*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 reviews Monday night's game against Seattle. *
The broadcasting team criticized the mechanics of Alex Smith during the Monday Night game, but I think that can happen to a young quarterback who has been under duress. I think guys can tend to become more fixated on the duress and less fixated on the fundamentals. As you become more experienced at what you do, it's easier for you to stick to your fundamentals, but I think with Alex going through three offensive coordinators in three years, he's at a crossroads right now and I think that's what you are seeing.
I would find it hard to believe that all of the sudden Alex is not an accurate passer. That's not something we've said about him since he came in. I think that although he won't admit it because of his toughness, that there is something going on physically with that shoulder. He's taken a bit of a pounding this year and he came back rather quickly from the separated shoulder, and to say that there are no negative effects from that – I think there's more going on there.
As a whole, the offense just hasn't been able to do anything consistently. For Coach Nolan it's got to get tough because you've got mental mistakes and physical breakdowns and in seven ballgames, it hasn't been one particular thing or one particular player. It's really been a variety of guys in different situations that the 49ers have had problems with.
I know it was discussed that Vernon Davis wasn't more involved in the offense last week, but I'm not as concerned about that. Who knows how many pass plays were called to him that didn't work out? I think Vernon is going to be a big part of this offense. I don't think he was all of the sudden forgotten from the game plan, but there just wasn't the kind of execution on offense to make the game plan much of a difference. I'm less worried about his involvement because I think that is something the 49ers will always try to do.
I think the concern is the ability to execute. There hasn't been the ability to get their best playmaker on track in Frank Gore, or really anything consistent on the offensive side of the ball. To not have a first down until the Hail Mary throw to Arnaz Battle at the end of the first half is a real problem for the 49ers. They've got to find a way to address the problems offensively.
Again, it's just a variety of problems and I'm sure it's kept Coach Nolan up at night. The pass protection has had problems, the run game has not been established, penalties and turnovers have occurred, Alex has made some poor throws, and then when he has had the time and has delivered the ball to the right spot or player, there have been drops. As professional athletes, you have an expectation that those guys make those catches. So, all of those things are adding up to an inconsistent and ineffective offense.
I think the 4th down efforts were very gutsy calls by the coach, but it just kind of crystallizes the way the offense has produced as of late. What the 49ers have to fight against and I've talked about this the last few weeks is the mental fatigue that goes along with the season, particularly a season that has not lived up to expectations. There are going to be more fourth downs in this last part of the season and more times where they are going to be in tough spots, and they've got to stay mentally tough and come up with big plays. They weren't able to do that in this rematch against Seattle.
On defense, the one area that sticks out for me is just not enough pass rush. It just hasn't been a consistent rush over the last month or so. Now, when you are on the field for 40 minutes a game, that makes it difficult but the defense has the task of going out and presenting as many opportunities for the offense to get on track. The 49ers defense is still relentlessly fighting to get things done and they are making plays. Nate Clements got the interception and then Michael Lewis came up with the fumble recovery. I do think they are getting a little worn down and I think a pass rush would help them in this second half of the season, but I do like how those guys keep fighting.
Special teams for the 49ers have been a bright spot. Andy Lee should be in the Pro Bowl, and I also like Joe Nedney and the job he's done. I think the special teams unit has been effective all season and they've really shined.
I'm looking forward to this weekend's game against the Rams, which is also Alumni Weekend. It's always good to see the guys and I know all of us will be pulling for this young 49ers team to get a win and snap this recent losing rash.