Just this week, new 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin was talking about the positive vibes surrounding the team’s veteran offensive line.
“Everybody seems real upbeat,” he told reporters.
Well, not now.
San Francisco’s offensive line played as if it had been skewered with New Orleans voodoo pins in its first exhibition game Friday night, allowing Alex Smith to be sacked twice, and then letting the host Saints get to rookie Colin Kaepernick four more times – including three on consecutive plays – en route to a 24-3 loss.
The performance, against a Saints team running a variety of blitz packages, spoiled the coming-out party for new head coach Jim Harbaugh and his West Coast offense.
All those nice X’s and 0’s he drew up in the offseason didn’t work so well Friday night when all his quarterbacks could see were Saints jerseys and the Superdome’s artificial turf.
Not only was Smith sacked twice, he was hit hard and often, fumbled once and completed just two of his seven passes for 10 yards.
Said Smith, in quotes released through the team: “Obviously, they were pressuring us quite a bit, if anyone could not see that on the TV, but heavy, heavy pressure. First preseason game, you usually don’t expect to see that kind of pressure, but they brought it. It will be good film for us to watch and learn from.”
Kaepernick completed his first pass after replacing Smith, a 20-yarder to Lance Long, but then was dropped three straight times while the starting line was still in the game.
In the first half alone, Saints defensive end Will Smith beat both 49ers starting offensive tackles, Joe Staley and Anthony Davis, for sacks.
Kaepernick, who played the rest of the game after taking over for Smith, was consistently under pressure but flashed his running abilities. He broke free on one scramble for 28 yards and, all told, gained 47 yards on six carries. But he threw two interceptions, fumbled twice and completed nine of 19 passes for 117 yards.
Fortunately for the 49ers, both Smith and Kaepernick survived unharmed.
There may have been a few positives in San Francisco’s first game -- including David Akers’ 59-yard field goal just before halftime and rookie defensive end Aldon Smith’s sack and forced fumble – but they were overwhelmed by the offense’s failure to protect its quarterbacks.
“We have to learn from this,” said Smith. “We have to get better. We knew it was going to be tough, potentially it was going to be a little sloppy, but some things have to get fixed and we will. That’s what these games are for.”