Closer look at O-line play against Dallas

It’s been a busy few days, so I decided to use a quiet Thanksgiving morning to take a closer look at the 49ers’ offensive line play from the game against the Cowboys.

 

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Here’s some Thanksgiving reading for you: Clements has already forgotten Dallas and Equipment staff preparing for everything in Buffalo.

 

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My focus in looking at the blocking was on the first-half running plays. Frank Gore carried 12 times for 17 yards in the first half. It seemed to me in looking at it that there were at least three reasons for the 49ers’ lack of success:

 

1) The Cowboys out-schemed the 49ers. On a number of those plays, they simply had more defenders to the ball than the 49ers could block.

2) The Cowboys front was just better than the 49ers assigned to block them.

3) The running back missed some cutback lanes that were obvious when re-watching the plays on video.

 

Without knowing everyone’s assignments, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problems occurred. But that won’t stop me from trying.

 

Run 1: first quarter, second and 12 from SF 47: Gore tries to run off right tackle. Snyder can’t block Bradie James on the outside, and Rachal gets pushed back. Baas and Heitmann do their jobs, but Gore has nowhere to go and the play loses 2 yards.

Run 2: first quarter, first and 10 from Dallas 38: Heitmann and Baas do a nice job to create a lane. Baas does a particularly good job on DE Stephen Bowen. Gore misses a significant cutback lane and settles for a 4-yard gain.

Run 3: first quarter, second and 6 from Dallas 34: Cowboys have nine defenders in the box. The 49ers try to run to the left side with four blockers against the Cowboys six men on that side. Gore tries to make cutback, but falls down for 1-yard loss. He would’ve been running into two unblocked linebackers anyway.

Run 4: first quarter, first and 10 from SF 20: Gore gets the carry off left guard. Bajama makes a nice block on the outside. Rachal pulls and cuts off two Cowboys defenders. Baas and Heitmann work a nice double-team block.

Run 5: first quarter, second and 3 from SF 27: The Cowboys have eight in the box, not including two CBs in press coverage. Snyder does his job. Heitmann takes care of Greg Ellis, and Rachal does a good enough job of Jay Ratliff. The play gains 3 yards off right tackle for the 49ers’ ONLY first down rushing of the game.

Run 6: first quarter, second and goal from Dallas 4: Niners use two tight ends. The Cowboys have nine defenders in the box. Gore looks to go right but there’s nothing there, as Snyder and Davis have their hands full. Gore tries to bounce it to the left side. Staley was blocking DeMarcus Ware out of the play, but that’s where Gore goes. There are also both cornerbacks on that side who come up in run support. Gore loses 1 yard.

Run 7: first quarter, second and goal from Dallas 4: Again, Cowboys have nine in the box. Baas pulls. He brushes past Ratliff to get Marcus Spears on the right side. Heitmann provides a double-team block. Rachal tries to block down, but ends up hitting nobody. Ratliff, virtually unblocked, and MLB Zach Thomas make the play up the middle on Gore for no gain.

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Run 8: second quarter, first and 10 from SF 16: Niners have three wides. The line does a really nice job on the left side, getting good push. And Rachal does a decent enough job on Spears to create a significant alley for Gore. But Gore misses the hole and runs into traffic. The play still gains 2 yards, but could’ve easily gone for much more.

Run 9: second quarter, first and 10 from SF 1: Niners have two TEs and a FB. Cowboys have nine in the box. Heitmann gets a block on Spears, then leaves him for Rachal, who continues to do a good job. But Ratliff pushes Synder back, and Tank Johnson beats Baas. Johnson make the stop for no gain.

Run 10: second quarter, second and 10 from SF 1: Cowboys have eight in the box. Gore tries to run off right tackle. The guys upfront do a decent job, but are unable to get any significant push up the field. Linebacker Bradie James and Zach Thomas are unblocked and make the tackle after a 2-yard gain. If Gore were able to bounce to the outside, around Sean Ryan’s block on Anthony Spencer, it could’ve gone for good yards – possibly a first down.

Run 11: second quarter, third ad 8 from SF 3: Niners have three wides and a tight end. Chris Canty pushes back Heitmann. Rachal brushes past Ratliff as he get out to the second level to block James. Baas, pulling, doesn’t get to Ratliff quickly enough. Gore is stopped for no gain up the middle.

Run 12: second quarter, first and 10 from SF 40: From the “wildcat” formation, Robinson takes the direct snap and hands off to Gore up the middle for 3 yards.

 

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The 49ers also surrendered four sacks:

Sack 1: Spencer beats Bajema with an inside rush off the right side for a 9-yard loss.

Sack 2: Hill has a nice, clean pocket for his seven-step drop. He loads, then pulls it down and starts to move to his right. Ware was working up the field vs. Davis. When Ware comes back underneath, Staley doesn’t pick him off. Hill is dropped for a 4-yard loss. TV analyst Troy Aikman calls it a coverage sack. He says that Hill was trying to get the ball to Bryant Johnson, and with a safety over the top, “an experienced quarterback would’ve gotten off him sooner than he did.”

Sack 3: Davis is lined up on the right side and heads out in the pattern. Snyder follows the DE on that side toward the center of the line, leaving safety Ken Hamlin with a  clear path to Hill for a 7-yard sack and forced fumble.

Sack 4: Ellis beats Snyder cleanly for 5-yard loss.

 

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None of the 49ers’ linemen played a perfect game. However, they certainly did not play anywhere near an “F” level, either. If I had to rank their performances based on this game, from best to worst, I’d go: Heitmann, Staley, Baas, Rachal and Snyder.

 

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If you have any questions for me, please leave them here in the comments section. I’ll do my best to answer them when I get to Buffalo tomorrow afternoon.

 

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