Niners game plan

A change in plans this week for the 49ers with new faces starting in the backfield for a confused offense that has not been able to do anything successfully.

The 49ers are a confused offensive team. They began the season thinking they were a running team. Coach Dennis Erickson and offensive coordinator Ted Tollner thought they would be able to run the ball effectively, which would aid them in the passing attack. They envisioned a running game that was such a threat that it would enable them to use play-action to get the ball down the field to their wideouts. But the 49ers have not been able to do anything successfully.

This week, they will have some new faces in the lineup because of injuries. Ken Dorsey will start in place of Tim Rattay and Maurice Hicks starts for Kevan Barlow. Last week, Erickson stuck to a run-oriented plan against the Rams and lost 16-6.

"Every week is a little bit different," Erickson said. "We were very conservative (last week). That was our plan. This week we might not be. But we're just not executing. People are doing things to us, and it's created some problems for us."

The major problems the 49ers have incurred this season concern the offensive line. The unit has not been able to adequately protect the quarterback, whether it's Rattay or Dorsey. The 49ers have surrendered 46 sacks this season -- second most in club history.

Defensively, the 49ers rank in the middle of the pack in the league even though opposing quarterbacks have burned them for a 99.1 passer rating. Defensive tackle Bryant Young, an 11-year veteran, is playing well, and he sets the tone on that side of the ball with his work ethic and pride. Still, the 49ers have been unable to generate much of a pass rush, and their secondary is extremely shaky.

Rookie cornerback Shawntae Spencer has been one of the pleasant surprises for the club. Safety-turned-cornerback Dwaine Carpenter has started the last four games but is still very green as he learns a new position. Neither safety, Tony Parrish and Ronnie Heard, is having a particularly good season, either.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: 49ers LT Kwame Harris, who had his best game of the season last week against the Rams in pass protection, vs. Cardinals RDE Bertrand Berry, who leads the NFL with 11 sacks this season; CBs Shawntae Spencer and Dwaine Carpenter, who have shown improvement the last couple of weeks, vs. WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, who give the Cardinals a solid pair of young receivers; D. Bryant Young, who has played as well as he has in several seasons, vs. LG Reggie Wells, a second-year player who has started all 12 games this season.

INJURY IMPACT: QB Tim Rattay is out of action for at least two weeks with a partially torn right plantar fascia, the tight band of muscle under the arch of the foot. RB Kevan Barlow will not play this week because of a concussion he sustained on a hit from Rams LB Robert Thomas. CB Ahmed Plummer is probably out for the season with a bulging disk in his neck. CB Jimmy Williams is practicing this week but might not be able to play because of a broken little toe on his right foot. He has missed four games with the injury. C Jeremy Newberry was placed on injured reserve this week after knee and back injuries forced him to miss the last 11 games. LB Brandon Moore, the 49ers' top tackler on special teams, is out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain.

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