Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Stache Report: 49ers vs. Steelers

Honestly, you could read my last two ‘Stache Reports and get the same idea, as all these games have been similar. But anyways, here goes:

QB: Ben resembled the QB we all came to love in 2004 and 2005. He continuously scrambled and avoided 49er defenders, playing sandlot football with his receivers. He does some things other QBs, such as Manning and Brady, could only dream of. The TD pass to Tuman was beautiful, placing it only where Jerame and only Jerame could haul it in. Best thing so far? Only 1 INT. Needless to say, much better than last year, and one of the biggest reasons why this team is 3-0.

RB: Another day, another 100 yard performance by Willie Parker. Best run of the day was when he got stoned by a defender at the line of scrimmage, but had the strength to break away and get to the corner to pick up the first down. But hey, Peter King had him as the 173rd best player in the NFL, so he must suck. Tomlin has dubbed Davenport the “closer”, and he showed why with his 39-yard TD scamper in garbage time. You could see the fresh legs, and the tired 49ers defense had no chance to stop him. I’m still worried about the number of carries Parker is logging, though. He’s on pace for about 400 carries this season, and that’s too many. I’d like to see Davenport earlier in the game. We’re gonna need a fresh Willie down the stretch. Interesting stat: Davenport has more yards rushing than LaDainian Tomlinson.

WR: Not a big day for this group, but it doesn’t mean they played poorly. Ward spent the day doing his usual blocking before leaving in the 3rd quarter with a knee injury. Holmes was bottled up until two nice back-to-back catches in the 3rd quarter. Both were on plays that broke down and Ben and Holmes improvised. Give credit to the 49ers cornerbacks. Nate Clements was absolutely outstanding yesterday and was all over the place. Walt Harris is no slouch either.

TE: I mentioned it numerous times in the preseason, and thankfully it’s becoming obvious: we’re actually throwing to the tight ends. Past offensive coordinators have promised it, but never went through with it. Arians has. Heath had one of his best game as a Steeler, continually finding the open spots in the 49er coverage. Tuman played the role of Matt Spaeth this week, catching the touchdown. 4 out of Ben’s 6 TDs have been to the tight ends. It’s about time. All those weeks, and the opposing team’s tight ends would always hurt our defense. It’s nice to see us get with the times.

OL: Run blocking was superb. It’s hard to argue with 205 yards rushing. I feel the pass blocking still needs a little work. As I mentioned, Ben had to continually avoid pressure from the 49ers defense. Ben makes the pass protection look better, as he avoids sacks that may not be avoidable were other QBs back there. This team is going to face better front sevens in the future (Patriots, Ravens, Jaguars), so hopefully they can step it up a bit. It has improved from last year’s mess, though, so that’s encouraging.

DL: You want to know why this team doesn’t give up 100-yard rushers? It’s because of the 3 guys up front. Week in and week out, they let the linebackers free to do their thing. At times, the Steelers showed the 4-man front again, with Hampton and Hoke at DT and Kiesel and Smith at DE. I still don’t like the depth, however, and if either Smith or Kiesel goes down we could be in trouble. Defensive end should be a target in rounds 1-3 of next year’s draft.

LB: I didn’t really notice this crew today. Not necessarily a bad thing, just that they didn’t really make the highlight reels. Haggans didn’t have his best game and bit on a few play-action passes. Harrison, Foote, and Farrior were quiet. Woodley chipped in with a sack, though he didn’t really have to do much. No one blocked him.

DB: Maybe the brightest spot of these first three games. 49ers receivers did little in this game. Ike has clearly put last year behind him. Troy led the defense with 5 tackles, but his impact doesn’t come on the stat sheet. He allows the defense to do so much. McFadden’s INT was right to him, but give him credit for the run back. Looked like no one was going to deny him getting into the end zone.

Special Teams: What can you say about this group? Rossum validated the trade for him, going 98 yards for the momentum-changing touchdown. He later had a fine special teams tackle on a kickoff. McFadden went balls out to successfully save a punt from going into the end zone. Reed continued his stellar season, and is now a perfect 9-9 converting FGs. And Daniel Sepulveda has filled many roles on this team. He punts well, he holds well, and evidently, we know he can catch onside kicks well if needed. A+ performance from this group on Sunday.

Coaching: Is there a better rookie coach than Mike Tomlin? Thank you, Rooneys, for not hiring Whisenhunt or Grimm. This team needed fresh blood. Just think, other teams had a shot at this guy too, and they went out and hired the likes of Cam Cameron and Norv Turner (Why is this man still a head coach? First Schittenheimer, now Turner. Sorry Charger fans.) My thoughts on Arians were clear in the preseason. I had the belief that he would attack the opponent’s weakness, and not stick with the same game plan every week. So far, he’s validated my belief. LeBeau is still LeBeau, one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. He has the freedom to do what he wants now, and he’s making the most of it.

Summary: We have a real chance at going into the bye week 5-0. I’m more worried about the Seattle game, but a road test in Arizona won’t be easy. Contending with the heat will be key, and the defense is going to get its sternest test yet. I’m assuming Leinart is going to be at the helm for the Cardinals, although after last week who knows what kind of leash he’s on. I think the Steelers roll, 27-17.

End of Post


Anonymous said...

I'm worried about Willie's high number of carries too. Najeh is a good backup, why not use him a bit more at the beginning, and then Willie will be fresh at the end of the game to break off a few long runs.

I worry about Whisenhunt knowing how to break down our offense.

Anonymous said...

I said the same thing to my friend last night: How is norv turner still coaching an NFL team?

Dave Wannstache said...

See, I'm not too worried about Whisenhunt knowing our O.

This offense has changed, drastically. 4 wide sets on first down, 3 TE sets mixed in, and now Ben has more control and is running the show. Whisenhunt knows the strengths and weaknesses of each individual player, but in terms of knowing the offense, I think it has changed too much for Whiz to know exactly what we are going to do.