Greg Cosell spoke on KNBR Monday afternoon. Here’s what he said about the 49ers 16-13 overtime loss to the Rams on Sunday.
Q: What do the Rams do defensively that gives the 49ers fits? It was tough for the 49ers to go down the field and to run the ball.
COSELL: “I think the running part was probably the biggest issue. They ran well in the first quarter, and after that it stopped. I have to tell you – I thought the Rams D-line looked much quicker and faster than the 49ers O-line yesterday. I thought it was one of the worst games of the season for the 49ers O-line. They just seemed a step slow compared to the Rams D-line, and they were never really able once the first quarter ended to get their running game going at all.”
Q: Did the Rams defense make adjustments from the first game to the second game?
COSEL: “What the Rams did was they played almost no man-to-man coverage. I don’t remember one snap of man coverage that the Rams played in this game. They played almost all zone coverage. There were attempted intermediate and deeper plays called by the 49ers, but throws were not there. Kaepernick either checked it down or a few times he ran, but for the most part they were unable to get the ball down the field. If I’m not mistaken, they only had two pass plays of 20 or more yards in this game.
“And the one thing about man coverage versus zone, man coverage is much easier to decipher. You can decipher it immediately, and then it becomes a matter of making good throws. Kaepernick the last couple of weeks has made good throws, and he’s certainly capable of driving the ball down the field. When you face zone, particularly if you have to decipher it for a heartbeat, then the entire play can break down and it disrupts the offense. I got the sense watching the tape that’s what happened in this game.”
Q: What did you think of that failed option pitch play?
COSELL: “Here is exactly what I typed after I watched that play: ‘Jenkins’ TD in the fourth quarter came on a play the 49ers had not called all game. Why did they call it in such a critical situation?’ That’s exactly what I typed.
“Even though they had not run well all game, they were in a situation with four or five minutes to go, it was 10-2. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Run three plays, eat clock, force the Rams to call timeout and put it in the hands of your really good defense – that’s the worst thing that can happen. And if you happen to make one first down, the game is over.”
Q: Harbaugh said that was not the fault of the players – that was a bad play call.
COSELL: “This is the kind of game that drives coaches crazy. They’re a better team and they outplayed them for the most part – their O-line did get handled, as I said – but even with all that, this was a game that they should have won and they didn’t. They’re having a hard time with this one.”
Q: Do you think teams can duplicate what the Rams defense did, or was that unique to the Rams?
COSELL: “This was a game where their D-line played exceptionally well and they’ve got good people up front. The rookie from LSU, Michael Brockers – he’s a force and he will become a great player in this league. Their D-line is very quick.
“The only thing teams might look at is the zone coverage concepts and figure: ‘let’s make Kaepernick decipher a little more now, assuming he keeps playing. Let’s make him take a heartbeat to see what we’re doing.’ You can do more confusion with zone concepts or hybrid man-zone concepts, as opposed to just man coverage. That’s the only thing I can think of. The 49ers will know that as well – that’s something they will work on. That’s all part of a young quarterback’s development.
“And by the way, Kaepernick did not play poorly by any stretch. He had a couple of bad plays but he did not play poorly. I said last week that because he’s young, there will be some games where he makes mistakes. That’s part of the learning curve. And by the way, if it weren’t for that play that Harbaugh took full blame for, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
Q: And if Delanie Walker had caught that pass…
COSELL: “There you go. There’s another play – two minutes to go, a gutsy call, I loved it, and Delanie Walker drops what would have been a touchdown. Again, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Q: Do you see Frank Gore wearing down?
COSELL: “I wouldn’t say that. I thought he got off to a really quick start with some nice runs. They played Jacobs eight snaps. He carried the ball six times for four yards. I think the loss of Hunter is a factor, and I’ll be very anxious to see what happens as the season goes forward.
“Hunter is a different kind of back. I have no idea what the situation is with LaMichael James. I’m assuming he’s a healthy scratch. I don’t know if he’s a player they’ll want to get involved, just because of his perimeter speed and explosiveness.”