49ers victims of identity theft

This is my Tuesday column on the 49ers’ offense.

Who are these guys?

The 49ers’ offense used to have an identity. It was a power-running offense. It was a rhinoceros. It had a metamorphosis last week and now it’s a bug.

The 49ers rode the rhinoceros to three consecutive NFC championships and one Super Bowl appearance. Twice, the rhinoceros trampled the Arizona Cardinals last season – 49ers halfbacks carried the ball 48 times in those games.

The 49ers didn’t bring the rhinoceros to Arizona this past Sunday. Brought the bug instead. Handed off to tailbacks just nine times. Handed off once to a 197-pound wide receiver, Bruce Ellington, a “vonce.” The 49ers lined him up at tailback, 7 yards behind Colin Kaepernick. Like there was a chance the vonce would gain yardage up the middle. Right.

Kaepernick pitched the ball to Ellington, who ran a sweep around the right side, as expected. Bugs don’t run up the middle. The Cardinals squashed him after a 1-yard gain. Ellington looked like a dead locust on the ground, flat and twitching.

What we saw on Sunday, call it the Dead Locust Offense. The 49ers scored 14 points. Colin Kaepernick threw 37 times. Out of 62 plays, the 49ers used four-wide-receiver formations and five-wide-receiver formations 30 times and called 26 passes. Huh?

Where were the plays that made the Jim Harbaugh 49ers so successful the past three seasons?

It’s like Harbaugh wants to be the polar opposite of himself. It’s like he has multiple personality disorder. Like he showed up to work last week talking in a different voice, using different handwriting when he made out the game plan.

Monday in Santa Clara, the afternoon after the loss to the Cardinals, Harbaugh spoke to the media without wearing his hat – a first. Maybe he was stuck in Personality No. 2, Little Jimmy with the hat hair.

Someone asked him if injuries to the Niners’ top-two tight ends, Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald, both of whom didn’t play, was the reason Harbaugh went with the Dead Locust game plan.

“Yes, most of it,” said Little Jimmy. His voice was soft.

Weak. Losing a couple of tight ends is no excuse to abandon the halfback running game. There are a myriad of halfback runs that don’t involve a tight end blocking at the point of attack. You can run to the other side of the offensive line, the left side, the side without the tight end, the side with Joe Staley and Mike Iupati, two of the best run blockers in football. The 49ers do it all the time.

You can run power runs to the left. They’re called weak-side leads. You can run toss-sweeps to the left. You can run draws to the right when you want to switch it up. These plays set up play-action passes, the foundation of the 49ers’ passing game.

These plays are basic. Harbaugh knows this stuff, has called these plays his entire coaching career. Frank Gore was so upset after the Cardinals game, felt so unappreciated, he prematurely cut short his postgame interview. He didn’t know what to say. Maybe he was concerned his coach had switched personalities.

Harbaugh should have called running plays and stuck with them on Sunday. He should have stuck to the 49ers’ identity, not given up on it so casually. Instead, he asked Kaepernick to win the game by himself.

Kaepernick was the 49ers’ leading rusher, rushed 13 times for 54 yards. Accounted for 92 percent of the 49ers’ total yards. Attempted just three play-action passes. Threw more than 15 yards downfield just four times.

The game plan had no cohesive theme throughout the game. One drive the 49ers would use five wide receivers. The next drive they’d use four. Next they’d use three. Then back to five. Like the 49ers’ offensive coaches were searching on the run for something that would work and found nothing other than Kaepernick’s ability to make plays on his own.

Changing the team’s identity before a game is a sure way to fail. It’s guaranteed. It makes players lose confidence in the coach. When you keep changing your identity you no longer know who you are. The Broncos aren’t suddenly going to be a run-first offense.

A coach has to believe in who he is, in who his team is. James Joyce didn’t all of a sudden say, “Screw it, I suck at writing,” and become Jimmy Joyce the painter.

Jimmy Harbaugh the head coach has to go. The Niners need Regular Jim.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

This article has 156 Comments

  1. Now this is more like it…Well done…

    Still in shock that the coaching staff would make such a drastic change and abandon the run game altogether…History has shown that when Harbaugh’s Niners heavily rely on the passing game, we lose…Couple that with the fact that we were 0-3 when VD sits out, it’s no wonder we let this game slip out of our hands.

    The coaches and players need to bounce back and wake up if they are going to come away with a victory this weekend and save the season…

    1. Well done article? Puh-lease.

      I might agree with the general thought process behind the writing, but the prose was sophomoric and the metaphors embarrassing. If Lowell wasn’t the consigliere of Bay Area sports writers, there’s no way this schmuck would be writing here.

      1. @ A to the F,

        Agree Totally

        And the………”Little Jimmy” blast? Talk about being Unprofessional & Disrespectful!

        How about “Little Cohn” recognizing & remembering the 49ers were down 2 TE’s to make their running game effective in the first place. In addition the Cardinals are 1 of the better Run Defenses in the League.


        Memo to Little Cohn….

        You do whatever it takes to win a Football game in the NFL. And in this particular game this is what Jimbo & Co. thought was best to win the game. It looked pretty effective to me in the 1st half.

        The problem was the 49ers D’s Pass Rush was no where to be found & the rest of the D couldn’t make a play to make an impact on the game. Coupled that with all the penalties on both sides (Boldin) of the ball the End Result was an “L”.

        Never liked Little Cohn’s work for the most part but for him to take a Personal Attack on Harbaugh makes me Despise this HACK of a Sports Writer.

      2. Couldn’t agree with you more. The entire piece felt like a poorly written junior college writing class assignment. How this guy keeps his job with so many other talented bloggers out there is beyond me….cough nepotism cough cough….

    2. tycobb667–” History shows the Niner’s are 0 and 3 when Davis sits out”. No history shows the Niners are O and 3 when they only have one WR ( Boldin ) who is a threat to catch the ball when Davis is out.

  2. What a load of tripe. First down killing penalties on offense and first down gifting penalties are what cost the team this game. Not the offensive game plan.

    Ridiculous and inflammatory post, Grant.

  3. This chappy overrated offensive line is not doing their jobs anyway. Kap barely has time to throw 80 % of the time.and last week the offensive line couldn’t open a hole to save their lives. I saw so many guys whiffing on blocks it was a shame. You can’t run through defenders. Our offensive line is horrendous. The defensive line isn’t much better. Games are won and lost in the trenches. At this stage, we aren’t beating anyone unless the offensive line gets their heads out of their behinds. They have to have some pride and block someone.
    Adrian Peterson couldn’t run behind this line. Let alone Gore.

