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Other Week 7 Game Recaps

Week 7 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 21, Houston Texans 24

San Francisco 49ers

QB Alex Smith, Pass: 15 - 22 - 206 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 16 - 0

Alex Smith returned to regular-season action after almost 2 years of real activity and quickly seized the moment. Smith completed his first 9 passes and threw 3 second half touchdown passes to tight end Vernon Davis. Most impressively, Smith showed a lot of patience and confidence in the pocket before unleashing hard, accurate throws all over the field. Smith also scrambled twice, picking up a key first down on a rollout to the left side where he found space to pick up 11 yards before running out of bounds. Smith's day finished with an impressive 203 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in one half of work. The 49ers offense was dramatically more effective with Smith under center, most notably with the emergence of a downfield passing game that saw Smith complete half a dozen passes more then 15 yards down the field. His only interception came on a desperation throw late in the 4th quarter as the 49ers tried one last time to win the game.

QB Shaun Hill, Pass: 6 - 11 - 45 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0

Shaun Hill had an awful game on Sunday against Houston. Hill's reputation so far this season has been as a game-manager who minimizes mistakes and takes very few downfield chances. Unfortunately, that style put the 49ers in a 21 point hole early on and only produced 50 yards of total offense. Hill did not try to throw the ball downfield in to coverage and finished the day with a roughly 4-yards-per-attempt average, which simply isn't good enough in the NFL. Hill looked tentative in making decisions despite the fact that he was getting a good amount of time in the pocket. The Texans linebackers were disguising their blitzes well enough that Hill was having a hard time keying in on where the "hot" route was compared to the pass-rush. And as the San Francisco running game failed to produce in the first half, Hill was left with little choice but to take the snap and settle for an underneath pass that resulted in little positive gain. Hill was replaced at halftime by former #1 Overall pick Alex Smith, who performed admirably in Hill's absence.

RB Frank Gore, Rush: 13 - 32 - 0, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0

Frank Gore returned after missing 4 weeks and it showed. He averaged a mere 2.5 yards per carry (32 yards on 13 carries) and looked a little sluggish getting to the hole against the Texans on his first few carries. Gore also took two snaps from the "Wildcat" offense and caught 2 passes for 15 yards. In one series in the 2nd half, the Niners gave Gore the ball on 6 of 8 plays, but he wasn't able to muster more then a few yards each carry. Gore's biggest problem on Sunday came not from looking "rusty" or from the Niners relying heavily on the pass in the 2nd half (they didn't) but rather on the fact that the Texans' linebackers were getting excellent penetration in to the San Francisco line, making Gore fight for every yard possible.

RB Glen Coffee, Rush: 2 - 3 - 0

Coffee had 2 carries for 3 yards against the Texans, only appearing in the game to offer starter Frank Gore a breather even though this was Gore's fist game in a month. Coffee did not factor in to the passing game.

WR Josh Morgan, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0, Rec: 4 - 62 - 0

Josh Morgan actually appeared to benefit from the presence of Michael Crabtree as he was sent often on deeper routes in single-coverage, converting 4 receptions in to 63 yards total. By the end of the game, Morgan and Crabtree were the two San Francisco receivers lining up on most passing downs with Crabtree running more "horizontal" routes and Morgan finding more vertical space. The 49ers increased efficiency in the passing game could help Morgan realize his immense potential sooner rather then later.

WR Michael Crabtree, Rec: 5 - 56 - 0

Crabtree's entry in to the NFL was impressive. He caught 5 passes for 56 yards and despite an early drop, he looked very fluid in his cuts and comfortable with the speed of the NFL game. Crabtree's best catch came on an out pattern to the right side of the field where he gathered a low Alex Smith pass in for a reception, making sure to get two feet down before going out of bounds. Crabtree was used primarily on routes 10-15 yards downfield and was only sent deep once. Crabtree did not run any incorrect patterns (at least none that were noticeable) and seems to quickly be gaining the confidence of his teammates and -- more importantly -- his coaches and quarterback.

WR Isaac Bruce, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0

Bruce finished the day with two catches for 23 yards, including a one yard screen pass wherein he fought to simply get back to the original line of scrimmage. Bruce gave way in 2 receiver sets to Crabtree in the 2nd half and will likely lose more time as the season goes on to the rookie.

