Thursday, September 27, 2012

Week 4: 49ers vs Jets Preview

By Kalen Patrick

One of the better games this week will be taking place in East Rutherford, NJ when the 49ers (2-1) take on the Jets (2-1). The 49ers are coming off a bad loss to the Vikings, while the Jets won a dramatic game over the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. The 49ers are looking to bounce back from their loss, while the Jets are anxious to show they can win without their star CB Darrelle Revis. This being the SF Sports Cave I will being focusing on what the 49ers can and need to do in order to leave week 4 with a Win and head back to SF with a 3-1 record.

I think the biggest thing the 49ers will need to improve upon is their Pass Rush. Last week against the Vikings the 49ers ran what seemed to me, to be a very basic defense. I rarely saw any Safety or CB blitzes, I felt that the ILB's Willis and Bowman were blitzed sparingly. It is not a matter of just blitzing extra players, it's more keeping the opposing offense off balance and not knowing what to expect. Blitz Dashon Goldson and make Aldon Smith drop back in coverage for example. Just mix it up is what I'm saying. Mark Sanchez has shown that he will force some throws when under pressure. The 49ers have to make sure to get to him early and rattle him and shake his confidence.

The 49ers were able to get some late, almost meaningless turnovers against the Vikings last week, but this week, they need to be able to turn the ball over early and get a lead. We know that the 49ers will be able to stop the run and I really don't see many threats in the Jets backfield that will beat the 49ers defense. It's a matter of getting a good, consistent pass rush. What I'm trying to say is that I want to see the 49ers defense that rattled Drew Brees and Eli Manning and not the one that let Christian Ponder pass and run all over them.

On offense, I think the 49ers really have to stick to what they do best, run the ball with Frank Gore and then hit the Jets on short/intermediate passes and occasionally take a shot down the field. I wanna see much more of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter this week, get Brandon Jacobs in there too to get some tough yards. If I were the 49ers I would go with mostly Gore in the 1st quarter. Then hit the Jets with Hunter and Jacobs in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, when the defense is weak and been pushed around all day, go with Gore again and get those big chunks of yards.
I really love how well Crabtree is doing this year, I would just like to see the 49ers take some shots down the field to Moss and Ginn Jr so they can make the defense respect the deep pass, which will naturally open up Crabtree, Manningham and Vernon up on the intermediate routes. Also as I mentioned earlier Darrelle Revis is OUT so you have to take advantage of that and put the pressure on the Jets defense. Especially at home, there is no way the Jets are going to be an easy game and this could very well become a slugfest.

If I had to guess I would say the 49ers do win, but it will be a very close game. Something along the lines of 27-24. I just can't imagine any scenario where Jim Harbaugh will allow his players to play and coaches to coach like they did against Minnesota last week. Let's see if the 49ers can get back on track this Sunday.

Over and Out.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 3 Recap of 49ers vs Vikings

By Kalen Patrick

The San Francisco 49ers suffer their 1st loss of the season to the Minnesota Vikings today by the score of 24-13. One of the things I heard throughout this game was that the Vikings were beating the 49ers by playing the 49ers style of football. This is something I could not agree more with. Besides for the Kyle Williams return, the Vikings soundly beat the 49ers in all 3 phases of the game. In my opinion this was the worst overall game the 49ers have played under Jim Harbaugh. The key to the Vikings win was their 3 touchdown drives, each of which went for 80+ yards on the highly regarded 49ers defense. I do want to give the entire Minnesota Vikings team props for their sound beating of the 49ers. There is no doubt they deserved to win the game.

Lets now discuss some of the reasons why I feel the 49ers were beaten badly today.