    1. Good to know…thanks Scoot.

      I remember watching that play and seeing Wards reaction like “Who’s man was that?” type look. That gives me more confidence in Ward at this point, but I wonder what they would do if Brock came back? Bench Cully for a Brock/Cox/Ward combo. That might not be too bad.

      1. Our secondary has been completely lost and injured this year. It will be interesting to see what happens when they get healthy.

        1. We’re going against a very explosive Eagles offense, foley looks very good in the pocket. And this kid is very accurate, if our defense can stopped McCoy it’s going to be a long day for our Defense.

  4. I didn’t mind he play-calling so much. It seemed to work just fine in the 1st half. It was really nice to see more than just one or 2 receivers involved. Stevie had a heck of a game. I think had they come out with the same game plan and had Vernon, it may have been a different result. Davis is good for 2-3 big plays a game. And with the lack of speed on the field combined with the lack of time Kap has to make a throw and doesn’t bode well for the deep passing game.

    I would like to see a game plan with more of a balance of the 2 styles. Maybe not fully power running and not fully pass happy. We need to find a good balance. We need to utilize this personnel.

  5. Grant sez:
    “….The 49ers’ offense used to have an identity.
    It was a power-running offense….

    Yeah, you’re right, Grant .. but then… when
    your Offensive Line doesn’t .. can’t
    open holes for the RB … what’s the point ?

    I guess that completely blows your rant ..
    outta the water… huh ?

  6. how many possesions did the Niners have on offense in the 2nd half? How many in the 4thQ? It doesn’t seem like many (as far as I can remember). and that’s on the defense.

    also, keep in mind with what Roman had to work with. The Offensive line has not been run blocking well over the past couple of games (and I’d argue that if you take out read-option plays, that they consistently haven’t been a good run blocking unit since mid 2012). So with an O-line that isn’t blocking well and out their top 2 Tight Ends, it’s not a wonder that they mass as much as they did and relied heavily on the read option and other designed QB run plays. bottom line the Niners need to get their O-line right in both pass blocking and run blocking and the defense needs to stop making stupid mental errors.

  7. Glad Reid said that cause he’s a big reason for thier last three losses . Championship game took bad angle on Lynches TD run , let Baldwin get behind him for 47 yards in 3 rd & 12 , provided no deep help on go ahead TD to Kearse that lost the game and took his own man out tearing his ACL with an ill advised blind hit. This year he’s been out if position more times than I can count, and has been responsible for at least 6 TDS

    1. Growing pains. It happens. Reid will be fine. So will be the team.
      The hobbled Eagles are exactly what the doctor ordered for the Niners to get well. If the Niners’ front 7 can’t put pressure on Eagle’s O line I will be shocked.

      1. Be prepared to be shocked… the bears were without two starters on their Oline and we still couldn’t generate any pressure.

    2. It was actually donte whitner who made most of those mistakes. The reason this team struggles is because they have a terrible offensive coordinater and because their coach doesn’t have a disciplined locker room. Some of the penalties are fine but the 15 yarders for after the play stuff should never happen

  8. Jimmy should cancel a practice, then take the team on an all day excursion together for some fun and commoroderie. Try and get away from the identity theive’s by forming a LifeLock….

  9. Roman’s second half strategy; “We’ll trick’em by not doing what works best for us.”

  10. Kaep in the face of a blitz has the deer in the headlights look glazed over him, harbaugh w/ an incredulous,befuddled scowl on the sideline, G.Ro doubling down on his obstinate philosophy of crisp execution conquers all,etc.. All is not lost but it’ll require the entire team to take up transcedental meditation. It’ll allow kaep to relax and expand his line of sight and avoid getting tunnel vision while processing all the collateral information, it’ll keep harbaugh calm & composed and keep focused on the bigger picture, and last but not least, we’ll see G. Ro’s official catchet of his offensive vision, he’ll be attuned in the complete expression of his philosophy and he won’t need to second guess his innate instincts. It’s time for the 49ers to embrace their bay area roots of higher consciousness or else risk losing once again to the meditating Seahawks.

    1. This is not strictly for the quixotic, meek hemp wearing, tree hugging, granola eating hippie crowd. Even samurai’s meditate to become more effective killers. Value neutral with practical purpose fullness.

      1. ^ … fyi … not all hippies hug trees and eat granola

        Trees give me hives … and the granola gets caught
        in my dentures

  11. It’s Roger Goodell and his henchmen — stealing Niners identity, breaking into RayMac’s home, pilfering the zebras’ common sense, probably hiding Roman’s run game plan, too. Goodellgate.!

  12. This really goes all the way back to the switch at QB, from Captain Checkdown and the run oriented, be efficient with the ball offense and give the defense time to rest, to the read option, big play ability of Kap. It worked initially during the year they went to the SB. But we saw a defense get gassed. How did NE come all the way back and tie the game that year? How did Atlanta jump out to a 17pt lead? Let’s not even talk about the Superbowl.
    Last year, the team started out the same way. It tried to open up the offense, but then slowly that changed after losses to Seattle and Indy. The team focused on the run to run off the 5 straight wins. There were games where Colin completed only 5 passes.
    But we don’t have that D from last year and we have a offense doesn’t have a strength anymore. Once it finds a core philosophy, they need to stick with it. The team has talent on offense now. We spent a 2nd round pick on a RB. Use the guy!

    1. I don’t recall any quick strike scores this past game. There were methodical short passes that incrementally matriculated down the field. A lack of a running game weren’t reasons we lost this game, it was for a lack of an intangible “feel” for circumstance & timing that is palpable to a coach who is in tune to the energies of the gridiron.

    2. New England came back when when Cowboy yore his bicep. Atlanta jumped to a lead because our DJ’s were awful in the first half.
      Alex is 1-4 in his last 5 games. Why because he has a poor line and bad defense. If he were here he’d suffer the same outcome. There are many components that are broken on this team. Pointing to the Qb change is lazy.

      1. Boy you sure are defensive. I merely mentioned a change in philosophy. What is Colin’s record on a clearly superior team? Oh yeah, 1-3.

        Captain Checkdown won his last game with his star running back on the sidelines and a worse O-Line. And he didn’t throw a pass longer and 8 yards. but he won.

