Player review with a little bit of myth-busting

I’m working from home today. The kids have missed several days of school, and I’ve felt better. So I figured it would be best to just be quarantined here for the day.


I quickly re-watched the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Texans to provide the 49ers’ 53-man report. But, first, I’d like to dispel a couple myths.


Myth No. 1: The 49ers can’t cover the tight end.


They certainly did not do a good job on Owen Daniels, but I would not consider that a trend. Here is how opposing tight ends have fared vs. the 49ers this season:


Arizona, Stephen Spach: 0 catches

Seattle, John Carlson: 6 catches, 46 yds, 0 TDs

Minnesota: Visanthe Shiancoe: 2 catches, 22 yds, 0 TDs

St. Louis: Randy McMichael: 2 catches, 17 yds, 0 TDs

Atlanta: Tony Gonzalez: 6 catches, 55 yds, 0 TDs


Myth No. 2: The 49ers went with the “spread” offense with Alex Smith at quarterback.


The 49ers went with three WRs, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore for all seven plays of the final drive when they weren’t substituting and were in desperation mode. If Hill was the QB, for that final drive the 49ers would’ve used the same personnel grouping.


Here were the personnel packages in the first half with Shaun Hill at QB:


2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WRs: 7

1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs: 8

1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs: 7


And, prior to the final two-minute drive, here were Smith’s personnel packages:

2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WRs: 6

1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs: 11

1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs: 4

2 RBs, 2 TEs, WR: 3

The 49ers also lined up for one play with 1 back, 1 WR and 3 TEs (with Tony Wragge reporting as eligible).


So the 49ers actually used fewer three-WR sets with Smith at QB until the final 1:38 of the game.


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ROSTER UPDATE: The 49ers announced the signing of T Chris Patrick to the 53-man roster to replace Tony Pashos, who was played on injured reserve with a broken shoulder blade on Tuesday. Also, the club signed TE Carson Butler to the practice squad. The 49ers had a vacancy on the practice squad after they promoted LB Diyral Briggs and released veteran Marques Harris.


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And, now, here’s the all-53-man review:



7-Nate Davis: Did not make trip to Houston because of an illness.

11-Alex Smith: This was the first time I’ve really seen Smith play like he practices. He looked very comfortable in the pocket and did a great job of going through his progression quickly and making quick decisions. Here’s not much to knock from his performance. On the final play, he’s just trying to get the ball down the field and take a chance. He did not throw from a clean pocket and was unable to fit it into Isaac Bruce. Smith threw the intermediate pass very well. He overshot Frank Gore on the final drive on a short pass near the sideline, but that play probably would’ve netted only a handful of yards.

13-Shaun Hill: I didn’t think the protection was all that bad for him, other than the second sack. (On the first sack, the receiver missed an audible which blew up the play.) Still, Hill’s inability even try to get the ball down the field was a problem. Maybe it a matter of familiarity, but his worst pass was a ball at the sideline to Michael Crabtree late in the first half when the 49ers were in Texans’ territory. He led him too much at the sideline.


Running backs

21-Frank Gore: He played all but four offensive snaps. The reason he remains on the field is because he is very good in blitz pickup. He showed that once when he blew up DeMeco Ryans, preventing him from sacking Hill. But Gore didn’t get much going with the ball in his hands. He rushed for just 32 yards on 13 carries.

24-Michael Robinson: The 49ers have a new kick returner, and Robinson did a very good job. He averaged 31.3 yards on three kickoffs, including a 40-yarder. And he makes people pay the price for tackling him, too. He’s a very hard runner. Robinson was also excellent on the coverage units. He got on the play for one offensive snap.

29-Glen Coffee: He carried on back-to-back plays in the second quarter and gained 3 yards. For the first time, the 49ers showed Coffee and Gore together in the same backfield. On that play, Smith hit Crabtree on a short completion.

44-Moran Norris: The fullback played 14 snaps, nine of which were run plays. But only three of those run plays netted more than 1 yard. There was a 2-yard run, a 9-yard run, and a 3-yard run.


Wide receivers

15-Michael Crabtree: He saw more playing time than any other receiver on the roster, seeing action on 48 of the team’s 54 snaps. His first reception was very good, a nice tight-rope act at the sideline. He caught five passes for 56 yards, and had a 17-yard catch called back by a penalty (not his). He did show his inexperience, though. He messed up an audible on the first play, resulting in a sack. There were at least three times when the QBs had to correct him out of the huddle to make sure he was on the correct side of the formation. All in all, it was an impressive debut.

18-Micheal Spurlock: Inactive; coaches decision.

81-Brandon Jones: Inactive; coaches decision.

83-Arnaz Battle: He continues to struggle in the return game with his third muffed punt. This was the first time he’s lost one, and it was costly. The Texans recovered at the 10-yard line and scored two plays later. Battle was on the field for one offensive play. He was asked to block on an attempted screen to Vernon Davis, which fell incomplete.

