Scouting The Opponents: SF, GB and Dallas

Looking ahead at the next three games, the Eagles have matchups against two weak teams and another matchup with a huge division rival; and oh yeah, T.O. might be coming to town, too.

at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Sunday September 24 4:15 p.m. Eastern

Entering this season, the 49ers had been out-gained in the passing game in 26 consecutive games. So far, they have accumulated more yards than their opposition through the air in both games this season.

With a 1-1 record after a 20-13 victory Sunday over the Rams, the 49ers are obviously a much-improved team than the unit that finished last season at 4-12.

"Look at the roster and overall we're vastly improved," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "Just look at the surrounding cast around Alex (Smith) right now."

The 49ers' best offensive player a year ago was receiver Brandon Lloyd, who accounted for 733 receiving yards. The 49ers were eager to get rid of Lloyd, eventually trading him to the Redskins for third- and fourth-round draft picks.

Now, the 49ers have receiver Antonio Bryant, who has 245 yards receiving in two games, as well as Frank Gore as the team's featured back. Gore led the 49ers in rushing last season with 608 yards, but was playing as a backup to Kevan Barlow, who was also traded.

The 49ers' offensive line is improved from a year ago, and tight end Vernon Davis, the number six overall pick, has brought another speed element to the offense.

The 49ers opened the season with an encouraging 34-27 loss at the Cardinals, but their victory over the Rams was just what Nolan said his club needed.

"Success breeds success, so that's a good thing," Nolan said. "Late in the third quarter it dawned on me, whether we win or lose, we're playing a pretty good game. We're doing some good things. We got to do the things it takes to win. So if we had come out of without one, we would've been thinking, 'What's it going to take to get one?'"

The 49ers ranked last in the NFL in offense and defense last season. But through two games, the offense is among the best in the league, ranking sixth in total yardage. The 49ers rank first in the NFL in yards per play and Smith has not thrown an interception. The club ranks second in passing yards per play, and they've given up one sack in two games.

NOTES and QUOTES

  • After running back Frank Gore fumbled near the goal line, 49ers running backs coach Bishop Harris had some words for the second-year back.

    "He kind of got in my face," Gore said. But he said that his coach wasn't trying to fire him up. Instead, he wanted Gore to relax and stop trying to hit a home run on every play.

    "He told me to remember on second down that we have another play," Gore said. Sure, enough Gore had other chances. He broke off a 32-yard TD run early in the second half to tie the score in a game the 49ers eventually won 20-13.

    "They'd been over-shifting on the right side, and that was one time that Frank saw the cutback lane and he cut it way back," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "There was a crease on that one. And when you over-shift, that's the chance you take because if the ball does get backside, it's usually a big play."

  • The 49ers overcame the loss of left tackle Jonas Jennings and left guard Larry Allen to post the victory over the Rams with a strong running game. The line also did not allow any sacks of quarterback Alex Smith.

    "Those guys did a great job," Smith said. "Everything starts with the guys up front. Everything. To lose those two starters and come back like they did, the guys worked extra hard to get ready this week to work as a unit. I can't say enough about them."

    Niners coach Mike Nolan presented the offensive line with the game ball. Fill-in starters Adam Snyder and Tony Wragge both played well in the victory.

  • QB Alex Smith called the play in the huddle. Then, the play was changed. When the new play was called, receiver Antonio Bryant liked what he heard.

    "Meet me in the end zone," he told everyone else in the huddle.

    Smith threw a perfect pass down the right sideline to Bryant, who got behind the Rams secondary for a 72-yard scoring pass. The touchdown gave the 49ers a lead they would never relinquish.

  • GREEN BAY
    Monday October 2 8:30 p.m.

    The Packers literally dropped the ball on notching their first victory of the season.

    Six dropped passes turned up on the film review of the 34-27 loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Halfback Ahman Green and tight end Bubba Franks were the biggest culprits with three and two, respectively.

    Although many of the drops were on check-downs underneath or in the flat and wouldn't have amounted to much yardage, the blunders bogged down an offense that was clicking most of the game.

    "I don't think I'm ever critical to those guys, and I think I've said this, but when a guy drops the ball, I don't think he does it on purpose," quarterback Brett Favre said.

    Nevertheless, Favre was left to wonder what could have been on a busy day when he threw the ball 55 times and completed 31 of them for 340 yards and three touchdowns.

    "When a guy works hard and then makes a mistake like that, it happens and it's part of the game. But, you have to go in as mentally prepared as possible," Favre said. "Physically, sometimes you get beat; sometimes you miss a read or a catch. And, we're not good enough to overcome (the drops).