        Colin had a great first half and a lousy 2nd half. What else is new? Playing a half of football does not win football games.

        Oh yeah, you will blame everyone else except your wonder boy.

        In his body of work he has not shown the ability to close out a win. In Harbaugh’s first year Captain Checkdown did it 6 times. This is when the team was known for losing.

        We’re still waiting for him to put it all together aren’t we? If he needs all the other pieces in place for him to succeed, then he’s not that elite. We’re paying him to be a difference making in 60 mins of football. Not 30.

      1. 23Jordan!

        i don’t want Alex back. I’m just saying the philosophy changed. I rather bring in new blood that we can disagree on!

        1. Looked like an “Alex smith “type of pass game last week. Besides the runs by ck, but everything was short and quick. The 5 receivers only complimented it IMO

    3. Fansince77. NE made came back in the second half to tie the game because J. Smith was injured and came out of the game and A. Smith was playing injured. The major problem was the defense which after the NE game gave up 29pts+ a game. The offense was also also impacted by injuries which the 2011 team was very lucky to avoid until Ginn was injured in the New Orleans game.

      As has been pointed out the O line has declined considerably starting with last season. Teams do not stay the same year after year for a variety of reasons. This is not the same team the Niners fielded in 2011 and the early part of 2012. Injuries and a fall of in individual production played a major factor. In 2011 a large number of players had career years which they have never duplicated.

      You can not have a power running game if the offensive line can not win the battle in the trenches. Gore is still a good back but not even close to the one he was. He can still find holes when there are holes to find. The plays that were called were an attempt to mitigate the horrible play by the offensive line.

      All this ” we are a power running team” is total BS. Have you even watched the game recently. The line sucks both in pass protection and the run game. So you would just continue to run into a brick wall which is what the RB’s faced. Gore didn’t go 10 yrds in 6 carries for nothing. It would not have gotten any better with more carries.

      1. “The line sucks both in pass protection and the run game.”

        The elephant in the room. I’ve been wondering when others would agree. Run, pass; Alex, Kaep – all beside the point with the way our line has been playing way too often! IMHO, Kaep is a more athletic version of AS. But they’re both one, two, panic quarterbacks.

  13. Guess Grant didn’t watch the first half – too bad, he might have seen a pretty darn effective offense – OH, that’s right, not enuf balance – just short passes – too many receivers on the field – yada, yada, yada

    What he might take note of is the SOS in the second half – we have a lead – let’s sit on it – it has worked soooo well in the past – there is no gas pedal in this buggy – oh wait, that’s the receivers.

    Anybody want to start a pool on when Grant starts a campaign to bring back Singletary since JH will leave for Michigan after the season?

  14. I for one was happy to see the 49ers come out in the spread/ 5 WR sets last week. I figured it just added an extra dimension to prepare againnst for our opponents. Problem is I assumed that at some point we would revert back to our built tough type of game style, which we clearly did not. Since Frank Gore was drafted by the niners its been a proven fact that the more he touches the ball the more likely the niners are to win. There’s a positive correlation there. So when the Niners were up 14-6 in the 2nd, why weren’t we feeding him the rock more? I think there are two reasons to that. 1. Vernon and Vance were both out, and Carrier doesnt look like much of a blocker. 2. Jonathan Martin SUCKS. No wonder Richie picked on him so much (relax im just kidding about that part). With AD out and Martin at RT we are severly handicapped on runs to the right. So my only guess is that the coaches collectively thought we had a better chance at winning by running a pass based offense. Wrong. We are built to run first and pass 2nd. But last weeks offense did provide future opponents more formations to practice against so there’s the lone positive from last week. I fully expect the Niners to pound the rock this week vs Philly. Ok there’s my two cents about last week. It’s in the past. All arrows forward now. GO NINERS. BEAT PHILLY

    1. Adam….. It looked like we did starting the 3rd quarter. Totally switched what was working.
      No, no huddle.

  15. Here’s my take on the running game and why it’s not being used.
    The 49ers love running GAP runs
    Ioupoti is NOT healthy. Davis is Gone and staley looks horrible so far this season, and Boone is not ready for full duty. Ya see Grant. You have to have the workhorses up front. And the O-line isn’t healthy and are not playing well. I’m pretty sure when the o-like gays it together they will start running the ball again.
    And as for the 4-5 receiver sets. Arizona couldn’t stop it until they slowed it down in the second half. Many might not agree with me, but I think Romans game plan was perfect. My knock is that they went away from it to early and never regrouped.
    Fact is their strength ..(GAP RUNS)
    Aren’t there right now. Adjusting the offense is better than trying to force the run. It’s only game 4.. I remember last season and the slow start to the running game also.
    And did you ask Gore if that’s why he was upset? Maybe it was another tough loss, or maybe he was mad about the penalties like other players were. Smh

  16. Grant,

    I just don’t understand your writing. “Ellington looked like a dead locust on the ground”? “Little Jimmy”? “Weak”? You’re a kid who got lucky just like Jed York got lucky based on family ties. Your writing is incredibly disrespectful to the men you cover. You act like you know more about football than men who have been playing and coaching longer than you’ve been alive. You don’t just report or provide opinions. You seem to have a need to denigrate the coaches and players to make yourself sound smarter. I think you’re probably a talented guy but your writing has a long way to go before you can call yourself a good writer. I know you can do better than the crap you’ve been posting lately. I certainly know the Press Democrat can do better than you. I think the best thing that could possibly happen to you is that you get fired so you can learn some humility. I for one am done with you and this blog. This latest blog is just bad writing that is meant to tear down your subjects and build yourself up. It’s disgusting. I’ve been coming here for probably 10 years but I really can’t stomach your condescending, juvenile blogs any longer. Grow up and good luck.

    1. Houston, I have been following Press for years and have to say this blog has truly regressed due to Grants unprofessional and insulting apporch. I always go to CSN Bayarea for news and come here to read other bloggers. Hey, i am dissappointed in with coaching and there is nothing wrong to discuss the teams lack of performance but a professional that covers a team that has interactions with the coaches/players should not use condecending terms such as a bug, a dead locust or little Jimmy! Why all the personal attacks and disrespectful comments. To my opinion its not neccessary to be disrespectful even if you do not approve of a coach or a player. How can you keep a professional relationship with the organization.

