In the grand scheme of things, a 2-minute drill in June, with key players missing on both sides of the ball, is about as meaningful as a Battle of Gettysburg reenactment in Fresno. But to those of us starved for action during the NFL lean months, it was the climactic conclusion of Super Bowl XXIII all over again.
The 49ers ran the 2-minute drill twice at the end of practice today, moving the chains and the huddle down the field as they went.
To be precise, they ran the 2:17 drill, setting up at the offensive 21-yard line. As the first-team units lined up across from one another, safety Dashon Goldson mimicked blowing into a vuvuzela to signal the gravity of the moment. Or maybe just to make noise. The front line of the defense consisted of Diyral Briggs, Isaac Sopoaga, Demetric Evans and Ahmad Brooks – not exactly the anticipated starters come September.
Alex Smith began his drive by throwing a short flare pass to Frank Gore, then another shorty to TE Delanie Walker, setting up third-and-1. Going without a huddle, Smith hit Josh Morgan for the first down as CB Keith Smith slipped. First-and-10 at his 48, and Alex Smith missed Morgan at the right sideline before finding Walker on a short crossing pattern.
Third-and-5. Smith dumped to Michael Crabtree, but CB Tarell Brown chased him out of bounds a yard short of the first-down marker. The offense called a timeout, and on fourth down, Smith again found Morgan in front of Keith Smith.
Now the offense had first-and-10 at the defensive 16-yard line. Alex Smith tried to throw the ball away, but it was ruled a 5-yard sack. (Sorry, not sure who got him.) After another timeout, S Reggie Smith did a nice job fronting Walker, forcing Smith into an incompletion and setting up third-and-15 with 27.2 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing play, Walker broke wide open in the secondary, and Smith found him for the touchdown.
“I figured out I was gonna be so wide open when I got behind the linebackers, cause that means somebody dropped me,” Walker said afterward. “I seen Dashon Goldson come up, and I just knew it was touchdown from there. I just kept doing what I was told to do, get 22 yards deep. Alex seen me. Landed in the end zone.”
Asked for his impressions, coach Mike Singletary said: “It depends on what you’re a fan of. If you like the defense, not good. If you like the offense, good.”
The one real sour note for Singletary was the coverage breakdown that led to Walker’s touchdown. Linebackers Briggs and Matt Wilhelm were looking at one another after the play, but secondary coach Vance Joseph called out CB Karl Paymah.
“Somebody blew a fuse back there,” Singletary said.
It was part of a forgettable day for Paymah. The veteran has generally looked solid during OTAs, but today Singletary yelled at him twice BEFORE the 2-minute drill, after catches by Dominique Zeigler and Morgan. At one point the coach suggested Paymah needs to study his playbook more thoroughly.
“He’s a guy that has a lot of potential, and hopefully between now and the end of training camp he can take that potential and make it something real,” Singletary said of Paymah after practice.
The second-team offense didn’t fare as well in 2-minute period. Starting under the same circumstances, David Carr converted two third-down plays, hitting Michael Crabtree at the sideline on third-and-5 and finding Ted Ginn on third-and-10. Both plays victimized S Curtis Taylor, though to be honest Taylor’s reaction looked pretty fast on the latter play.
Two plays after the completion to Ginn, the offense faced second-and-1 at the defensive 46-yard line. Carr tried to force a ball to rookie Kyle Williams in the middle of the field but Taylor got revenge and picked it off. The offense was hooting for an offsides call on LB Scott McKillop. Let’s just say the matter was unresolved as the horns sounded.
And that, folks, is the most space I would ever hope to devote to one team period in a voluntary practice. If you made it this far, you’re as sick as I am.