Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR color commentator Gary Plummer previews the 49ers opponents every week of the 2009 season on 49ers.com. For this week's "Points of the Game" column, Plummer breaks down the 49ers Week 12 opponent – the Jacksonville Jaguars.**
We've heard Mike Singletary talk about the importance of finishing. But what has ended up happening in a lot of games is that the 49ers have been just good enough to lose. The 49ers are a couple of plays away from being able to overcome that.
It's tough because sometimes you see that there are a fair number of upsets in the NFL every week. But there are more games that are close that the team with the superior talent ends up winning out. There are playmakers on every team, always.
The 49ers just haven't made enough plays so far this season.
Coaches will always emphasize to the players to go all-out on every play because you never know which play will be the game-changer. The way they've lost so many games in a close fashion shows that the team is close to getting to where they want to be.
I think the biggest thing the 49ers have to do is come out strong. The hardest thing to do is come from behind when you get down early. Games in the NFL are tough enough, but when you put yourself in a 10-20 point hole – it just makes it that much harder to come back from.
In three of the games they've gotten behind early, Atlanta, Houston and Green Bay, it looked like the team came out slow. Nobody wants that kind of performance. You talk about some of the best athletes in the world that play in the NFL, they also have to have that mindset to start strong early.
Another thing the 49ers have to do is find more ways to get the ball to Frank Gore. I think running a few more screen plays to him would be more effective now. We have been using more of the vertical passing game. In the past, it hasn't worked well because teams were playing in short intermediate zones. It wasn't effective to run screens in those situations, but now it can because you have players like Michael Crabtree making deep catches down the field. Teams are going to have to respect the deep ball a little bit more.
The connection is always getting better between Alex Smith and Crabtree. Nobody talked a lot about Crabtree's ability to make plays down the field when he was coming out of college, but I think he's shown that he's capable of doing that.
The Jaguars are banged up in the secondary and I think throwing the ball is the best way the 49ers can attack them. Jacksonville has the lowest number of sacks in the NFL and three of came from John Henderson in the last three games. That's three out of ten. They've struggled because they've moved back to a 4-3 defense.
But they're a team with a 6-4 record. Amazingly, five of their games have been decided by three points or less. That's the difference between them and the 49ers. The Jaguars have been able to win those close games. They start more rookies than any other team in the NFL which makes it even more impressive.
The 49ers defense needs to pick things up against the pass and that means better pass rush and better coverage. It's all of those things. It's better coverage down the field and finding better schemes that work. It's continuing to try new things. It's like being in a lab and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is a chemist.
I want to see more out of free safety Dashon Goldson. It's been a mixed bag with him. Sometimes he's played phenomenal. His ability to break on the ball has been spot on and other times, he's taken bad angles. One example was last week where a bad angle on Greg Jennings, caused a missed tackle and then a touchdown. He's played like a first-year starter at times, other times he's played like the guy they thought they were putting in there.
At that position, you're the savior. You're the last line of defense and you're teammates are counting on you to protect the back end. There's a lot of pressure in that. People may say it's not fair, but it comes with the job. Really, he's still learning on job.
He's been a nice pairing with Michael Lewis, who had 11 tackles last week. While some of the 49ers have struggled in the tackling department, Lewis hasn't been one of them.
He's been a tackling machine.
People on the 49ers should pay more attention to how he tackles, because he doesn't just put a shoulder in there. He puts the shoulder in there and wraps up. He punishes ball carriers and its effective. The 49ers need more of that.