      So sad this guy has a job here on this site as the (49ers insider), If I was Jed he would not even be allowed on the 49er grounds. I guess his dad has a major influence on his apporch since typially he is always talking down about CK or the coaches. Again, I only vist this site because of other bloggers with great insight. Truly disappointing.

  17. The 49ers should have no problem this Sunday gettin pressure on the eagles. They are decimated by injuries on their O-line. If they can’t get pressure on Folds this defense is in big trouble until smith and bowman get back.

    The eagles secondary is atrocious. The offense should have no problem throwing on them all day. Can Roman make an adjustment to run the ball. I’d think Philly is thinking make them beat us with the run, since SF hasn’t proved they can run the ball yet.

    The refs…. I’m still not buying the defense is this bad. They’re ranked 8th overall and lead the league in penalties and third down penalties.
    You can’t tell me they are that good on early downs then suck on third downs.

    On a side note those greatest ever cb’s and safeties up north… Ranked 22 vs the pass. Kind of funny how things change when you can’t hold. Hmmmm.

    I’ll call it. Expect a heavy running plan this Sunday.

    1. when all else fails, go back to the basics and the bread and butter of your offense that you installed the first day of OTAs and mini-camps. your players should be able to execute those runs and passes the best because those are the plays with which they have had the most reps and the greatest familiarity.

  18. This article is right on the money. Because the Niners lost the game. One game, one weekend and the game plan didn’t translate into a W.

    Grant, do you remember a guy named Mike Singletary? Jimmy Raye? Mike Nolan? Granted, they didn’t have the talent that Harbaugh has in his team, but they were still thought to be worth NFL coaches.

    They never schemed, game planned or tried to out wit the opponent. They telegraphed what they were going to do and never went away from what didn’t work.

    I hate that you feel the need to bust on the Coach every time we lose. He’s won a loot of games for the 49ers. So this article wrong in so many ways. They tried something and it didn’t work. “A” for effort.

    1. 49ers have the most formidable rosters in the league based on pure talent from top to bottom. Harbaugh & g. Ro are doing it a disservice my not extracting the most out of it. Sure we can run it up the gut endlessly in vain ala mike singltary tenure or we can run a 21st century system of disguising intent, dissecting weakness, run & pass aren’t the only dichotomy in a myriad playbook that offers a bevy of options ranging from screens, rb in the flat, short, intermediate, long, etc…how bout that beauty of a pass that kaep put a hint of touch on to carrier. Gorgeous with a capital “G”

  19. Im kind of surprised everyone is saying we have lost to teams were better than.
    In what game did our offensive line not get dominated so far this season?
    In what game did our defensive line get pressure on the qb consistently?
    I would argue that in all 3 of our games so far our opponents won the battle in the trenches… how many teams do you know that win while losing this battle on both sides of the ball?

    Maybe its time to realize that our players are not as good as we think right now… Iupati is an absolute liability in the passing department and hasnt been strong in the running game. Martin, well I guess he was worthy of starting on the worst line in all of football last season and wasnt respected by them… and then we have our backup center. Yeah hes worthy of being… a backup.

    Defensively they have played well for what they have. Two backup corners starting now starting and Ward who is not as good as Carlos Rogers was along with Bethae who, at best is only as good as Whitner was… but here we lost a real team leader. Whitner was well respected and could have been a policing force in the locker room.

    The sad truth is this team is not last years team and they are no where near as talented.

    1. Shoupbj– How dare you interject reason into this argument. lol. It seems most fans are incapable of actually viewing each game as a separate entity. It takes them multiple years to recognize a change in the team due to attrition or injury. Here is a hint to some of the people on this site. ” Players get old” or come off of injuries both of which effects their level of play. It is understandable because most people watch the game as fans and not objective annalists. Throw down a few brewskies and their perceptions becomes a bit more distorted.

      Did any of you consider that the NYG went from winning the Superbowl to not even making the playoff the next year. TEAMS CHANGE! They do not remain the same year after year. This is no longer a power running team with a great offensive line along with a top five defensive. And Gore is not the complete back he once was and can not carry the team as he once was able to do.

      1. if the Niners no longer are that power off tackle running team because the O-line is not the same or the defensive line is not the same because it is aging, then Baalke should have seen it coming and drafted accordingly to allow the Niners to continue the style of play that made them so successful for the past 3 years. as overseer of personnel and the draft, Baalke bears the responsibility for perpetuating the chain of succession of players to fit the system of the offensive and defensive coaches. if not, you have a hodge-podge of players, some of whom fit the original system and a new crop of players who are suited for another system. as a result, there is a disconnect on the field with offensive and defensive continuity.

    2. Penetrating defensive lines have never been our forte. We play gap disciplined alignments. Our inability to get pressure has forced our dline to over compensate in an attempt at making a play and exposed porous holes in our once stout line. It’s correctable. Our oline had its hands full. Cards stacked the line and dared us to throw. I’m glad we didn’t stubbornly adhere to our infamous cloud of dust approach of years past.

    1. Great stuff Jack. Very insightful.

      The first TD to Brown shows how important it is for a DB not to freelance just because they think they don’t have any receivers entering their zone. If Cox stays disciplined for just a little longer on that play he’d have seen Brown coming into his area and not jumped the shorter route.

      1. On the 3rd &6 in the 3rd quarter Cox playing 10 yards off Fitz had a lot to do with the success of that play. With Cox so far off the line it was easy for him to set up the pick between Ward and Cox. My guess is that play is designed to free up Fitz in the pick but when Reid made the wrong call it was a busted coverage.

        1. With Cox so far off the line it was easy for <b.him to set up the pick between Ward and Cox.
          Him being Ward’s man.

        2. I’d say you are right, Coffee. As it was, if Reid didn’t come down to take Fitz then it probably would have been a fairly easy completion and first down to Fitz anyway, as Cox wasn’t close enough to prevent the play after having to avoid Brown and Ward. It would have been the lesser of two evils…

      2. Thanks Scoot.

        I think both of those TD’s show the importance of not freelancing. On both of those plays, who cares if the throw goes underneath. Let them go there, make the tackle and you can fight another down.

    2. Great stuff Jack.

      I really think these mistakes are just a combination of inexperience and lack of cohesion, I’m actually really impressed by what Fangio’s put together this offseason. I was a bit worried week 1, but he’s really cleaned up the run defense, and the secondary looks solid most of the game. He’s done a great job with what he has. If he can just get someone to apply some consistent pressure. When will we see Tank?