  1. ZERO Pass Rush - It seemed that for the vast majority of the game the 49ers simply rushed their front  four (Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald) and they rarely got near Ponder. There was little to no variety in the blitzes, very rarely did I see guys like Aldon Smith drop into coverage and see blitzing LB's or Safeties. I don't know if Fangio just put too much faith in his front four to get pressure or what, but what I do know is that he was definitely out-coached by Vikings OC Bill Musgrave. I would love to see some major changes in the blitz packages in the coming game against the Jets.
  2. Lack of Frank Gore - The Vikings opened up the game with an exhausting drive, then it seemed like the 49ers reacted (panicked?) and they went Pass, Pass, Pass. Almost immediately the 49ers went away from what they do best, which is run the football, and then hit on short/intermediate passes off the play action. Frank Gore had only 6 rushes in the entire 1st half. This is simply unacceptable. The 49ers made themselves 1-dimensional (which is usually what the 49ers FORCE other teams to do). For most of the game the 49ers just didn't run the ball and the Vikings were able to tee off on the pass. 
  4. Defense couldn't make THE stop - At halftime the score was 17-3, then quickly the 49ers made the score 17-13, Kyle Williams return set up a David Akers FG, then Minnesota had a 3 and out, followed by a 49ers TD drive. ALL the momentum was with the 49ers. Then what happened? Oh just an 80 yard TD drive that ended with a one handed catch by Kyle Rudolph in the endzone. Not only is it terrible to give up the TD, but a LONG drawn out time consuming drive is just a killer. Suddenly it's back to a 2 score game and it's around the 4th quarter. That was the stop the defense needed to make, not even a 3 and out, just a stop. Of course, the reason why they couldn't stop the Vikings was largely due to point #1, in addition to the defense never being able to stop the short dump off passes to Percy Harvin and others. The following 49ers drive resulted in a Frank Gore fumble, the defense kept them in the game after that, but the entire 4th quarter was filled with harmless turnover prone offense.
Ultimately it was a really poor and sloppy performance by the 49ers and I really want to chalk this one up as one of those games that every good team has at some point during the season. Me trying to be as optimistic as possible, I will look at this as a "kick in the ass" game and maybe get the players working extra hard and not taking any game or play for granted.

Week 4 against the Jets is going to be a slugfest. Neither team is really capable of putting up huge offensive numbers and the defenses will most likely control the game. I'd like to see the 49ers become much more creative with their defense, and on the offensive side, maybe take more chances down the field. I'm not saying abandon what we have been doing, but you have to adapt in the NFL or else other teams will catch up. One thing I do know is that Jim Harbaugh is gonna make sure the 49ers are better prepared for next weeks game. I expect to see quite a few new wrinkles to the offense in particular.

Over and Out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Recap of 49ers vs Lions

By Kalen Patrick

In a very convincing manner, the 49ers beat the Detroit Lions 27-19. If you had read my Preview for the game I had predicted a 27-17 victory for the Niners so I would say I wasn't too far off. Similar to the Packers game, I feel the score was a lot closer than the actual game. Stafford lead a late desperate TD drive to bring the score a whole lot closer. Literally from start to finish I feel the 49ers were comfortably in control. Alex Smith finished off the opening drive with a great over the shoulder pass to Vernon Davis for a Touchdown. That opening drive was incredibly impressive. The teams went back and forth, the Lions made the score 7-6 after Kendall Hunter fumbled the return after the Lions first Field Goal.

Not long after, 49ers RB Frank Gore burst in for a 1 yard TD run, a drive that started with a Dashon Goldson INT, followed by 2 key penalties against the Lions (running in to the kicker, and then Defensive PI in the endzone). The score was 14-6 and from then on out the Lions never really got any closer. The 49ers closed it out in the 4th quarter when Alex Smith connected with Vernon Davis again, this time, Vernon made some nice moves to get in the end zone.

Some of the key things I want to mention is that Alex Smith was incredibly impressive yet again. For the 2nd straight game he threw for 2 TD's without an interception. He was 20-31, and if you look at the tape of his 11 incomplete passes, I remember 5 of them being very poor drops by the receivers and another 2 being "catchable" balls. For example, when Alex Smith passes to Vernon deep and he couldn't hold on. Despite all of this, after week 2, Alex Smith has the #2 QB Rating in the NFL and is showing yet again, hit ability to not turn the ball over, but is making more plays with the improved weapons he has.
The 49ers did an excellent job at exploiting weaknesses in the Detroit defense and they were able to run the ball with relative ease. It seemed like every time Gore got the ball he got big chunks of yards (5.2 YPC) and Hunter although seeing limited action did a good job too (4.6 YPC), the 49ers gashed the Lions in the run game and out gained them 148 - 82 yards. Obviously Vernon Davis had a great game, and for the 2nd week in a row, Michael Crabtree made his presence felt. He was key down the stretch picking up multiple 1st downs and keeping the ball out of Matt Staffords hands.

Overall the defense yet again had another very good game, you know your run defense is amazing when you feel the Lions ran well, and then you look at their stats and they averaged only 3.2 YPC. In pass defense the 49ers played a lot of Cover 2, and I have to credit the Secondary for doing a great job, especially Dashon Goldson who seemed to be every where. Not only did he pick off Stafford but he did an excellent job in run support, covering a lot of ground and making some big stops for the defense.

The Lions O-Line did a great job in stifling the pass rush, Stafford seemingly had a lot of time to throw back there. The nickel front four (Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald) really didn't have their best game. And even then, Aldon Smith had 2 sacks and essentially made the Lions pass game look average at best. This defense is legit and it's going to be hard for any team to score on them consistently.

