Head coach Mike Nolan is back for his latest round of X's and O's, answering questions primarily about the 49ers loss to the Eagles.
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Q: Coach, I've been a 49ers fan since birth, and it seems for the last decade the team can't seem to draft or sign good offensive linemen. What happened? Why do the undersized "skilled" blockers flood our line, instead of the beasts like many good offensive teams have? Thanks, Mick L. Ashton
A: As good a runner as Frank Gore is, he wouldn't be able to get the yardage he has gotten without a good offensive line. We have been able to move the ball on offense this year. I would not put our problems so far in 2008 on the offensive line. In the last two weeks we were in position to get a win in the fourth quarter against two pretty good teams.
Our line did well containing the Philadelphia blitz attack this past week. The Eagles entered our game tied for first in the NFL in sacks. We had them so off balance that they did not even blitz for a long stretch in the game. They had three sacks in our game, but two were in the last eight plays when we were behind and they blitzed heavily knowing that we had to pass.
Q: Coach, tough loss to the Eagles. Especially for us fans. But we've been hearing a lot of reasons (excuses) lately "We just didn't execute right…" "They just edged us out on those plays..." "They just caught us out of position on a couple plays..." Okay. Enough of that. We (the fans) can make the excuses, but what are the coaches and team going to do to actually fix the same issues discussed every week? (I.e. there are too many 3rd and long we're blowing on defense every week.) Steve M. San Angelo, TX
A: We have lacked consistency. We have played very well at times but have not finished games. It is the whole package, not just one area. We analysis the way we prepare, the game plan, the time we have in meetings and the way we utilize practice. The confidence to get the job done happens during the week of preparation, not just on Sunday.
Watching the film is probably the most encouraging thing for our players after a loss. They can identify why we moved the ball, or made a play, or why something did not work. It is hard sometimes to watch the film because there is disappointment. At the same time, there is encouragement because you can see what you need to rectify. It becomes very clear.
Q: Hello Coach, I'm a huge 49ers fan, out here on the West Coast. I just want to say I like the direction the team is going, and I know we'll translate that into wins very soon. With that being said, I see the offense is much more effective this year under Mike Martz, but I don't think JT O'Sullivan has shown he's the QB of the future. He's a good QB for now, but we need to cut down on the interceptions and such. Why not use our roster space to move a young QB onto the practice squad, and give this QB time to learn Martz system, and be able to compete for a real roster spot next year, as opposed to bringing in someone next year to have to wait an additional year? If I'm not mistaken, young talent such as Andre Woodson is still out there. - Kristopher TaylorA: JT O'Sullivan is our quarterback, and our team's focus is on next week against the New York Giants and doing everything we can to prepare and support our quarterback so that we can get the victory.
Q: Gary Plummer said on the radio that Mark Roman should be benched as he is so afraid of being beat and he plays way too loose; he also said Walt Harris should not be playing either; do you agree with Gary? Robert Marchi
A: No, I do not agree. I'm looking for us to play better. I think the players who we've got on the field are competent, quality players. We just have got to do a better job being consistent. We need to be confident in the things we're doing. That comes, obviously, with success.
Q: Hey coach, thanks for everything that you have been doing with the 49ers. I see a lot of young talent on the team that can mature over the years into a strong team again. Watching the defense play the last few weeks, I have noticed that the corners have been playing off the line of scrimmage, and giving the wide receivers a large cushion that the opposing offense has been able to take advantage of time and again. I am wondering why you aren't having the corners play up on the line and take away the short quick pass. If a long ball is thrown, can't the safeties help over the top. Good luck on the coming week. –David Baker
A: Against Philadelphia we gave up an explosive play on a screen, so that wasn't the secondary. The only other explosive play that they got was when Tully Banta-Cain jumped off-sides, and the Eagles threw the ball down the sideline. Other than that, as a defense, we need to apply more pressure up front. That will help our secondary. Against New Orleans, we did some things on the back end that cost us. I thought that against New England, we had one pass to Randy Moss that was a costly pass. But on Sunday against the Eagles, it was a collective problem. We didn't get very much pressure at all on them, and that was something we had hoped to get in order to assist our secondary.
Q: Hey Coach Nolan. Good game against the Eagles. I live on the east coast, watch every Niners game, and am a very faithful fan. Great job putting the ball in Frank Gore's hands this week, there was only one problem I saw. Running the ball all game very well gave us a chance and the lead. How come when we have the lead we let it go with two three and outs? First one being pro pass and second being all pass. I know it's a game time decision, but with the lead why not get our backs the ball, especially someone like Gore who had been getting the job done all game to burn some clock and gain some yards? Go Niners, Norman from VirginiaA: One of the things that I think we did an outstanding job of in the Philadelphia game from the very beginning was to keep the Eagles off balance. The change of personnel that we did kept the pressures to a minimum, which was evident for most of the game. I thought the balance of run-pass was very good. As I always say, the issue with Frank Gore is getting him touches as much as it is running the ball. Hindsight is always 20-20. Looking back on it, it may have been better to run at the end of the game. But at the same time, sticking with our game plan, we felt we had them off balance. In fact, we just missed on two passes during the sequences you are talking about at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter. The one pass to Vernon David was set up perfectly, and we just missed the throw for what have been a big gain into Philadelphia territory.
Q: Hey Coach, Before the season you said that you would play the quarterback that gave us the best chance to win the game. Does J.T O'Sullivan really give us that chance? How much worse is Shaun Hill? J.T may have a grasp on the Mike Martz offense but in the last 3 games he has had 9 turnovers total. It's starting to become a theme with him. We have had a chance to win those games yet come away with losses. I know that the rest of the team has to step up and cut dumb penalties and stick with their assignments. However, if we had better play from our quarterback I can't help but feel we should be 5 and 1 this season. Thank You, A frustrated 49er faithful! – Jerome Martinez
A: JT has done a good job moving our offense. He has a good command in the huddle. We have been able to move the ball and score points. The turnovers are a problem. They are not all on JT. At the same time we have to correct the turnover problem. When the correct route is ran, when the protection is perfect, it will add up to less turnovers. We are 2-4, but there is still a lot of football to play.
Q: Watching the Eagles on Sunday, I saw what I have been hoping to see from the 49ers D since we supposedly implemented a 3-4 defense. They used the formation and their personnel to make it hard to predict the pressure and coverage. On their pick for a touchdown, there were only 3 down linemen, but there were 4 other players in a position to potentially rush or drop in to coverage. JT guessed wrong who was coming and was dropping and the result was a pick 6. Watching our games, I can almost always tell who is going to be rushing before the ball is snapped (usually the 4 down lineman). Why are we so predictable? I still believe we have the talent to turn this around. Phil- St. Louis, MO
A: We do mix up our defense. We have fronts and formations that cause problems for our opponent. We give them many different looks. What disappoints me is we have not gotten the pressure up front that I was hoping we would get. As you pointed out, the season is young and we do have the talent to turn things around.