      Once we stop beating ourselves with these penalties and truly learn to play together as one unit, this defense will look solid. And throw in some possible mid-season additions, then this defense will look very good.

      1. Thanks Leo.

        I don’t think we will see Carradine until he can play on the left side instead of behind Smith.

        1. I agree with that. At first I thought that Smith would be, dare I say it, a bit of a liability in the pass rush, due to his age and injuries. But he’s been our best pass rusher by far. He’s still got it and I hope he stays healthy all season. I would also like to see some more Dial.

    3. Great stuff as usual Jack. Simple breakdowns that lead to TD’s. The good thing is they are easy to fix, the bad thing is they happen even after they are fixed.

  20. From time to time, our friend Colin says
    something about the value of an ugly win
    being the same as a well-played win,
    leading from start to finish, lots of points,
    aggressive defense (close to a shutout), etc.

    For the next two weeks, he needs to ditch
    that attitude. If the Niners fail to beat both
    the Eagles and the Chiefs… convincingly (!!),
    then some fans will have the same attitude
    towards Coach Harbaugh as we do right now:
    … he sucks eggs.!

  21. I think one thing that portended the decline in the effectiveness of the offensive line was Goodwin getting old. He was the weak link last year. Then Lupati and Davis were playing injured and still haven’t fully recovered. They replaced Goodwin through the draft but Martin also got injured. The present center is mediocre at best. Lupati might never get back his footspeed this season or ever. He never had that much to begin with which is why he was not good at pass protection. Hopefully Davis will come back ready to play. The best I hope for this line this season is average production. Say what you will about Kaeps QB skills but his athleticism has done a lot to compensate for the decline and substandard offensive line in both pass protection and the run game.

  22. Yes, yes, yes, I feel yer pain!!

    Like I said, the best thing that can happen to this organization, is to kick coach Haballer down the road with his bags after the season is over

    I still stand by my 49er prediction: 7-9 loss season, and miss the playoffs would put the final nail in coach harballer’s coffin!!! So the healin can start!!

  23. I personally think that the players have lost respect for coach Harballer. Seriously, would any of you want to play for a coach like Harballer??

    1. Harbaugh is a great coach in need of a little introspection. He has a final tier to elevate his coaching prowess to and he won’t be able to simply muscle his way to the next echelon by sheer brute force. It’ll require him to be a calming influence in murky, unchartered seas that are cascading with doubt & uncertainty. We’ll uncover whether he has the chops to relax and exude maturity. My Niners are playing too stiff & uptight out there. They need to have fun & remember it’s just a game.

  24. Harbaugh could do well not listening to schizoid internet bloggers.

    Grant Cohn, September 19: “Bruce Ellington has to carry the ball. Otherwise, the 49ers could lose to the Cardinals.”

    Grant Cohn, September 23: “Kaepernick pitched the ball to Ellington, who ran a sweep around the right side, as expected. Bugs don’t run up the middle. The Cardinals squashed him after a 1-yard gain. Ellington looked like a dead locust on the ground, flat and twitching.”

    1. ribico, thanks for pointing this out. Perhaps Grant has an alter ego and they switch writing responsibilities.

  25. This is nuts. How many of you were complaining that the Niners never air it out? That the passing game stunk? And then when they do throw the rock you whine about how they abandoned the running game that you despised the week before. There’s no pleasing some of you.

    Think folks: the OL cannot move the opposing DL so maybe throwing the ball, get ready, is their best shot at winning until such time as the OL is pieced back together.

    I gotta say that Niners fans are impossible to please. Team goes to three straight NFC championship games – think of how many teams have not been there in decades – and you want to fire the coach. Everyone on the team seems to be busting their ass on the field and some of you lardbutts piss and moan about whether CK used a naughty word. Get a grip.

    1. 23 Jordan was right, our offensive line is so overrated. If our defense don’t create turnovers and stopped the other teams from moving the football, we’ll lose the game. Kaep can’t carry the 49ers team on his back.

  26. >Like a dead locust
    >Squealing like a little girl
    The other day, in stead of just disagreeing with Jack about a route designation, snarkily asks:
    >’What team did you coach?’, because Grant so obviously knows so much more than him
    One wonders about the motivations. Is it necessary to diminish others to feel good about yourself? Is it necessary to diminish others to distract from the weakness of an arguement? These are bully tactics, but what’s the power? The leverage? That he can edit the blog? Change his answers? Delete commenters’ posts? Big deal.
    Almost every time Grant resorts to these cheap tactics in an apparent attempt to make himself look smarter/oh-so-clever/a devastating debater/Big Time Expert, he achieves the opposite.

  27. Poor, poor Grant. He wanted to play football but his mommy and daddy would’nt let him, he was a rather fragile boy and they were afaid the bigger boys might pick on him. All the way through high school he felt like a second class citizen on the soccer team ignored at best ridiculed at worst. He came to hate the football players and the rest of the popular crowd. Now about 10 years later he has his chance to get revenge on all those football players he felt were mean to him in high school and college. He publicly calls them names, of course he does’nt do it to their faces. He called a certain WR a “bug” described him as looking like a “dead locust”, he then described the HC as “little Jimmy hat hair” and “weak”. Grant at least for a while put the hate away, maybe you could try attending the coaching theory classes or coaching clinics i’ve been telling you about. Yes Grant some of those boys were bullies in high school and i’m sorry if you got picked on but some of them may not have liked you because your humor runs to the sarcastic, cynical and just plain mean spirited side. imho

    1. I’m no psychologist but I’ve figured the same as well. Although I don’t think it was his parents that didn’t let him. He just wasn’t good enough. Always wanted to be that football star to get daddy’s attention and give him something to write about. Anyway he obviously wasn’t good enough or big enough or football smart enough (as is painfully evident by these pathetic postings and his refusal to admit when he is wrong) and has grown up to resent football players and especially those that have succeeded in building a happier life doing it that he obviously has doing what was the second best way to get daddy’s attention. How else do you explain his constant building up of players when they are relatively new and unknown just to rip them as failures when they stumble. Remember when he mocked the pants the receivers wore to practice? Remember that whole thing with Anthony Davis? That was so weird and unprofessional. Calling the players “school boys” was such an obvious reflection on this pent up hate. Probably reason he can’t get a job outside a blog for a paper his dad runs

  28. Here’s a thought: I’ve noticed a couple of times recently that the blog has gotten completely away from what Grant has posted. I think that might be the proper direction.