84-Josh Morgan: Other than an illegal motion penalty that wiped out Crabtree’s 17-yard reception, Morgan had a very good game. He played 38 snaps and caught four passes for 62 yards. He also made an impressive tackle on kickoff coverage.

88-Isaac Bruce: He played 36 snaps, as it looks as if he’s losing playing time to both Crabtree and Morgan. Six passes came his way, and he caught two of them. His 22-yard reception on the final drive looked at the time as if it might be a big play.

89-Jason Hill: Inactive; coaches decision.


Tight ends

46-Delanie Walker: He played 22 snaps and caught just one pass for 2 yards. He also did a good job on special teams with two tackles.

85-Vernon Davis: He leads all the entire NFL with six TD receptions after catching three scoring passes from Smith in the second half. All of the plays came on similar routes down the seam. He caught seven passes for 93 yards. The difference this season? Davis is finally being used in Jimmy Raye’s offense.


Offensive line

59-Cody Wallace: Inactive; coaches’ decision.

62-Chilo Rachal: After a very rough opening sequence (he gave up a sack to 39-year-old Jeff Zgonina on the first pass play called with him in the lineup), he settled down and did all right. But when he entered for one play on the final drive, he gave up a pressure that resulted in an incomplete pass.

64-David Baas: He started at left guard. His pass protection was good, though he was pushed back into Smith on the final play while turning late to pick up a stunt. I’m going to write the same thing about all the offensive linemen: There just wasn’t enough push in run blocking.

65-Barry Sims: He played the entire second half at right tackle after Tony Pashos was injured. He gave up two QB pressures, one of which Smith spun away and scrambled for an 11-yard gain. All in all, he held his own.

66-Eric Heitmann: He was OK. The pass protection was generally solid. It looked as if he made all the correct line calls. The line did not seem surprised by anything. On the pressures, it was just a matter of one person getting beaten one-on-one.

68-Adam Snyder: He started at right guard and played six of the 49ers’ 10 offensive possessions. He played as well as anybody during the time he was in there.

69-Tony Wragge: He played on special teams, and got in the game for one snap as a tight end. On those plays, he generally reports into the game to help secure the blind side on a pass play that’s designed go to deep.

74-Joe Staley: Staley played all but one snap. He left the game for one play on the final drive (I think there was an equipment issue). Mario Williams got a sack on the first play of the game, but that wasn’t his fault. He was blocking down to protect the inside on an audible designed to get the ball quickly to Crabtree on a hot read.

77-Tony Pashos: He was playing very well in the first half. But he sustained a broken shoulder blade after the 49ers’ final play of the half. After Brian Cushing nearly intercepted a fourth-down pass, Pashos awkwardly struck Cushing with his left shoulder – apparently thinking Cushing had intercepted the pass. He was placed on IR, officially ending his season. Pashos signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the 49ers before the start of the regular season. He also had $500,000 in incentives that he could have attained this year.


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Defensive line

90-Isaac Sopoaga: Started at left defensive end, and really didn’t do much to stand out in this game. In fact, he did not even show up on the stat sheet.

91-Ray McDonald: Returned after missing most of the Falcons game two weeks ago with an ankle sprain. It might still be bothering him. He played sparingly and did not provide any pressure on Texans QB Matt Schaub.

92-Aubrayo Franklin: See Sopoaga and McDonald. Not much to report here. He started at nose tackle, and did not make any plays. But it looked like he did a pretty good job of just tying up blockers.

93-Demetric Evans: The veteran pickup got some action in humid Houston, and he provided the defensive line with a couple of quarterback pressures to go along with a tackle.

94-Justin Smith: The more I watch this guy, the more I’m impressed. He was outstanding on Sunday with 10 tackles – an almost-unheard-of amount from a defensive lineman in a 3-4 defense. He had two tackles for loss and one QB pressure. His worst play was also one of his best. Smith played Steve Slaton perfectly and grabbed him several yards behind the line of scrimmage. Smith flung him, but Slaton remained on his feet while Smith went sprawling. But he did not give up on the play, he got to his feet and a couple seconds later, threw Slaton for a 5-yard loss.

95-Ricky Jean-Francois: Inactive; coaches’ decision.

96-Kentwan Balmer: He made a tackle, as he lined up some at nose tackle. Still doesn’t seem to play low enough. Failed to secure tackle of Slaton, but it actually worked to 49ers’ advantage. After Slaton bounced off him, he was stood up and Dashon Goldson stripped him of the ball for a second-half turnover.



51-Takeo Spikes: Started at “Ted” linebacker but left in the second quarter with a shoulder strain. He returned at the start of the third quarter, but left the game after one series in the second half. He is listed as day-to-day. Spikes had one tackle for a loss.

52-Patrick Willis: He had 10 tackles, including one for a loss and a QB hurry. Willis had one pass broken up while covering Owen Daniels. But Willis also beaten twice in coverage, including a play to Daniels for 31 yards.