Anyways, another very convincing victory for the 49ers, and rightfully sit atop my updated Power Rankings which can be viewed on the side bar. Check back for a preview of the Week 3 match up when the 49ers take on the Vikings in Minnesota.

Over and Out.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Week 2: 49ers vs Lions Preview

By Kalen Patrick

Two years ago this would have been one of the least anticipated games of the week, fast forward to 2012 and this is now a marquee match-up as we get week 2 in to full swing. Both teams are coming off wins from Week 1, the Detroit Lions escaped their home opener with a sloppy win against the lowly Rams, while the 49ers entered Lambeau Field and dominated the Green Bay Packers. There are going to be some very intriguing match ups in this game, with the abundance of talented football players on both teams. Here are some key battles that will be taking place:

49ers Offensive Line vs Lions Defensive Line
The latest injury report for the game has the Detroit Lions likely to be missing 3 of their 4 starters in the secondary. Safety Louis Delmas and CB Chris Houston are Doubtful, while CB Bill Bentley has been ruled out. We saw what Alex Smith was able to do against a more talented secondary in Green Bay (20-26 211 Yards 2 TD and 0 INT, 125.6 QB Rating), if he (Smith) gets ample time in the pocket, the 49ers now have the talent at WR to really exploit the Lions weak secondary. Smith is looking extremely comfortable in the 49ers offense now, even getting sacked 4 times last Sunday he never looked out of rhythm. Alex Smith is playing at a level we have never seen from him, he has (including playoffs) attempted 241 consecutive passes without an Interception.
The Lions D-Line has a very tough challenge ahead of themselves, they can't count on their coverage to bail them out on passing plays, they will also have the unenviable task of trying to shut down the 49ers run game. They should expect Frank Gore early in the game, then a lot of Kendall Hunter in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, and just as they are getting worn down, I'd expect the 49ers to use a heavy dose of Gore again to pick up good consistent chunks of yards in the 4th quarter.

Suh, Fairley and Corey Williams will have be at the top of their game to allow edge rushers Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch wreak havoc on the outside. Even if they do pressure Smith a lot, he has shown the ability to take the sack rather than force a throw into coverage. Jim Harbaugh has no problems with this and trusts his defense to win him the game. The Lions D-Line will need to have an A+ type game for 60 minutes.

Matthew Stafford vs 49ers Pass Rush
In Week 1 vs the Rams Stafford threw 3 INT's in the game and the Lions still won. If he does that against the 49ers, I give the Lions 0.01% a chance of victory, and that is only because anything is possible in Football. The 49ers run defense is so good and the Lions have a serious lack of talent at RB, that this game is going to be on the shoulders of Matt Stafford. However, the 49ers Pass Rush has been relentless since Vic Fangio became the Defensive Co-ordinator, and you can bet guys like Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are licking their chops at all the long developing passing plays the Lions incorporate into their offense.

Stafford is going to be making throws with pressure in his face, and if they Lions want to have any chance at winning, they better hope those passes end up in the hands of guys like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Nate Burleson. Ultimately, we all know that Calvin Johnson is going to get his catches and yards, and maybe even a TD or two, but the game will come down to the "other" guys making plays for the Lions. Along with the Lions D-Line having the game of their lives.

I think that with the game being in San Francisco, on a most likely cold and windy Sunday Night at Candlestick, I like the 49ers chances of coming away with a victory. I hate guessing scores, but if I had to I would say the 49ers win 27-17. The 49ers are just too complete of a team, too talented and playing at such a high level, that it will be incredibly difficult for ANY team to win in San Francisco on a night game. We all remember what the 49ers did to the Steelers on Monday Night Football last year. That's it for now, check back Monday or Tuesday for an in-depth recap of the game.

Over and Out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

San Francisco Giants Race to the Playoffs

By Kalen Patrick

We are entering the final stretch run leading up to the 2012 Playoffs and just as expected there is a close race between the rival San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. As of today, the Giants hold a major advantage, as they own a 5 game lead over the Dodgers with each team having 20 games left to play. I'm a big Giants fan and the last thing I would ever want to do is jinx my team but I find it very hard to imagine a scenario where the Giants don't win the division. Lets take a look at some of the reasons why.