    Why not have five volunteers to write a blog starter every week. Old Coach could do Mondays MDNiner, Jack, Coffee, anyone could take a chosen day, write a column starter and we’d go from there. We don’t have to respond to whatever childish, inflammatory, derogatory smirk has been posted by the ostensible director of a blog.

    I’ve been coming to since forever; there’s more knowledge and often better writing among the respondents than the P-D employee. It would solve a lot of headaches here and return what once was a great blog to solid footing.

    1. Ghost, I endorse this. It might be a bit confusing, as Grant would post an article that some would like to respond to, but I still think your idea would work. And I’m sure that Grant would care. The alternative would be to migrate to another blog, which he certainly would not like to see. And I am not endorsing that.

    2. The thing thay makes this blog good is the comments section. Grant could just post an open thread and there would be 100 comments each day because of the commenters bantering.

      1. Jack, you’re probably right — which would indicate that Grant is a feckless blog host. I don’t really think he cares, though, as long as he receives a paycheck for the minimal effort he has been putting in lately.

        1. Maybe Mud and 40Whiner could co-host. They already try to bait us and the PD wouldn’t have to pay them or their expense claims. !Voila!

          1. Brotha, that would be quite a combo. Or maybe the guy with multiple personality disorder that’s been using about five different names and sometimes responds to himself in posts. He would really save the PD money, lol. No, I’m not paranoid. It’s just that I’ve seen the same personalities being used on another blog for years. The names change, but the core personalities of each don’t. He is rather famous over at SFGate. Most know him as “V.”

    3. Ghost,

      That’s pretty much what happens now. Grant writes his condescending and obnoxious nonsense, people get mad for a day and then we veer off into other subjects. I’ve stopped responding to it because it’s a waste of time, and as Jack points out, this forum runs just fine with or without Grant’s contributions.

      1. I second that rocket! Is there a reason(s) why the regulars here won’t migrate to another blog where most of the discussion is about football, specifically 49ers football??????

          1. Well, hopefully we can put that theory to test some time early next year. I’m learning how to build a website from both the server and client side because of work. And one of my goal, outside of work, is to build a 49er fan forum/blog where ONLY 49er fans are invited so no TROLLS allowed. I just enjoyed knowledge football fans talk about football, specifically 49ers fans.

      2. Without Grant’s sites you guys can’t post your comments. If you guys keep complaining about, what Grant post, why don’t you guys stopped posting on his board. That’s a better idea, i’m tired hearing some of your whining:-)

        1. RastaBro
          You’re relatively new here. Some of these folks have been here since Matt Maiocco was the host, 4 hosts before Grant. There’s a good bit of history with the Mosh Pit Crew here. If they/we bolt to another site, (a Mutiny On The PD, if you will), it would cost the PD Clicks.
          Clicks = $. Look at the most recent post. There’s some fierce journalistic effort, eh? ‘What do you think?’
          As always in capitalistic society, if a better opportunity presents itself…..

    1. Professional athletes have large amounts of disposible income??? This is news to me. /snark

      From the looks of the spread, Colin (or his stylist) has excellent taste.

  29. Way to go Jack. Now I feel so inadequate with my 1000 sq. ft. 1922 bungalow and ’92 Dodge Dakota. If I didn’t have two Harleys in the garage and some pretty great guitars under the bed, I’d be ready to give up… -L-

    1. Don’t feel that way. He is obvioudly compensating for something he is lacking. Kinda like those guys that drive around those huge monster trucks with the testicles hanging off the trailer hitch. Or those guys with the strange gun obsessions. I feel sorry for him.

      1. The guy just likes fashion…..it’s not like he’s sitting there and bragging about all his money and all the ladies he gets…. he clearly says money isn’t important. He just wants to be different.

        1. Man that guy can’t do nothing right. So what he took some photos(probably during the offseason) and has an article about his material items. I’m sure someone who started with what he had before being adopted is pretty proud of his accomplishments. Dang there are some bitter people here.

  30. When is the last time the refs called a clean game for us? The Seattle game was ref decided. The Dallas game had a huge play called back on the Lloyd P.I. call that didn’t exist.

    Bears game. Bennett push off on TD. Gore TD called back on Boldin’s hold.

    Cards game. I can only really come up with Willis’s sack. This game more than any we lost composure and was more on the coaches and players than refs. Just wondering when was the last time refs called a clean game for us.

    1. OK how about we stop with the ref blaming. Guess the only reasons niners ever lose is because of bad calls

      1. I don’t think Brotha is “blaming the refs”, as much as he’s indicting them with circumstantial video evidence….

  31. I have to disagree with the lynch mob that’s gunning for Grant. I don’t think theres anyone better to incite our ire and get us to work up a fuming lather of angst. He foments dissent and discourse better than anyone. Not sure what sort of psychedelics he aids his writing muse with, but, a dead locust twitching in despair? that is brilliant, Pulitzer worthy stuff there lol. I believe the jokes on his, he trolls us with his articles that invoke our fury by galvanizing us to set aside time in our busy days to actually believe our football opinions matter lol. The very thought of that has my blood boiling!!

    1. I was wondering just exactly how a “dead” locust could be in despair?

      As for Grant, you may be right that he does a good job of inciting our ire and working up a fuming lather of angst. I’m just not sure how well that would look on a resume or in an interview when asked, “What are your qualifications?” Grant’s answer: “Well, I’m really good a ticking people off.”

      Oh, well, it’s his career, I suppose.

      1. What do we care about his sterling resume, or lack thereof. He’s in the business of conjecture and facilitating dialogue. He’s priming the proverbial “cornucopia of a pump” by doling out hyperbolic, sensationalized points of views that summons responses at a breakneck clip. Whether his tact lends credibility to his journalistic resume is irrelevant. He’s not pretending to be Ira miller lol. Besides, who cares? It’s sports! Fun & games

        1. Honestly, I don’t care, lol. I have nothing invested in Grant’s future. And as has been said before, this blog is driven by the commenters, not Grant.

          Oh, by the way, just how many names do you use in addition to this latest?

  32. although I do believe these forums are cathartic and make for cheap therapy that encourages communal integration for all us hindsighted arm chair quarterbacks

  33. Please explain to nouveau riche Colin Sack’nPick;

    Haute Living +
    400 shoes +
    Hublot Swiss luxury watches +
    Snapback hats

    your toys, your style, your money
    will mean absolutely nothing if you are sitting home
    on February first, watching the Super Bowl on TV.

