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 talks about the loss to New Orleans and what he thinks is important for this team to find...**
I think we've got to start with the defense this week because I think uncharacteristically they were not able to stop New Orleans. The glaring piece of that was that Drew Brees did not have any pressure in his face at any point in the game. When a quarterback can sit back there and really consider his options, it really makes it difficult for the defense. That clearly stuck out to me.
Marques Colston caught three touchdowns and really dropped a fourth on that pass interference, so he just had a huge day. I think you take his performance combined with how dangerous a player like Reggie Bush is out in space, and the Saints really had an attack that kept the defense on its heels all day long.
All season long, the defense has been able to make big plays, to make big stops, but that didn't happen this game which just put even more pressure on the offense to perform out of the gates.
Offensively, I just have to say it was a gallant effort by Alex Smith. He was in obvious pain throughout the game. He took some shots on that shoulder and he kept getting up, wincing at times, but yet he never looked like he wanted out of the game. It was apparent he never got to a point where in his mind he had enough and was going to call it a day and at that position, you have to have grit. Alex showed he's got that throughout the day and that really stood out to me.
Again for the offense though, it was just not able to sustain drives or any real consistency throughout the game. A lot has been made about the game plan but I've seen a variety of looks and a variety of plays that the 49ers are trying to do, whether it's involving their tight end down the field or mixing it up underneath. That shows me that the offense is thinking outside of the box and trying to find different ways to be effective, but the execution has just not been consistent enough.
In past games, the offense had so many turnovers and penalties that they dug themselves a hole. I think that's why you haven't seen Frank Gore be more effective – he just hasn't had the chance with this team often deserting the run once they've fallen behind. In this instance, the offense did a better job protecting the ball and eliminating penalties but they didn't score, and the defense couldn't stop New Orleans from scoring in that first half.
One offensive play that stood out was the run by Michael Robinson. That kind of effort wins games, but it's got to be from more than just one guy. You put that effort into every play and that becomes the difference. The offense needs to look for that tenacity on every play from all 11 guys to bring them out of this funk and get them to the level of success they expected to have this season.
I was a part of an 8-game losing streak my rookie year with the 49ers. We came out and won our first three games my rookie year and then we lost 8 in a row and what happens is that playing well and not playing well really become directly tied to the win or the loss. It's hard to find too many guys you can say played well when you fall into this kind of a slump. No one has perfect games, but when you win, everyone looks good and you get by. When you don't win, everything is scrutinized in a way that is probably unfair, but necessary so that you can find answers, although the only right answer is when you finally do what it takes to win again.
I think the first thing you have to have to get back on track is confidence, and that's not just how you feel about yourself, but how you feel about the guy lined up next to you and the guy lined up next to him. There has to be a belief in each player that he can play better and that the guy next to him can play better, and then they have to have confidence that they will play better. That has to be your foundation. It doesn't just happen because you look on the paper and it says it should happen. It happens because guys decide it's going to happen and they go out and make it work.
I really don't think there is any one play you can call, or any perfect scheme you can run to change the confidence that a player has in himself, or that a guy has in the players around him. The players have to dig deep and find that in themselves because without that, I don't think you can win. With that, you can do anything.
You look at the New Orleans Saints and they were in the NFC Championship game so they were a good football team coming into the season but then they got off to a slow start. The last three weeks they've been able to right themselves and they are playing with the sense of urgency and confidence you need to have success. They just stuck with it and they seem to have gotten it turned around. There's no reason the 49ers can not do the same thing.
I went through a variety of situations in my career. One season we won every game but one, and then I even had a season where we were 5-6 or 6-5 at one point and went on to win a Super Bowl. I believe our successes and failures revolved around attitude and confidence. Even when we lost some games, we never stopped believing we'd have ultimate success.
There's an attitude that has to permeate throughout the team that day after day they are going to practice to get better, and then they go into Sundays with a firm belief and confidence that they will perform better. I think every guy on this team needs to either start or continue with the mindset that they are going to make plays every single snap.
I think we should move away from saying this week is the most important week of the season and that the 49ers must win or the season is lost. Instead, I think what is important for the 49ers is to look for ways in practice to get better and to keep going after the win without worrying about the overall record or what has happened up until now. You just go play to win. Every team makes mistakes. It's a matter of overcoming those mistakes and finding ways to win. Against Atlanta, they have an opportunity to go out and play better and win a ballgame. You obviously want to learn from your mistakes, but nothing puts your mistakes behind you like a victory does and this game against Atlanta offers that opportunity.