If the Giants play .500 ball and go 10-10,the Dodgers would have to go 16-4 over their final 21 games in order to just draw even. Now don't get me wrong, crazier things have happened (just ask the New York Mets), but the Dodgers (even with all of their additions) have showed me almost nothing to prove they can play at the level they will need to. Adrian Gonzalez really hasn't been the force in the lineup that the Dodgers had expected, Matt Kemp is battling injuries, Eithier, Victorino and Ellis have not been difference makers. The Dodgers Ace Clayton Kershaw is an absolute beast, but after him, they have to send out pitchers who have been overachieving all season (Capuano and Harang) along with Josh Beckett and Joe Blanton. Just looking at the roster, I don't see a team that can go 16-4 when you factor in the teams the Dodgers will be facing.
The Dodgers remaining schedule is significantly more difficult than the Giants. The Dodgers have a 4 game series vs the St. Louis Cardinals, then go on the road to take on the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds, who own the NL's best and 2nd best records respectively. The rest of the Dodgers games are within the NL West. In comparison, the rest of the Giants schedule is against NL West opponents.

The Giants are going to need some major improvements from certain players if they want to not only wrap up the NL West but make some noise in the playoffs too. The Starting Pitching must improve significantly, Vogelsong has been getting shelled lately, Zito is someone you can't count on for a strong performance, Lincecum has rebounded to have a very steady 2nd half of the season. Most importantly both Bumgarner and Cain have to be better, even in tonight's game for example, Bumgarner's line was 4.1 Innings with 5 ER allowed. Not good enough. Secretly the Giants offense has been carrying the load due to the struggling pitching staff.

On offense, surprisingly its been Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence who have been struggling. Sandoval's season average has plummeted to .276, while Pence is hitting a measly .260. Pence, as of late, has at least shown some power but Sandoval has been a disaster since coming back from injury in Mid-August. He has only 2 extra base hits, no HR's (last HR on July 8th) Batting around .230, Slugging .275, On Base % around .295 in that time. These are garbage numbers for your supposed number 3 hitter. Can't consistently win when your 3 and 5 hitters are not performing up to expectations.

On a positive note, Posey has been playing at an MVP caliber, Pagan and Scutaro are making Brian Sabean look really good, Joaquin Arias and Brandon Crawford get timely hits and last but not least Belt has been very good, in his last 10 games he has 2 HR and 12 RBI, all season has been seeing the ball well with his ability to draw walks leading to a .361 OBP.

If I had to bet, I would put my money on the Giants making the Post Season, I could see them winning the 1st round of the playoffs, but I just can't see the Giants winning the NLCS on top of that. Giants would most likely have to beat the Reds and then the Nationals to get to the World Series and unfortunately I don't see that happening, but then again, once you get in to the playoffs, ANYTHING can happen. That's it.

Over and Out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

49ers vs Packers Week 1 Recap

By Kalen Patrick

The San Francisco 49ers left Lambeau Field with a BIG 30-22 win to open up the 2012 Season. In my opinion, this was the most impressive win of Jim Harbaugh's tenure as the 49ers Head Coach. To go in to Green Bay and beat Aaron Rodgers is one of the most, (if not the most) difficult thing to do in the NFL today. The 49ers beat the Packers from start to finish on both sides of the ball. Lets take a closer look at the game.

To me the game ball should go to 49ers Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. The whole game the 49ers were able to find great mismatches and called the right plays at the right time. Of course, so much credit needs to go to the players who pulled off the plays with excellent execution and precision. The plays that stood out to me were:

  1. Randy Moss' Touchdown Reception. Green Bay was weak defending the middle of the field, and especially more so when Desmond Bishop went down with injury. The 49ers motioned Delanie Walker right before the snap, confusing the coverage down the middle and left Randy Moss wide open for an easy TD Reception. 
  2. 4:40 left in 2nd quarter, Alex Smith pass to Mario Manningham for 11 yard completion for 1st down. The 49ers motioned Bruce Miller out to the far right leaving Manningham in the slot. This motion caused Green Bay to put a CB on Bruce Miller, leaving a slow LB on Manningham, which resulted in an easy 1st down completion. 
  3. 18 seconds left in the 1st half, bring in Kaepernick for a design run play. In a potentially pivotal moment of the game, the 49ers go with Colin Kaepernick, catches the defense off guard and picks up 17 yards and puts the 49ers in position to score at the end of the 1st half.
These are just some examples of how the 49ers exploited the Green Bay defense. Alex Smith finished the game with a 125.6 QB rating, going 20/26 and throwing for 211 yards with 2 TD's 0 INT's. Smith looked comfortable throughout the entire game despite taking 4 sacks. The 49ers also gashed the Packers for 186 rushing yards with 5.8 YPC. Gore did the most damage getting 112 yards on 16 carries with a TD, and seemingly always picking up big chunks of yards each and every time he had the ball. In summary, Greg Roman and the 49ers offense made Dom Capers Green Bay defense look pretty bad.