    Expressing yourself. Dressing yourself. Branding yourself.
    There is nothing edgy/urban/fashionable about a loser.

    Until you win the Super Bowl, know this: cool+hip = nada…
    The Eagles are motivated: my money says you drop 3-in-a-row.

    1. Okay but you do realize that even if he doesn’t win a super bowl he still has his toys, his style, and his money. All of which, you don’t have.

      1. Oh right cause only way to make money is to be an NFL player. You have no idea what toys anyone on here has or doesn’t have.

      2. It’s just a wild guess, but I’d be willing to wager, that Mr. No Life here doesn’t have half the money, style, and toys Colin has.

        And it was a bit of a joke. So please don’t take things here too serious.

        1. I got your joke Leo, cuz with Mud nothing can be taken seriously; ever.
          On the other hand, I don’t have half the money, style or toys as Colin does either! Anybody remember the Emelda Marcos kurfuffel way back whenever? Hah!
          It doesn’t matter; if I had too much disposable income I’d probably have a few ‘extra’ cars in my ‘other garage’. And some DRCs, Beaunes and Pommards in my cellar. And I’d supersize my current yacht,…. which is a kayak.

      3. Who cares Leo? The rich man is one who lacks nothing. I lack nothing so I guess I’m rich. I have all the tools for happiness I could want and more.

        And I’ll retire on $3K a month and be perfectly content living up north or in Europe, playing music. That’s diddly squat $$$ but plenty for me. I have enough equity in the old house to pay cash for a modest new one in Languedoc France, or maybe Portugal, hell I don’t know. Maybe grow a little weed if I go back to my old stomping grounds in Mendo, might build a copper pot still just for fun.

        Riding a Harley at 65mph in the Sierra beats driving a friggin’ Jaguar anywhere.

        I don’t need all that artificial yuppie crap. And as for Colin, when he is 50 and his bones are broken and he weighs another 160lbs. he won’t be playing football, he’ll be living on Vicodin in a soulless gated community. I play guitars better than I ever have even at 69. See, I have something he will never have, the ability to do what I did in my youth to this day… now who is rich?

        1. My comment was never about being rich. Monkey’s comments were all Kap’s stuff, style, and expressing his self doesn’t matter without a superbowl, my argument was even if he doesn’t win a SB he still has all that stuff regardless and he’s living his life like he wants to. Basically, not winning a SB is not going to end his life. He’s enjoying his life and will regardless.

          All the focus on money was brought on by sanfranbob.

          I don’t give a crap about being rich. I have God and my family, and that’s all I need.

          Man you guys are so serious today.

  34. I finally got a chance to go back and watch it again and have some thoughts on the second half possessions for the Niners and how some simple mistakes cost them.

    They had done a nice job in the first half of keeping the Cards off balance with the multiple WR sets but ran the ball enough to keep them guessing in some sets. In the second half that strategy went out the window.

    On their first possession, the Niners came out and ran 4 wide on every play except for 3rd down when they went 3 wide. during this possession they ran the ball once and actually called a screen out of 4 wide which was stopped for a 3 yard loss.

    2nd possession, they come out in 21 personnel on first down but throw the ball. 2nd down they go 4 Wide, 2nd down repeated after a penalty, they go to 12 personnel and throw it again. They are then faced with 3rd and 4 and go 3 Wide. The Cards bring a blitz Gore steps up and picks up LB coming up the middle, but Kilgore and Boone take the same guy leaving a clear lane for the Safety Jefferson to come through and hold Kap 2 yards short of first down. One brain cramp by the Oline and the drive is over.

    3rd possession, on first down they go unbalanced to the right, moving Staley over to play TE and line Looney up in the backfied as a FB, 2 WR’s to the right. That pretty much screams student body right and that is what it was. Toss sweep to Ellington for minimal gain as the Cards read it immediately and Kilgore and Iupati couldn’t get over in time to make the blocks needed.

    2nd down is when the Niners decide it’s time to put the game in Kaps hands and it nearly worked. For the rest of the drive they go 5 Wide and move the ball down the field. The Cards can’t stop it and the offense gets to the 6 with goal to go. On the next play Kap finds Lloyd for a short gain but Boldin gives a light head butt after the play is over and is called for a PF. Instead of 2nd and goal from the 3, it’s 1st and goal from the 21.

    At this point I think somebody head butted Roman and Harbaugh as well because the play calling after this play was head scratching to say the least. On first down they go with 5 Wide again which is fine as it was working, and they gain about 5 on a pass to Crabtree. Then the strangeness starts as on 2nd down and goal from the 16, the offense goes 3 Wide and runs a read option that Kap keeps and loses 2 yards on. Then to out do the bizarre call on 2nd down, on 3rd and goal from the 18, the play call is obviously 11 personnel QB sweep to the left. Huh? To make matters worse, Martin gets called for a clip on a play that was legal last year but changed this year partly due to Ian Williams getting his ankle snapped on a similar play last season. After this it’s 3rd down and eternity so they line up 3 Wide with the TE lining up with two WR’s in a bunch formation to the left, the call is a WR screen that nets about 5 yards.

    On the ensuing FG attempt, the right side of the Oline gets completely caved in and the kick is blocked. To add insult to injury, the Cards only had 9 men on the field.

    On the 4th and truly last possession the Niners would have, they started from their 5 after recovering a fumble. They line up 3 Wide and call the second running play to a back(Hyde) of the half for a short gain. 2nd down, 3 Wide again, short pass to Johnson who turns back inside instead of out where he might have had a shot at a first down. No problem however as they come back 3 Wide on the next play and convert on a pass to Crabs.

    Now with a 1st down they line up 5 Wide which makes sense due to the success they had with it on the previous possession. On 1st down however the Cards blitz, flush Kap from the pocket and he throws it away. Apparently this was enough for Roman and Harbaugh to decide they didn’t like 5 Wide anymore because the next two plays they go back to 11 personnel and suffer their only sack of the day when Boone doesn’t pick up the Safety blitz and Kap throws the ball over the head of a wide open Lloyd who had first down yardage if the pass was accurate.

    That was it for the offense as a combination of penalties, 3 on 3rd downs to keep AZ drives alive, and secondary breakdowns, led to 17 unanswered points and a Cardinal victory.

