Former 49ers linebacker Keena Turner, a four-time Super Bowl Champion, understands what's going out on the turf better than most which is what he'll try to share with you in his column Turner's Turf. In this week's entry, Turner recaps Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
This week, I'll start with the first offensive series of the game. First, Vernon Davis gets called for a false start. Then you get Kevin Williams deflecting and picking off a pass that he takes back for a touchdown. I think that turnover really put a damper on the game that lasted throughout the entire first half for the offense.
It's so rare that you see two defensive tackles come up with interceptions (although I guess one has been changed to a fumble recovery) like that, but they were great defensive plays and just oddities.
At the same time, turnovers continue to mount for the 49ers and it sounds like a broken record or a bad movie for the 49ers that week in and week out there are these disastrous plays that have happened and they haven't been able to survive them.
I think the injury to Trent Dilfer was an unfortunate one. It happened on a play that was so Trent like - to not slide and to go after it. It was just a good hit by the defense and unfortunately Trent suffered the concussion. I think it's just the type of guy he is, he's an aggressive player who wasn't going to back down. Apparently the first question he asked of the trainers was, "Did I get the first down?"
You can evaluate his play throughout the season and say he hasn't gotten it done enough of the time, but I've always said that a quarterback gets too much credit when things are good and too much blame when things are bad. And things as a whole have not been good for the 49ers offense.
Unfortunately, you get to a point where the bad plays happen so much you run the risk of everybody – fans, players and maybe even coaches, anticipating what bad thing is going to happen next. The team has to work very hard to avoid that pitfall.
On the defensive side of the ball there was a challenge with Adrian Peterson. The 49ers have a phenom on the defensive side of the ball in Joe Staley and Peterson is that for Minnesota's offense. The defense definitely stepped up to that challenge by holding him to three yards on the day, and Willis was a big part of that. That's pretty amazing because the tape I saw of Peterson before the game, I was in amazement of his physical ability. The 49ers stacked the box and came out with a determination to stop the rookie running back and make Minnesota beat them through the air.
It was a great approach, but with that said, you have to contain all of the backs on the other team and Chester Taylor busted out that one long run of 84 yards on a play that really hurt the 49ers defense.
Still, the defense is still scraping, still fighting and still working hard but it is a team effort and on both sides of the ball you've got to be able to make enough plays or make up for the other side of the ball when they are having a tough day. This past weekend was one more time the 49ers weren't able to do those things.
One consistent area for the 49ers has been special teams. Maurice Hicks had two big returns of 55 yards and Andy Lee's ability to put the ball wherever he wants on the field continues to show. Although he hasn't had many opportunities, I believe that Joe Nedney is ice. Coach Al Everest has done a commendable job all season long and hats off to those guys who keep fighting. What I look for in tough times are those players who keep lacing up the cleats and keep fighting no matter what happens in order to earn respect. I've seen that on special teams all year long and from the defense as well.
One guy I've definitely been impressed with all season is Nate Clements. His work attitude and consistent, aggressive approach, no matter what the situation is, really impresses me. He's normally lined up against the best receiver and he accepts the challenge and doesn't back down. He likes to hit people and as of late, we've seen him as a punt returner too. You look for guys to step up and try to contribute in any way he can and that's what he's done.
Shaun Hill came in under tough conditions and showed that he wanted to play. He saw it as an opportunity to show what he can do and he brought some energy and fresh legs to the position. He gave his teammates and the fans something to celebrate. It was an exciting time for him, and it looks like he'll get another opportunity this week to show what he can contribute to the team.
Changing quarterbacks isn't easy on a team, but sometimes it can give you a spark and I'm sure that's what the 49ers will hope for this week when they host the Bengals.