TE Vernon Davis, Rec: 7 - 93 - 3

Vernon Davis continues living up to his promise in 2009, finishing Sunday's game with 7 catches for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns (all team-highs). Davis was used all over the field but was most effective between the hashmarks 7-15 yards downfield. The Texans linebackers had difficulty with his quickness while the defensive backs had trouble with his size. After his second touchdown, the Texans began double-teaming him on passing downs yet still couldn't stop his third touchdown, a 23 yard bullet from Alex Smith. Most interestingly, Davis was stellar downfield on plays that traditionally would go to a wide receiver. Davis lined up both in "tight" against the line and as a split end and was targeted often by Alex Smith. Davis is not being used as an outlet or check-down but rather as a full-fledged weapon in the passing game a la Tony Gonzales and Antonio Gates.

Houston Texans

QB Matt Schaub, Pass: 20 - 30 - 264 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 9 - 0

Schaub had another effective game against San Francisco, passing for 264 yards on 66% passing to go with a touchdown and no interceptions. Schaub was sacked twice appeared pressured more then he was against Arizona two weeks ago and Cincinnati last week. That said, he most often was able to escape from the pocket and avoid losing yardage when the 49ers defense was applying pressure (he dinished with 9 yards on 5 carries, none of which were designed runs). Even when favorite-target Andre Johnson left with an injury, Schaub continued buzzing the ball all over the field, this time keying in on tight end Owen Daniels. Schaub was particularly effective passing the ball between the hash-marks to his receivers on fly patterns and crossing routes. To date, he has been one of the league's best passers and appears to be growing more and more comfortable spreading the ball around the field.

RB Steve Slaton, Rush: 18 - 67 - 1, Rec: 4 - 22 - 1

Slaton continued to struggle on the ground Sunday but appears to have stolen the goalline touches away from Chris Brown. On the Texans first two touchdowns Sunday, Slaton was the player who scored. His first touchdown came on a 1 yard run off-tackle wherein he found a gap in the defense after letting his blockers get an initial push before he powered his way through. On the second touchdown, he caught a swing pass from Matt Schaub and scored. Slaton's rushing totals were fairly pedestrian as he was unable to get in to the open field on any of his carries, instead meeting a determined 49ers defense (led by linebacker Patrick Willis). Slaton was most effective for the Texans in the passing game, not only as a receiver but also in blocking the oncoming rush on passing downs. However, Slaton's fumbling woes continued as he lost 2 more balls (one was reversed on replay). That said, he remained in the game after the second fumble so the coaching staff clearly doesn't have him on a short leash.

RB Chris Brown, Rush: 4 - 14 - 0, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0

Brown only received 5 touches Sunday against San Francisco, totaling 18 yards on 4 carries and 1 pass. Brown was used to spell Steve Slaton for a play or two, but never replaced him for a full series. It appears that the Texans are not favoring a rotation with Slaton but rather they are focused on getting him a breather by inserting Brown after a long carry or long route. Brown also appears to have lost his goalline and red-zone duties to Slaton. Slaton scored twice from inside the 10 yard line on Sunday, touches that likely would have gone to Brown earlier in the season.

RB Ryan Moats

Moats did not receive a touch against the 49ers. He is clearly a distant 3rd in the running back order behind Steve Slaton and Chris Brown.

WR Kevin Walter, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0

Walter was relegated to being the third or fourth option in the receiving game even without Andre Johnson around. Walter finished the day with 29 yards on 3 receptions and was most often sent on hitches and out patterns near the sideline, rather then downfield routes despite near-constant single-coverage. Walter will likely have more chances to shine going forward but his role against San Francisco was fairly forgettable.

WR Andre Johnson, Rec: 2 - 62 - 0

Andre Johnson started the game hot for the Texans but eventually left with injury in the 4th quarter. Prior to leaving the game, Johnson had two catches for 62 yards on two passes deep down the middle. Once again, Johnson poses significant matchup problems for defenses due to his speed and size. Cornerback Nate Clements gave Johnson a significant cushion at the line of scrimmage and that still didn't help. Only once the 49ers began rotating a safety to Johnson's size and trying to bump him at the line with a cornerback did Matt Schaub start targeting other players more often then Johnson. Johnson's injury does not appear serious as he left the field under his own power.

TE Owen Daniels, Rec: 7 - 123 - 1

Daniels had another great game, challenging the 49ers linebackers in coverage and usually winning the battle. He finished the day with 123 yards on 7 receptions to go with a 42 yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Daniels was most effective between the hashmarks on Sunday, with quarterback Matt Schaub looking for him deep down the middle of the field on 4 separate occasions. Daniels also provided key run blocking for Steve Slaton despite Slaton's modest gains. When Andre Johnson left the game due to injury in the 4th quarter, Matt Schaub quickly turned to Daniels, who he targeted 4 times on the very next series. Daniels is clearly option 1A for Matt Schaub an should continue performing as a top-tier tight end for the foreseeable future.