whatever description you want, it doesn't matter. Willis has tackled them all.This season, Willis has had a new challenge, dropping into man coverage more. As I've written before, this means he's been matched up one-on-one with some of the league's biggest and best tight ends: Jason Witten, Brent Celek, Brandon Pettigrew, Jake Ballard, Fred Davis and Jimmy Graham, among them.

To prepare, Willis has gone up against Vernon Davis more in practice this season. When I asked Davis about it he joked, "I've been giving him the works."It's apparent in games how Willis has responded. Few tight ends have had success against the 49ers either in reception yards or finding the end zone.But there is a simple pass play that is difficult for any linebacker to cover, even Willis. It's the play that is largely responsible for Davis tying the single season record for touchdown receptions by a tight end in 2009 -- right down the middle. It's how Pettigrew scored his 16-yard touchdown in Week 6. It's how Graham scored his 14- and 66-yard touchdowns in the divisional playoff game.Yes, Jake Ballard is dealing with knee issues and isn't as explosive as Pettigrew and Graham, but when I asked Willis if he expected to the Giants to use that play, he responded:"I'm sure that they'll look at film from the last game and they'll see something that they feel like they can get," Willis said. "It's the National Football League. Each play is a big play. I think they'll try what they will and it's up to us to stop it. It's up to me to do my job and I look forward to the challenge."Players are going to make plays," Willis added. "They're going to break tackles. That's part of the game but that doesn't mean you stop playing the game. It doesn't mean you stop believing in yourself. I still have just as much confidence in my ability to cover, to tackle, to play this game than I did before. It doesn't matter to me what they try."Davis' touchdown production went down in 2010 when he started seeing double coverage to take away the middle. If the 49ers do so against the Giants on Sunday, well, that may leave Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham or Hakeem Nicks in an advantageous situation. But the 49ers secondary also understands Ballard could require some extra attention."We've been facing some really good tight ends," said safety Donte Whitner. "Ballard from the New York Giants, he's a really good tight end. I think he's averaging 15 or 17 yards per catch. That's a high percentage for any tight end in the National Football League. They get him open in various ways depending on the coverage. He's not the fastest guy, he's not the swiftest guy out there, but he tends to get open and he has really good hands."

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

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AP

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
 
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
 
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
 
Talent.
 
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
 
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J.  Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.

Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.

But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
 
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
 
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
 
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
 
In the meantime, there is beer.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys

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AP

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:

1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.

There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.

Was there anything positive to take from this game?

“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.

2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.

Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.

Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.

3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.

The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.

More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.

Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.

“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.