Just a couple of seasons ago, the 49ers were among the NFL’s most physical offenses.
The front five blockers consistently knocked defenders off the ball and the Niners often controlled both the tempo of games, and the clock, with a solid running game.
But the 49ers of 2015 aren’t those 49ers. And one play in the first quarter of Sunday’s 27-6 loss at St. Louis to the Rams epitomized what the 49ers have become.
On third-and-12 from their own 1-yard line, the 49ers tried to hand the ball off to rookie running back Mike Davis on a straight-ahead dive. Instead, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers tackled Davis in his own end zone for a safety after pushing second-year center Marcus Martin – once considered a potentially solid draft pick from USC – 3 yards straight back and then wrapping his arms around Davis.
From being bullies, the 49ers have become the bullied. The once-proud offensive line of San Francisco is now just a punching bag for the front seven of the opposition. Every week, Martin, right guard Jordan Devey and right tackle Erik Pears have had trouble blocking. It's been a consistent problem.
At the time of the play, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle noted Martin was nearly driven “into the stands” by Brockers. NFL.com’s Around the NFL section tweeted Brockers had “put the clown suit on 49ers C Marcus Martin” on the play. Another observer on Twitter joked that Martin appeared to be on skates. Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group called the play “embarrassing.”
It's been a problem that hasn't been corrected.
With the loss, the 49ers fall to 2-6, and all hopes of turning this season around seem lost.
The only reason the 49ers offense won’t fall further into the basement of the NFL rankings is that it already was the No. 32-ranked offense coming into the game.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed just 20-of-41 passes for 162 yards and also was the team’s leading rusher with 28 yards. Again, the line couldn’t protect him. He was under pressure from the start and sacked three times. The 49ers – already without Carlos Hyde (injury) and Jarryd Hayne (released) -- lost starter Reggie Bush (knee) early in the game to injury and could rush for just 38 yards against the Rams.
Meanwhile, the Rams – now 4-3 – used a pair of big plays to blow the game open. With San Francisco holding to a 3-2 lead in the second quarter, rookie running back Todd Gurley broke free for a 71-yard touchdown run. Then in the fourth quarter and up 20-6 the Rams sealed the decision on a 66-yard pass from Nick Foles to Tavon Austin.
The 49ers return to Levi’s Stadium this coming Sunday to host the Atlanta Falcons.