After two heartbreaking losses with numerous penalties, the defense bounced back and played a penalty free game, shutting out a highly productive Eagles offense. What was the difference? According to Perrish Cox, it was communication. Practice this week was loud and fast in preparation for the fast tempo Chip Kelly offense, but it was more than just that. The fast pace put pressure on the defense to not only get to the line faster but to communicate faster as well. The only two calls they got, in fact, were the two plays during the goal line stance in the fourth quarter. No one would divulge what those calls were. Vic Fangio, Patrick Willis and Cox were all asked about it but they all kept mum about the two plays that helped the 49ers finally get their first win at Levi's Stadium.
Why was this week different for the defense?
"We got tired of not finishing. We've been criticized these past two weeks for not finishing. Our whole goal was to go out there and finish. We knew what type of offense we were going to be facing, top one or two offense in the league, so all week long we gave it our all. It came out good for us."
How was practice different this week?
"It was totally different this week, totally different. I think coach put a little extra on it as far as taking us deep and by the time that play was over with, they had another set of receivers so we'd have to run back and they'd take us deep again. It was more about the pace that we had. I think it was actually good. I kinda think we need to do that every week."
So the pressure to communicate quickly was higher?
"Yes, we had to work without a huddle. We normally huddle and get the call from our LB, but against this offense there was no huddle. I think it worked better for us. I think we need to do that more often."
How has the game changed for you this season? Has the game slowed down at all?
"No, It's the same game, the only thing that's changed is that I'm on the field. Coach always talks to me about staying ready because you'll never know when that time will come. I just want to make the best of it when I do get a chance."
Did you see Antoine Bethea coming towards you on you on the deep interception?
"I did, at the last minute when I was about to go up. Toine's been on me, since when we collided, I think it was against the Bears, and I got tired of my teammates messing with me. But I saw him at the last minute, I saw him coming down really hard and he had a good angle on the ball. We'll share this one as a team."
Regarding the guys who can't be on the field:
"Bowman, Brock, they come to every meeting, we still work out together, they are on the sidelines and in the locker room. They tell us what they see to help us for the next play. They are great motivation on the sidelines."
On bouncing back from tough losses:
"It's kinda like playing corner. When you play corner you're not going to make every play. You can try to make every play but once you don't make that play you have to forget about it and move on to the next. That's how I feel we did it today."
(Charles Barkley's "Short Memory" commercial comes to mind).
On finally getting that first win at Levi's:
"This is a big one. You know when you bounce back from a two game losing streak where basically we gave them up, it's kinda tough so yeah, we are going to celebrate this one. This was a tough week and a great win."
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
For the third week in a row the 49ers played heavily penalized football. The stats are startling.
vs. Cowboys 11 penalties for 78 yards
vs. Bears 16 for 118 yards
vs. Cardinals 9 for 107 yards
Luckily in week one, the offense was able to out-play the penalties, and/or the Dallas defense was that bad. Losses in the last two weeks, however, are already trying the nerves of the players and coaches and the resulting tension is boiling over on the field.
At the risk of sounding cliche, I do believe that players need to play at a level where bad calls cannot determine the results of the game. Unfortunately, it's becoming nearly impossible to do that. Although I believe that some of the calls have been legitimate, many have been superfluous and unnecessary and the flow of the game is being interrupted.
Leaning on the side of safety, there have been more calls for late hits and targeting, which is understandable, but under review, even Mike Pereira has admitted to some blown calls. The problem with this is that the path of the game is being altered without the chance for a review or correction. If the NFL is so determined to get it right and keep players safe, why not get it completely right and make those calls reviewable?
Deep in the 3rd quarter, Patrick Willis came up the middle as the pocket was closing on Drew Stanton, he put his head to the side of Stanton's chest as he wrapped his arms around him and took to the ground, clean tackle. Flags were thrown for roughing the passer, resulting in a first down.
After the game Willis said that the team needed to watch film and see where they can do better. He also included, "I never go out there with any bad intent. I'm just going to play football the way I know how. I'm just going to go out there and be physical and tough."
For the second week in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles did the improbable and came back from a double digit deficit to remain one of seven undefeated teams in the league. Tonight's win was due in part to one of this season's additions to the Eagles, 10 year veteran RB Darren Sproles.
At the half, the Eagles were trailing 17-6. Three trips into the red zone had only produced 6 points after a missed field goal attempt. This was nearly a duplicate of week one, where the Eagles were behind 17-0 at the half to an underdog Jacksonville team. At least this week there were points on the scoreboard.
It wasn't the 34 unanswered second half points of week one, but the Eagles came out of the locker room reenergized and outscored the Colts 24-10, giving them the W after a last second field goal from rookie K Cody Parkey.
The real star of the night was 31 year old Darren Sproles with 7 receptions for a whopping 152 yards, including a 57 yard run that sealed the Eagles victory.
When I had the chance to chat with Sproles during the offseason he couldn't contain his excitement for Chip Kelly's formations and schemes. It seems the love affair is mutual as Kelly spoke about Sproles after the game with Lisa Salters:
"I've been excited about having Darren since the time we got a chance to trade for him. He's just a special player and when you get him matched up in certain situations, he came through, he came up huge for us tonight."
It had all of the trappings of a fabulous opener in the newly minted Levi's Stadium; celebrity attendees, fantastic weather and a full house, but it was not meant to be.