The 49ers defense did a great job on Aaron Rodgers all day long and only gave up 14 points to the Green Bay offense (Packers scored a TD on a punt return, obviously the defense isn't at fault for that). The 49ers shut down the Packers run game from the get go. The only real rushing yards the Packers got was when Rodgers had to scramble. NaVorro Bowman picked off Aaron Rodgers once and the defense had 3 sacks on Rodgers which is very difficult considering his ability to release the ball so quickly. I have to give 2 specific players shout outs:

  1. NaVorro Bowman - Not only did Bowman pick off Rodgers at an extremely pivotal moment of the game, but he was also EVERYWHERE on the field. Bowman lead the 49ers with 11 tackles and had 2 more defended passes. He was sensational the entire game and in my opinion has emerged as the best Linebacker for the 49ers. Yes, you read that right. 
  2. Tarrell Brown - Brown has turned in to a shut down corner, and never was this more evident than when Brown denied James Jones on a deep pass from Aaron Rodgers that would have put the Packers within the 49ers 5 yard line. In man to man coverage Brown was lock down all game long, the only times I saw him get "beat" were in zone coverage when the 49ers were only rushing 3. Chris Culliver and the rest of the 49ers secondary deserve an honorable mention too.
The 49ers did what many football experts considered the impossible and took a game from Green Bay at Lambeau Field. This was a complete win in all 3 phases of the game (really harsh take up the flag when Anthony Dixon got clearly blocked from behind on the return that lead to a Packers TD). On to week 2 where the 49ers face another big challenge when they host Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football. Go Niners!

Next on the SF Sports Cave: 49ers vs Lions Preview. Buster Posey and the San Francisco Giants race to the playoffs.

Over and Out

Sunday, September 2, 2012

49ers - Ready or Not (Offense Edition)

By Kalen Patrick

Exactly 1 week from right now the 49ers season will officially be underway, being an avid 49er fan I'd love nothing more than coming away from Green Bay with a 'W'. It's gonna be a great well fought game no doubt about it and despite it being week 1 I expect a very well played game (assuming the replacement refs don't stop that from happening.) The 49ers have their 53 man roster in the books so let's take a look at some of the players who are Ready and some who are Not.

Ready - Alex Smith QB - You know that the 49ers starting QB is more than ready to go when he doesn't need much playing time in preseason to look in regular season form. Of course Alex Smith is heavily scrutinized being a former #1 Overall Pick, but just let these numbers sink in and you will know Alex Smith is ready: From the 2009-2011 seasons (40 starts including playoffs) Alex Smith has 54 TD's to only 17 INT's. Alex Smith has NOT thrown an Interception in his last 7 starts and he has a total of 215 pass attempts in those games. He has never been more ready for a season in his life. And I haven't even mentioned all the weapons the 49ers have added this offseason (oh wait.....)
Not - Colin Kaepernick QB - I really loved the job Kaepernick did in the preseason this year and it is obvious that he is progressing and developing as an NFL QB. I still believe that Kaepernick will not be launching his attack on Alex Smith for 49ers starting QB until next year. The excellent job Colin did in the preseason bodes well for the 49ers moving forward knowing they have a good QB developing well. He has all the tools to be an excellent QB going forward, big arm, mobility and accuracy but he will need to develop further in his ability to read complex defenses, know when to use his mobility as an asset rather than liability. He is getting there, and the future looks bright for Mr. Kaepernick.

Ready - Michael Crabtree WR - This is the first time in his NFL Career that Michael Crabtree will have been able to work out extensively. Of course we all remember his rookie season holdout and last season's NFL lockout. Add in that in all his years in the NFL he has had foot issues that have kept him out of Training Camps and preseason games. Every year Crabtree has progressed in both catches and yards, 48-625 in 2009, 55-741 in 2010 and 72-874 last year. I think 2012 could be the year when Michael finally eclipses 1000 yards and I'd like to see him haul in at least 7 TD's. The situation and offense is perfect for a receiver with Crabtree's skill set and experience.
Not - AJ Jenkins WR - While I believe that Jenkins won't have much of an impact in his rookie year, don't take that as a knock against him or against Baalke for drafting him in the 1st round. This season in the first in many that the 49ers have good-great depth at WR. Jenkins was drafted more to be a big contributor in a year or two down the line. He is definitely a raw player, will need a year of seasoning to be able to get the offense down, to be able to read defensive schemes to adjust routes accordingly and of course his route running abilities can be improved upon. I can see he and Crabtree being the 49ers 1 and 2 receivers going forward for a long time.

That was the Offense Edition for my 'Ready or Not' Column in part of my 49ers preview for the 2012 NFL Season. Check back for my Defense Edition of 'Ready or Not'.

Over and Out.