54-Marques Harris: He saw some action at outside linebacker and special teams. He was called for a false start on a punt. The 49ers released him on Tuesday and promoted Diyral Briggs to the active roster.

55-Ahmad Brooks: He gives the 49ers a pretty good third option at outside linebacker behind Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson. Brooks recorded his first sack of the season.

56-Scott McKillop: The rookie saw his first significant playing time on defense after Spikes’ injury. He needs some work on his coverage, and certainly opening with Daniels is no easy task. McKillop recorded three tackles on defense and added one on special teams.

57-Matt Wilhelm: He suited up in his first 49ers game and played on special teams, where he made one tackle. However, his holding call on the final punt return moved the 49ers’ offense back to the 6-yard line with 1:38 remaining.

98-Parys Haralson: The 49ers need more from Haralson, who recorded one tackle (it was for a loss) and had one QB pressure. After all, as Haralson goes, so goes the 49ers’ pass rush.

99-Manny Lawson: He continues to make good strides. Lawson had a good game with five tackles (two for losses), a sack and two QB hurries.


Defensive backs

22-Nate Clements: He rebounded with a very good game after giving up that 90-yard pass to Roddy White in the previous game. He was on Andre Johnson for a good portion of the game, and he did not allow Johnson off the line of scrimmage. Johnson did not catch a pass against Clements while he was in man coverage. The only play Clements surrendered in coverage was perfectly thrown “out” to Daniels on a third-and-6 in the fourth quarter.

23-Marcus Hudson: With Michael Lewis out of action, Hudson saw action when the 49ers went with extra defensive backs. He tracked down Schaub to stop him for 4 yards on a third-and-5 on the opening series. He did a lot of good things, including three tackles on special teams.

25-Tarell Brown: He played sparingly on defense and added a tackle on special teams. Just saw Adam Schefter’s report that the 49ers have locked up Tarell Brown to an extension through 2013. The deal includes a reported $2.5M signing bonus.

26-Mark Roman: He made his first start of the season and played just fine. He was the closest man in coverage on a couple pass plays (nothing big), and he made a heck of a play on a third-and-9 to knock down Schaub’s pass on a blitz. That ended the Texans’ drive and gave the 49ers’ offense one final chance.

28-Curtis Taylor: Did not play on defense, as his action came on special teams. Had a holding penalty on third-quarter punt.

30-Reggie Smith: Inactive; severe groin strain.

31-Dre’ Bly: Used as an extra defensive back. He was called for illegal contact on a third-and-9 play that Nate Clements defended well.

32-Michael Lewis: Inactive due to concussion he sustained Oct. 11 against Falcons.

36-Shawntae Spencer: Started at cornerback, he broke up one pass and made three tackles. He had pretty good coverage on deep ball but could not prevent 44-yard completion to Andre Johnson.

38-Dashon Goldson: Don’t know exactly what happened on 42-yard TD pass to Daniels, but it looked as if he was slow getting over to defend after Spencer let Daniels go. His coverage, along with Spencer’s, was better on the deep pass to Johnson, but Schaub and Johnson made the play for a 44-yard completion. Goldson had nine tackles and made a nice play to force a fumble of Slaton and recover it. That set up a 49ers’ fourth-quarter touchdown.


Special teams

4-Andy Lee: Man, he’s good. Lee averaged 48.2 yards on five punts with an exceptional net average of 43.0.

6-Joe Nedney: Did not attempt any FGs, but the Texans’ average starting point after four kickoffs was the 20-yard line.

86-Brian Jennings: He was perfect, and that’s all you can ask.


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Practice squad

T Alex Boone (still considered a project who is not quite ready for a regular-season game).

LB Diyral Briggs (promoted to 53-man roster Tuesday).

DE Murtail Burnett

TE Carson Butler (Michigan product was signed Wednesday)

TE Joe Jon Finley

RB Keon Lattimore (signed last week to fill spot vacated when Kory Sheets was signed to Dolphins’ 53-man roster).

OT Khalif Mitchell (he was a nose tackle during camp; now they’re working him at left tackle)

FB Brit Miller

WR Dominique Zeigler (he’s returned to practice after being unavailable for the first couple weeks with an ankle sprain)


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Injured reserve

OT Tony Pashos: Sustained a fractured left scapula Oct. 25 vs. Texans during his only start. Pashos signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with 49eres after he was among the Jaguars’ final cuts.

LB Jeff Ulbrich: Placed on injured reserve last week due to multiple concussions.

CB Walt Harris: Sustained torn ACL in right knee during organized team activities on May 19. Harris, 35, is not under contract to the 49ers next season, but he said he plans to rehab and play again.

RB Thomas Clayton: He sustained a torn ACL in right knee in the 49ers’ exhibition opener Aug. 14 against the Broncos.


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