It was a tale that could have had a happy ending, if only the game could have ended after the 3rd quarter, despite a multitude of penalties and mistakes. At the start of the fourth quarter the 49ers led by 13 points, but it's how you finish, and that's exactly what the Bears did. Three possessions in the final quarter that all led to touchdowns, and a spoiled opener.
It was a very undisciplined game that included 16 penalties for 118 yards, and four turnovers for the 49ers. The Bears were slightly better with 10 penalties for 58 yards. The glaring difference? Turnovers. Chicago didn't commit any. After the game Harbaugh, Kaepernick and Willis all spoke of the team loss and team responsibility. "We all had fingerprints on it." was the phrase used by both Harbaugh and Willis.
Boldin and Gore both expressed feelings that the team didn't finish.
"When you have a team team down you definitely have to put your foot on their throat because nobody is going to quit in this league." - Anquan Boldin.
"We started fast but we laid off, as a team. I just think we have to finish." - Frank Gore
49ers have a week to work on cleaning things up, they travel to Arizona on Sunday to face the 2-0 Cardinals.
Less than 90 minutes before the Carolina Panthers kicked off, DE Greg Hardy was deactivated. The day before the Minnesota Vikings game, Adrian Peterson was deactivated. Earlier in the Week, Ray Rice was released from the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely.
Ray McDonald, similar to those three was arrested, but unlike those three was not charged for domestic violence or for Peterson child abuse. Due to this difference, say 49ers personnel, McDonald will play for the 49ers in their home opener at Levi's Stadium.
49ers personnel have been consistent in standing behind the fact that McDonald has not been convicted like Hardy. Hardy has filed an appeal and a jury trial scheduled for November will most likely be pushed back to 2015 due to a back log in the state legal system. Panthers brass had previously been "waiting for the legal process to conclude." Public pressure, it seems, has forced them to act.
The smart thing for the 49ers to do, in light of recent events in the NFL, would be to deactivate McDonald until his legal issues have been resolved. In doing so, McDonald would still be paid his salary, and the potential for the 49ers having to do damage control would be reduced. Hopefully the information that the 49ers gathered from McDonald and other players in attendance the night of his arrest is validated by him ultimately being found innocent. Until then, some of us will have uneasy feelings in our guts that he will remain on the field.
The primary concern regarding Colin Kaepernick in the 2013 season was his ability to work through his progressions. Slow motion film showed his eyes dropping down at the pocket closing in on him and not seeing open receivers other than his first option, check down or otherwise. Kaepernick has been working relentlessly in the offseason, and at least for week one, the work shows. Greg Cosell of NFL films, was on his weekly guest spot on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, and this was his play of the week.
"Colin Kaepernick's 37 yard completion to Anquan Boldin, I believe it was on the first series. I really loved this play because one of the things that we've talked about a lot with Kaepernick is he doesn't really have great pocket command, that when he feels pressure he essentially leaves the pocket and makes himself a runner, which becomes a random play, eventhough maybe he has more raw physical talent than any guy in the league, his athleticism.
This 37 yarder is terrific to me because he drops back off of play action, so he turns his back, and that's the first thing you have to notice, he turns his back and as soon as he turns around, the first thing he sees is a white jersey right in his line of sight, so he moves to his left right into other pressure from an OLB on a blitz, so instead of just fleeing the pocket, which very often he's done, he steps up, sees Anquan Boldin on a deeper route, this is not a check down, sets his feet, and delivers an incredible strike that not many quarterbacks can make and as soon as he delivers the ball, he takes a wicked hit. This, to me, is quarterbacking. This is using the pocket, navigating the pocket to find a quieter space to throw, stepping into your throw, planting, knowing you're going to get hit. This, to me, is what NFL quarterbacking is."
Not only did the 49ers go into Dallas and get a very important first win of 2014, they celebrated a milestone for one of the veterans of the offense, Frank Gore. Gore only needed 33 yards to reach the 10,000 yard milestone and finished the day with 16 carries for 66 yards and became the 29th RB to hit the impressive landmark. At some point during the game Gore approached CSN reporter Mindi Bach and they had this exchange:
"Tough a** yards" is definitely correct, and Gore has had his challenges. After being named Big East Freshman Of The Year by Sporting News when attending the University of Miami, he tore his left ACL during spring practice. After rehabbing, he tore his right ACL the next season. He was known as one of the Three Amigos, a RB trio that included Gore, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee, both of which who were drafted much higher than him albeit in different years. Portis was a 2nd round pick in 2002 and McGahee was a 1st round pick in 2003.
Gore was drafted in the 3rd round as the 65th overall pick by the 49ers surrounded by skepticism that his injuries would hold him back in the NFL. It was that criticism that drove him to work harder. In the post game presser he actually said, "I wanted to prove everybody wrong." The always humble Gore also took the time to say, "It's a blessing. Thanks to the organization and thanks to the O Line. It's special."
Gore who is 31, has had a new role this past off season: as mentor to rookie RB Carlos Hyde who is likely to transition as the feature back. They have a similar downhill running style. Hyde who had his first NFL touchdown vs. Dallas, was met by a jubilant Gore on the sidelines. Don't retire Gore just yet though, he's as powerful as ever between the tackles.