Catch up with former 49ers cornerback Eric Davis each week as he recaps Sunday's game. In this latest column, Davis breaks down what went wrong in the loss to New England. **
First of all, I'd like to say that being at the game Sunday to help celebrate the career of Steve Young and to see his number unveiled at Candlestick was a special experience for me. It was great sharing the stage with him and seeing some of my old teammates.
As everyone knows, Steve Young was a great football player. Not only was he an amazing player, but he was a better teammate and friend. He's one of the guys I played with who I will always remember more for the conversations in the locker room than what he did on the field. It's a great honor to have your number retired by your former team, and a well deserved honor for Steve.
And now on to the game that was played on the field.
The 49ers let one get away. It's been two weeks in a row, where they've had an opportunity to win and did not sustain a level of play high enough to get the job done.
The opportunity to win this game was there. New England came to town with questions and concerns with its own offense, and a defense that had yet to play up to its usual standard. The 49ers allowed them time enough to answer those questions.
Scoring is not a problem for the 49ers offense. JTO led his team on three scoring drives. Every 49ers fan on the PLANET would have been happy with that a year ago. Twenty-one points should be enough to win a game. BUT, the 49ers were one for nine on third down – that's a killer. You have to convert a higher percentage of third down plays or it effectively becomes turnovers because you are giving the ball to your opponent. It may not necessarily be an interception or a fumble, but it is just as efficient. An offensive drive does not necessarily have to end with points to be effective. Putting together a string of first-downs and burning the clock can be just as important.
The Patriots held the ball for over the 39 minutes in the game. That's a two-fold problem. As I have already written, the 49ers need to convert on third down. But, the defense has to also convert on their third downs, and GET OFF THE FIELD.
The two biggest plays in the game in my eyes were both by New England
Play number one, was Matt Cassel's deep touchdown pass in the first quarter to Randy Moss.
The game changed defensively for the 49ers after the 66-yard touchdown catch by Moss. First of all, I want to ask the same question the entire coaching staff wants to know. HOW DID RANDY MOSS GET BEHIND THE ENTIRE DEFENSE????? Every DB in the NFL knows that if he catches twenty underneath routes and no deep balls, your team probably wins. The "Moss Effect" then caused the 49ers to play two safeties deeper, allowing more room for the Patriots' running game. The eighth defender, the safety who now had to stay in deep coverage was also needed to help stop the run. The 49ers secondary has opened a can of worms that has to be closed. The unit has allowed a number of deep balls to show up on film and will have to deal with more in the next few games. They are without question better than what they have shown and need to stamp out all the small brush fires that are beginning to start around them.
Big play number two, was Rodney Harrison's interception of JT O'Sullivan when the 49ers were down 17-14 in the third quarter.
I don't have a problem with JTO's first interception, on the deep ball to Delanie Walker. Walker was well covered, but JTO was just trying to give him a chance to make a play. There was single coverage down the field, and Delanie has shown that he has the ability to make big plays. What were the odds of the ball falling into Brandon Meriweather's lap while both players were falling backwards? The guy on the other side of the ball gets paid too, and that was just a get athletic play. That could have easily been an incomplete pass.
However, the pass intended for Arnaz Battle that was picked off by Harrison, was just a bad throw. O'Sullivan stared down his intended receiver and forced the ball. That was a crucial drive and they needed to put up some points on the board, and instead it really kind of killed the momentum for the 49ers.
What disappoints me the most however is the amount of points the defense has given up this year. So far the 49ers have given up 23, 30, 31, and 30 points in four of their five games. That has nothing to do with the offense. The 49ers have to do a better job of keeping their opponent out of the end zone. It's extremely difficult to win under those circumstances. If your offense is giving you three scores, you have to find a way to win.
There were some bright spots in the game. I think the play of Joe Staley and Takeo Spikes was tremendous. Takeo has come in and has definitely picked up the defense. He's playing extremely well. Patrick had a phenomenal rookie year, and you're starting to see his play resume to the level where it was last year. I think something needs to be said about the way those two are playing.
Also, the offensive line did a pretty good job of blocking against a decent pass rush. They only allowed one sack. The ability to protect the quarterback is there- they did it. They just can't give up one sack one week and give up seven the following week. Consistency is the key for the offensive line.
Until the players in the locker room set a standard, not the coaches, not the owner, not the fans, that everyone has to live up to, we're going to see days like Sunday. Until that day comes they will continue to walk away saying, 'We could have won that one.'
With Philadelphia coming into town the week, the sense of urgency better be there for the 49ers. The team needs to understand that this is an extremely important game. If they want to right the ship and stop this two-game losing streak, they're going to need to play better. Fortunately, it's going to be a home game. Unfortunately, a very good Eagles team is coming to town. They are coming off a loss to the Redskins and they need a win just as badly. Expectations are high for those players. Let's see how high they are for the 49ers.