    "As close as we were and as many plays as we made, we're not good enough to overcome that. That's what's disappointing. We needed one or two more plays, and we needed to eliminate some of the bad plays, as always. But, in our case, it's more profound than maybe years before because we can't close the deal."

    Head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday there's no excuse for players, especially veterans such as Green and Franks, to not catch the football. Green also had a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that set up a decisive touchdown run by Deuce McAllister.

    "(It's) really lack of focus, lack of concentration -- trying to run with the ball before you have it, taking your eye off it, however you want to describe it," McCarthy said.

    The abundance of drops was more glaring in this game because the Packers were reduced to a one-dimensional offense since the rushing attack was nonexistent. Consequently, they squandered a 13-0 lead after the first quarter.

    "We can't dominate the run game yet, and we're still kind of finding our way," Favre said. "So, our defense makes some plays for us early, we do score. But, then we've got to find a way to put it away. And, you do that by running the football and controlling the passing game.

    "If you're dropping passes and you're not getting but 1 or 2 yards per run, it is difficult. You start pressing. I know I do."

    Dallas Cowboys
    Sunday October 8th 4:15 p.m. Eastern

    Cowboys coach Bill Parcells suffered from stress and dehydration during Sunday's 27-10 victory against the Redskins.

    He said the situation was compounded by an electrolyte imbalance.

    On Monday, however, the 65-year year old coach was feeling a lot better and a little foolish. He blamed himself for the problem.

    "That wasn't a good set of circumstances for me last night," Parcells said. I made a mistake that I know better than to do. I did something wrong and I wound up paying for it a little bit. I have an electrolyte imbalance in my system - that's' not good. That's what happened, but I'll try to be a little more cautious about that."

    Parcells said the problem arose when he put on a rain jacket before the game to deal with the wet weather. So he got rained on. But when the weather cleared during the game, a superstitious Parcells never removed the jacket because the Cowboys were winning, leading to dehydration.

    "As I said I made a mistake," Parcells said. "I wasn't taking that rain jacket off because we were winning. That shows you just how warped I am."

    Parcells' sickness wasn't reported Sunday night because it was assumed he was being dramatic over his team's sloppy play. The Cowboys dropped eight passes, committed nine penalties and allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

    In the post-game press conference, Parcells said, "I just want my team to play better. It's hard on me. It really is. I am feeling ill right now, literally. I just want us to play better."

    NOTES and QUOTES

  • WR Terrell Owens underwent surgery on his right hand on Monday. He suffered a fractured ring finger in Sunday's 27-10 victory against the Redskins. He will be out two to four weeks. He said he is a fast healer, but his much-anticipated return to Philadelphia October 8 is now in jeopardy. The Cowboys have a bye this Sunday and play the Titans on October 1.
  • Coach Bill Parcells said his team responded correctly to the season-opening loss to the Jaguars. Drew Bledsoe had a bounce back performance and the team had a payback performance against the Redskins while avoiding an 0-2 start.

    "I thought it was important," Parcells said. "That may be the most empty feeling you can have. To open the season ... you spend all summer getting ready and you didn't win. So that can be a demoralizing thing. And then have a division opponent that beat us twice last year, coming down here, I just felt like the importance was pretty high. I was pretty stressed for it myself."

  • K Mike Vanderjagt had a strong debut against the Redskins, kicking field goals from 26 and 50 yards. Not bad for a kicker not good enough to be active in the season opener after struggling in the preseason with injuries and inconsistency. It is what you expect from the most accurate kicker in NFL history, who was given a three-year, $5.4 million contact in the off-season.

    "That's the guy's job, you're supposed to be able to make kicks," Parcells said. "I'm just happy he made the kick for his own well being. That was a big kick and it wasn't an easy kick. That certainly helps him and helps everybody involved."

  • QB Drew Bledsoe keeps playing and moving up in the NFL record book. He tied Boomer Esiason for 13th on the NFL touchdown pass list with 247.
  • LB Greg Ellis is having a strong transition from defensive end. He has 1.5 sacks and 11 tackles in two games. "It's not just about sacks, although everybody likes to get those," Ellis said. "It's about batting the ball down, trying to flush the quarterback and getting in his face."
  • SS Roy Williams will appeal a $7,500 fine levied against him by the league for an excessive hit on Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich in the season opener.
  • TE Anthony Fasano recorded thee catches against the Redskins. It was the first three of his career for the rookie second-round pick who is starting in the two-tight end offense opposite Pro Bowler Jason Witten.

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