Eric Heitmann serves as the starting center of the 49ers offensive line, and after a few week hiatus, he's back with his Center Piece column. Heitmann talks a little bit about the New York game, the trip back, and the next 10 games.
On Saturday in New York, we took the hotel van over from Jersey to Manhattan and had the driver drop us off in Times Square. I've been to New York a few times since my brother lives in the Upper West Side so Times Square wasn't a new experience for me but Justin Smiley and Joe Staley really appreciated seeing it for the first time. We ate at a New York deli restaurant called Roxy, and it was just a quick afternoon outing.
Obviously you all saw the Giants game, and it did not go as we had hoped it would, but in watching the film from the game there were some positive things that can be taken from the game. I'm not going to shy away from the fact that there were many negatives – the penalties, the turnovers, and too many critical mistakes on our 3rd down execution.
However, there was progress in the running game and I also believe there were more big plays made in the game. What we have to do moving forward is eliminate the mistakes that we are in control of and just continue to progress in the running game.
Going into the game we wanted to be more aggressive in the passing game. One of the things we did to compliment our passing game was to use a nickel package in our run game too with a single-man formation. Since you are in a formation that looks like a passing formation, when you actually run the ball, the defense is usually not as aware of what you are doing so it can soften things up in both the run and the pass. We did still do some of the two back formations as well, so that should help keep our opponents guessing over the next few weeks.
Going forward it's obvious that as an offensive line we've got to give the quarterbacks the time they need in protection to allow the playmakers to make plays. I feel like I've been saying this every week, but it's a matter of detail and doing all of the little things to make sure you are on point and prepared for the game. We have to do all of those things without pressing. I think when you are pressing too much; you have the tendency to make mental mistakes. It's something we'll continue to prepare for in the coming weeks.
When you play an east coast team you are always prepared for a long flight there and back, especially on the way home because you have the winds working against you. But when the length of time is increased due to air traffic or weather, it can become even more frustrating. After flying for so many years, you can't really be surprised by any type of delay. It's hard on your body because you are sitting in your seat for six hours or so with your seatbelt fastened, and so you do stiffen up quite a bit. When that seatbelt light goes off, most guys on the plane will pace up and down the aisles to loosen up.
I've sat in the same seat for the last six years - 38B, which is on the right side of the airplane. I've had people change around me, but I've never moved since joining the team. I use the empty seat next to me for my PSP and portable DVD player. Smiley sits in front of me, Kwame sits behind me. Justin is allowed to put his seat back if he sits in front of my PSP seat, because the PSP doesn't mind sharing with Justin. Kwame sits directly behind me and he has informed me that I'm not allowed to put my seat back, but sometimes I do put it back anyways, although I make sure he's asleep already.
So it felt good to finally get home, around 11 that night. On Monday's we come in around 10 or 11 in the morning so I think most guys try to get as much sleep as they can. I know I try to squeeze in 8 or 9 hours before I come in to watch film and get a workout in and get any treatments that I might need.
Tuesday is your catch up day, so whatever chores and errands you might have you kind of put off to do on Tuesday. It's also an extra day to come in and work out and watch film on your next opponent. I came in and watched the Saints play the Panthers from a few weeks ago. That's what Alex was watching in the o-line room when I got there, so I wasn't going to argue with my quarterback. I watched a couple of quarters with him and then finished up the rest once he left.
I think everyone is looking forward to this game against New Orleans and the chance to get a win and put the last few weeks behind us.
Of course there's frustration when you are losing. It makes it hard to do these columns because I know fans don't really want to read this and hear talk of doing better. They want to see us go out and do better, and we feel the same way.
Life is definitely more fun when you are winning. I think whenever things are going well everything around you seems brighter. But we can't let these failures we've had in the last few weeks impact how we move forward. We've got to stay positive, focus on the remaining 10 games and keep in mind that we have every opportunity to still achieve the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season.
This week we've got our Thursday night o-line dinner planned. We usually get together whenever we have a home game that week for our weekly dinner. It's still in the planning stage at this point, but I think we've already made Staley pay for enough stuff so we'll probably go with credit card roulette this week. For those of you not familiar with this, it's where you put everyone's card in a hat and have a random patron from the restaurant select one. Whoever's card gets picked gets the prize of buying dinner. I think my second year, I won four times in a row but it seems this year it has gotten evened out. I haven't won in a couple of years so that's worked out very nicely for me.
On a serious note, I know that we've got our own problems but in light of what is going on in Southern California, I think it's important to keep perspective. My thoughts and prayers go out to families who have been impacted by the fires that are destroying many homes. I heard the Chargers have had to go to Arizona to practice at the Cardinals facility this week and might have to play their game elsewhere. I'm sure that's tough to do when they have friends and family and for some, even their own homes to worry about back in San Diego. I wish them all the best.