Nolan says winnable games are on horizon for 49ers
The 49ers have a much-needed bye week to try to get things right against the Bears on October 29. That game looms as perhaps the most difficult challenge facing the team for the remainder of the season. But after compiling a 2-4 record, coach Mike Nolan said there is reason to believe that better things could be coming.
"Naturally, we've got some things we need to work on," Nolan said. "We're not where we want to be, but I really believe we've got some winnable games. Chicago, our next opponent, is a good opponent. We played pretty well against them last year at their place. We will see how we feel this year, but we are looking forward to that contest."
The 49ers certainly have a lot of problems on defense that were exposed in their 48-19 loss to the Chargers on Sunday. The 49ers played poorly individually and collectively, and had a few mental mistakes to make matters even worse.
When asked afterward if the defense needed a restructuring, Nolan answered, "That's a good way to put it."
But the restructuring appears to have already started. Strong safety Mark Roman received his first start in place of nine-year veteran Tony Parrish, and second-year player Ronald Fields got the start at nose tackle in place of Anthony Adams.
"As much as I know some of our shortcomings going into it, I know that when you play well as a unit, you can play better than we have a couple times," Nolan said. "That's the disappointing thing. When you play together, you don't have to be that poor, in particular, whether it's the pass rush or pass defense."
Nolan said the 49ers are playing comparably to where they were a year ago at this time. The 49ers ranked last in the league in team defense. This year, the 49ers' defense has seemingly gotten worse every week after a promising start.
The 49ers were particularly horrendous against the Chargers, who rolled up 412 yards and converted 12 of 15 (80 percent) on third downs. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns, with a passer rating of 116.8, in just his fifth NFL start.
"It's nothing they did. It's all on us," Roman said. "We got to play better individually and as a unit. We got to get off the field on third downs. It's no secret. There's no magic serum. There are no magic words. We just got to do it."
After the bye week, the 49ers expect to have most of their injured starters back on the field. Rookie tight end Vernon Davis (broken leg) is expected to miss another couple games, but left guard Larry Allen, left tackle Jonas Jennings and cornerback Walt Harris should be available to face the Bears.
Although backups Adam Snyder and Tony Wragge have played well on the offensive line, the 49ers are looking forward to Allen and Jennings returning.
"Obviously, if we can get two guys of their caliber back, it would be a big help no matter way," quarterback Alex Smith said. "We have a lot of depth up front and those guys have been preparing well."
--- RB Frank Gore did not get many touches but still managed to put up some respectable numbers. Gore gained 55 yards on 10 carries, while also catching five passes for 35 yards.
--- WR Bryan Gilmore was used on two reverses. Gilmore gained 22 yards on his first carry, but fumbled at the end of a 9-yard run in the second half against the Chargers.
--- RT Kwame Harris was called for three penalties and also surrendered at least one sack to Chargers LB Shaun Phillips. Coach Mike Nolan said he would not make any decisions on personnel until after he watched the game film. Harris' job might be in jeopardy once the 49ers' injured offensive linemen return, which would free up Adam Snyder to compete with Harris.
--- QB Alex Smith had his second multi-TD game in a row. Smith completed 20 of 31 passes for 214 yards with two TDs and one interception. He was also sacked five times for minus-32 yards.
--- NT Ronald Fields made his first career start and recorded a career-high five tackles. He was also responsible for a safety when Chargers QB Philip Rivers was called for intentional grounding while in Fields' grasp in the end zone.
--- CB Sammy Davis received his first start with the 49ers in place of Walt Harris, who was sidelined with a hamstring strain. Davis was called for a questionable pass-interference penalty, resulting in 41 yards.
--- SS Tony Parrish did not start, as Mark Roman got his first nod of the season. Parrish had previously started all 126 regular-season game of his nine-year career.