San Francisco 49ers

Game review: 49ers ground game strong, air attack meager. What went wrong.

Video: 49ers host Cowboys during 2015 preseason home opener

The San Francisco 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 preseason home opener at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. The 49ers beat the Cowboys 23-6. Video by Manny Crisostomo Game action photos by José Luis Villages and Pau
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The San Francisco 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 preseason home opener at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. The 49ers beat the Cowboys 23-6. Video by Manny Crisostomo Game action photos by José Luis Villages and Pau

SANTA CLARA -- Jarryd Hayne's moves and Mike Purcell's touchdown headlined the 49ers' second preseason game. What was masked a bit by those performances: The 49ers had 50 net yards passing the entire game. That's not a typo.

That meager amount is largely because San Francisco ran the ball 38 times and was very effective on the ground, averaging 4.1 yards per attempt. (Hayne averaged 6.8 yards per run; Carlos Hyde had a 5.6-yard average). It's also partly due to the quarterbacks being sacked three times for 21 yards and the fact that Quinton Patton lost 12 yards on a pass play in the second quarter. Patton also picked a practice fight with 295-pound Tank Carradine in the run-up to the game, so it wasn't exactly a great week in the brains department for him.

As you might assume from the numbers, the run blocking was better than the pass blocking. When the first-team unit was in, the breakdowns mostly came on the ... say it with me ... the right side. On one play, defensive end Demarcus Lawrence got inside right tackle Erik Pears and right guard Marcus Martin was slow to help out. Colin Kaepernick was flushed toward the sideline and had to throw the ball away. On a Kaepernick sack later in the first quarter, Martin allowed his man to come free and help take down the quarterback.

Right about now, you might be asking: Ok, when will Brandon Thomas take over at right guard? Well, Thomas played left guard with the third-team line. Ian Silberman was the second player in at right guard; newcomer Jordan Devey played right guard later in the game.

On the opening drive, Kaepernick connected with Vance McDonald and Hyde for completions. His fade to Anquan Boldin in the right side of the end zone (What? That's still in the playbook?) was well out of bounds. His next throw, a back-shoulder throw to Torrey Smith, was well placed. But Smith was well-covered by cornerback Corey White who broke it up.


It wasn't all bad. Again, the first-team offensive line looked very good as far as run blocking. Center Joe Looney, for instance, fired off the line to block a Cowboys linebacker seven yards down field on a six-yard run by Hyde early on. On Hayne's long run later in the game, left tackle Patrick Miller did a nice job sealing off the end of the line and tight end Busta Anderson had a strong kick-out block to open a hole for Hayne. The Cowboys inside linebacker took a poor angle and was walled off from the play.

No one is talking about guard Andrew Tiller, who was Pro Football Focus' highest rated 49ers offensive lineman after the Texans game and had another good outing in the run department Sunday. Remember, Tiller was the de factor first-string left guard in the spring when Alex Boone was absent. He benefited from that workload and should end up on another team's 53-man roster if he does not wind up with the 49ers.

Fullback Bruce Miller had a strong game, not just as a lead blocker on offense but also in leading the way for Hayne on punt returns.


The 49ers' recent shedding of tight ends allowed Anderson, the team's final draft pick, a lot more playing time, and he made the most of his snaps. He led the 49ers with two catches for 32 yards.

Shayne Skov again was the team's iron man, playing 51 snaps. He led the 49ers with five tackles. Fellow inside linebacker Desmond Bishop also had a strong game. Last week, Jim Tomsula said Bishop left the game against the Texans with a calf injury. The calf looks fine, but Bishop had his left thumb wrapped on Sunday.

McDonald seemed to hurt his left ankle when, after a seven-yard completion, he was tackled by Andrew Gachkar, who rolled up his leg at the end of the play. McDonald left the game at that point and did not return.

With Carradine (leg) out of the game, Darnell Dockett played left defensive tackle on one third-down play and then switched to right side for the next play. Arik Armstead also played a little on the right after lining up largely on the left in practices. With no Glenn Dorsey or Carradine, the 49ers had to do more mixing and matching than usual. Neither McDonald's nor Carradine's injury was initially considered serious.


Not to be forgotten: Hayne also played a bit on kickoff coverage, and he had a nice hit on the Cowboys returner in the fourth quarter. If there's a critique of Hayne it's this: Instead of lowering is pad level and squaring his shoulders on runs between the tackles, he seems to be lowering one shoulder and turning head as he approaches the pile. That is, he's not looking where he's going, which is a bit dangerous.

Rookie outside linebacker Marcus Rush had a sack on a play in which Lawrence Okoye, destroyer of pockets, drove his man five yards backward. Rush is a good hustle player but lacks ideal size. My sense is that he has to beat out Corey Lemonier to make the 53-man squad.

Keith Reaser started at cornerback and Kenneth Acker was the third cornerback in the game. Last week Shareece Wright and Dontae Johnson had those roles. Asked if that change were permanent, Tomsula said:

"That’s why I tried to temper it from the beginning. That’s going to keep changing. We’re going to keep changing things around there and we’re sorting through some things. We feel like we have some talented guys back there. Some youth, I know there’s youth, but really like the way they’re coming in. And [49ers secondary coach] Tim Lewis, just the way he’s with that group and the way that whole thing’s coming together and the coaching and the teaching, but also the players and the way they’re responding to it is really good. All we’re doing is trying to take a look and clarify some decisions.”

Interpret that as you may.

San Francisco 49ers RB Jarryd Hayne speaks to the media after the 49ers vs Cowboys game. Hayne has 258 all-purpose yards in two preseason games. Video by Manny Crisostomo​

The San Francisco 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 preseason home opener at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. The 49ers beat the Cowboys 23-6. Video by Manny Crisostomo Game action photos by José Luis Villages and Pau

San Francisco Video: 49ers NT Mike Purcell talks about his first NFL touchdown - a 37 yd. interception return. Video By Manny Crisostomo

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at

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