    Two things I come away with are: the offense can move the ball from multiple WR sets and the Coaching staff got too carried away with the passing game in the second half and bailed on the most effective formation of the afternoon which was 5 Wide. This team thrives on balance. They have to run the ball enough to make play action effective and to wear down the front 7 of the opposing defense. I understand the mentality they came in with because it’s hard to run on this team and they were down 2 TE’s, but there needed to be a little bit more balance and if they had done that, I think they would have won even with the penalties and defensive breakdowns.

    Much like last year the offense seems to be experimenting through the first month and it’s cost them two games. Whereas the preseason used to be the time to practice new elements, now it seems to be Sept for the Niners. I liked a lot of what I saw, but as always this team cannot forget what they are at their core and when they do, it usually results in a loss.

    1. Good stuff Rocket.

      Like I’ve said before, I didn’t mind the multiple WR sets. It seemed to be moving the ball rather well, and Kap looked comfortable back there for the most part. But they cannot completely abandon the run. I would rather see a mixture of the two methods. I wonder how we would have looked with Davis in the mix.

      I think eagles game will be close and it’ll come down to penalties as usual.

    2. I work now bc I look forward to the days where I can relax and break down Niners game film.

      Nice Job Rocket. Did either running back run the ball in their 4-WR sets? I feel we have to get good at that especially to become effective running no huddle with that many receivers.

      1. KY,

        Believe it or not I own my own business and still find time to break down 9er games. There’s always time if you look hard enough.

        I concentrated on the second half for this post, and they only ran it three times (non Kap running plays). 1 was out of 4 Wide, one was with 11 personnel and the other was the unbalanced look to the right they tried with Ellington.

        1. It blows my mind that they did hardly ran Hyde out of the spread formation. It’s going to hurt me to say this but they should study the Seahawks offensive game films. They do a good job blending power offense with the spread. We have way more talent than them on the offensive side of the ball.

      2. KY49ER,

        They ran the ball 1 time from a 4-WR set. It was a 3 yard gain from Gore on the second play of the 2nd half.

        It could have been a good one too but Martin gets knocked off balance and he can’t get to the LB who was his man and ended up making the tackle.

    3. rocket,

      Good stuff. One thing, the TV guys messed up on the down and distance after the Boldin PF penalty. It wasn’t 1st and goal from the 21. It was 1st and 10.

      When they ran the sweep with Kaepernick it was actually 3rd and 8. That was a good play call as the 49ers had numbers on the left side. The corner makes a nice tackle by tripping up Kaepernick after being taken to the ground by Gore.

      1. Jack,

        Thanks, I was watching in slo mo which has no sound so I relied on the onscreen graphics for down and distance.

    4. Thanks for the breakdown rocket.

      The drive that was stalled by Boldin’s headbutt and then stomped on by Martin’s penalty was a killer. They needed that to end in points.

      Other than that, I agree they needed to mix in more runs to keep the D honest, though I don’t think it needed to be a lot more runs. A better mix of runs between Kaep and the RBs might have been enough. In the 5 WR sets I would have liked to see Ellington move around more pre-snap, line up in the backfield a few times and shift out, or shift in to RB position before the snap. Use him like a Darren Sproles. Run a WR sweep. Have him running patterns out from a RB position. Would have helped keep the D from teeing off later in the game.

        1. Is there a small possibility that they do have plans on doing all of this but they just do not want to show it all too early?

      1. Scooter,

        I agree. I think more balance benefits this team but I had no problem with the spread passing design they went with. They moved the ball pretty well with the 4 and 5 WR formations. What I’d like to see is more diversity within the drives themselves. Often they just stayed in the same set for multiple plays in a row. I’d love to see them change it up from play to play and force the defense to adjust.

        I liked the hurry up too and thought they should have done more of it. As I mentioned in the breakdown, this seems to be extended preseason for them and they are experimenting.

    5. Rocket, you are truly the MAN. Thank you for your sharing your insight and the excellent play by play analysis. Seriously this was very good

  35. Sorry, but losing BOTH tight ends for an entire game is a good reason to try alternative strategies. It was good to see the 49ers open up with 4 and 5 receiver sets, especially early in the season when the practice can do as little harm to the season as possible.
    The advent of another fact of 49er play will bedevil future opponents who now have to protect against multiple receivers as well as multiple running backs.
    Once the offensive line is back on track, the 49ers will be awesome to behold.

  36. Didn’t you just write last week on how the 49ers can beat the Cardinals and you say verbatim “Bruce Ellington has to carry the ball” . Umm and here you spend the first few paragraphs disparaging the fact that the 49ers ran Bruce Ellington? Yea you might want to read your own articles or are you having an assistant write them for you?

    1. I suggested lining up Ellington in the slot and running jet sweeps while Kaepernick is in the shotgun faking inside handoffs to Gore. Or Kaepernick could have faked the handoff to Ellington on the jet sweep and handed to Gore up the middle. Deception is the key.

  37. Grant,

    The Oline sucks, badly

    But they are nowhere near your level of sucking

    under the heading of any press is good press:
    Are you paid by the responses? – you are good at fueling those

    go to journalism school
    take some writing classes
    seek out some mentors
    and please, please do not pretend you know anything about coaching
    you are jimmy singeltary at best

    yes, the dline sucks too at the moment
    coach your way out of having no dline or oline

  38. It would really be a blast if Harbs just came off the podium very next gathering a kicking wittle Grant’s azz all over the room. So easy to be a tough guy behind a keyboard..

  39. Let’s see…no Vernon Davis, no Vance McDonald. What would you do, Grant, in that situation? It should surprise no one Harbaugh and Roman would feature the passing game…with the deepest WR corps in a long time, why shouldn’t they be a more prominent part of the offense. You’ve been one of the biggest critics WRT lack of adjustments by the Niner coaching staff…so they adjusted to the situation they were in…both #1 and 2 TE’s out. In case you haven’t noticed, Niner TE’s are a big part of the running game. Get a grip, Grant.

  40. Um, the Niners right side of the o-line with Boone and Martin have failed in both pass and especially run blocking. Plus, their shift in “identity” had some very, very good success and has promise. We saw what three straight runs in the RZ gets the team, right? Ridicule for running the ball.

    Harbaugh can’t win. Next, Harbaugh’s eating nachos will be the demise of the team as he moves away from his oatmeal.

    My goodness!

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