Coach Nolan seeks fix for 49ers' inept offense Print
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Monday, 08 October 2007 22:41
NFL Headline News

 SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Mike Nolan is getting a clearer picture of what's wrong with the San Francisco 49ers and will spend the bye week focused on fixing his struggling team's problems.
Nolan said Monday that he still needs to take a deeper look to pinpoint the reasons behind San Francisco's dismal offense and other factors that have led to three straight losses after a 2-0 start.
``I'll do whatever it takes to make our football team better,'' Nolan said. ``That's not in question. It's identifying it correctly. That's what we've got to make sure we do. I've got some things identified but it's not enough in my mind. There's more to it.''
Nolan has steadily upgraded his offense with young talent and veteran experience since becoming the team's coach in 2005. So he's just as puzzled as anybody by the anemic production the 49ers have received from that unit this season.
It reached a low point Sunday during a 9-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens that dropped San Francisco into third place in the NFC West. The 49ers had just 38 yards of total offense at halftime and finished with a season-low 163 - the fourth time in five games the team has finished with 194 yards or fewer.
The 49ers rank last in the NFL in total offense and are at the bottom of the league statistically in five other offensive categories. San Francisco's awful start has put the team on a pace to finish with the worst offense since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
San Francisco is averaging just 203.2 yards per game. The 1992 Seattle Seahawks averaged 212.8 yards per game, the worst average in a 16-game season in league history.
``There's a lot of searching going on,'' Nolan said. ``If it was just one (area), it would be a simple problem. But there have been dropped balls, missed blocks, missed protection calls. It could be scheme. It could be play-calling. It could be the head coach. It could be a lot of things.''
The conservative nature of San Francisco's game plans and the play-calling of first-year offensive coordinator Jim Hostler have come under fire, and Nolan suggested after Sunday's loss that he may consider a change in who calls the offense.
However, Nolan stood by the embattled Hostler on Monday.
``He's in charge of that area and he'll be making the calls,'' Nolan said. ``I do believe that it's not accurate to put one person under the bus, because all you've done there is just postponed the next person under the bus.''
The bye hardly will be a week off for the 49ers. During the team's October bye week last year, Nolan made the decision to take over the defensive play-calling from defensive coordinator Billy Davis, who was fired after the season.
The 49ers then rebounded from a 2-5 start with a three-game winning streak that thrust them into the NFC playoff picture.
San Francisco's 5-4 finish last year raised expectations for this season, and after drafting well and spending $150 million on free agents during the offseason, the 49ers were expected to challenge for the NFC West title this year with their offense leading the way.
The 49ers were without three key offensive starters against Baltimore and could have all three back in the lineup when they return to action Oct. 21 against the New York Giants.
Tight end Vernon Davis missed the past two games with a partially torn MCL in his right knee but says he'll be ready to return against the Giants. Left tackle Jonas Jennings was excused from the team for personal reasons last week and missed Sunday's game, but he was back with the team Monday.
Quarterback Alex Smith suffered a Grade 3 separation of his right shoulder during the team's Week 4 loss to Seattle, but he's making a rapid recovery from that injury and now is aiming to return against New York. Smith began making light throws Sunday just one week after his injury. On Monday, he had increased his throwing to 25-yard passes.
``I'm getting better every day,'' Smith said. ``It definitely felt a lot better than yesterday. I'll just continue to rehab this week and keep pushing to get back.''
The 49ers play three of their next four games and five of their next seven on the road after returning from the bye.
``We've got certain things that are moving in the right direction that are strong and continue to be strong,'' Nolan said. ``We've got an area that's also holding us back a little bit, and that area seems to be the same. We need to get that area moving where the others are moving, and I'm confident we'll correct it. We're going to get to the bottom of it, without question.''

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