Here are the first few paragraphs of my column on the Niners game vs. the Broncos:

The 49ers beat the Broncos 29-24 but the 49ers were awful when it counted, as in disastrous, as in painful on the eyes.

Be clear about that. The third exhibition game is close to being a real game. The vast majority of coaches game plan for the third game, although it’s unknown if Jim Harbaugh game planned. When asked if he would game plan, he ducked the question like someone avoiding an incoming rocket, the usual maneuver for him. He never met a question he didn’t duck.

But he kept his starters on the field for most of the first half, and his starters — let’s find the correct technical word for this — stunk. Yes, that’s it. The starters stunk.

To read the rest of the column, please click here.

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  1. Stan

    What an off putting article. And,it sounds familiar truthful too…

    August 26th, 2012 7:17 pm

  2. Neal

    I could not agree more Lowell, the plain fact is Harbaugh is very arrogant and he knows more then anyone else and that can get you in trouble. When Braylon Edwards was cut, he probably persuaded Baalke not to sign anyone else, and we were stuck with two scrubs off the practice squad, that killed us in the Giant’s game last season. I wished we had Manning, he looks at about 75% of himself, which is alot better then 100% of lousy Smith.

    August 26th, 2012 7:46 pm

  3. Neal

    I could not agree more Lowell, when the Niners cut Braylon Edwards he thought his two practice receivers, can take up the slack, that was a very bad decision as we had these two scrubs in the NFC championship game, he should of pick up another veteran. Their is only so much he can do with Alex Smith. Harbaugh was great at Stanford, mainly because he recruited Andrew Luck, and Alex Smith is no Andrew Luck.

    August 26th, 2012 7:56 pm

  4. Tiburon Dave

    The good news is the NFC West still stinks.

    They got all the new toys for Alex to play with but he’s still alex smith…

    August 26th, 2012 8:38 pm

  5. Mark M

    I saw it the same way. Yet Alex’s QBR sure will look good. Yay for us! Oh well, the more disturbing part was the D getting shredded. That has to be fixed, and I believe it probably will as long as we are healthy for the regular season.

    We spent a lot on new speed talent this year and ignored defensive depth. I hope that doesn’t bite us.

    August 26th, 2012 8:40 pm

  6. B-Rad

    “The Niners are guilty of not signing Manning.”

    In 2011, the Niners had the 26th rated offense and 29th rated passing offense.
    I’m hoping for some modest improvements this year, but after watching
    last week’s preseason game against Houston, I was glad that we didn’t sign
    Manning because I don’t see how Manning would have survived the
    shellacking that Smith took. And Smith is more mobile.

    August 26th, 2012 9:22 pm

  7. parnell

    Take a deep breath and repeat after me “This was an exhibition game.” There, feel better?

    As to the alleged bad long pass to Moss, did anyone notice that Moss was covered not by one, not by two but by three defensive backs? I think of that as a positive development as if Moss is going to attract that much attention, other receivers will be wide open.

    In last year’s third exhibition game, the 49ers were routed by Houston. Perhaps that might give a clue about whether Harbaugh game plans exhibition games. And why exactly would he?

    August 27th, 2012 12:16 am

  8. Dr. Feelgood

    2011 Pre-Season

    NO 24 SF 3 Alex Smith TD’s- 0
    Oakland 17 SF 3 Alex Smith TD’s- 0
    Houston 30 SF 7 Alex Smith TD’s- 0
    SF 20 SD 17 Alex Smith TD’s- 0

    We don’t have Joe, we don’t have Steve. We didn’t get Peyton. I didn’t get the girl from chemistry class. Get over it.

    August 27th, 2012 12:32 am

  9. JB

    Ahh, the contract offer was on the table before the whole Manning situation took place. It was Smith’s refusal to sign it that created that whole scenario. This is widely documented, and as a journalist, I’m surprised you missed it.

    As to the game…it’s preseason. For Harbaugh and staff, this is the time to work on fundamentals and learn about players as they cut from 90 to 53. Game planning and scheme are for another time…like the Green Bay game. Some teams don’t treat it this way, so you never really have an apples to apples comparison of how things ultimately will go.

    Come in off the ledge.

    August 27th, 2012 5:04 am

  10. Brandon Conway

    Manning chose to sign with Denver. Reggie White chose to sign with Green Bay. Prince Fielder chose to sign with Detroit. That’s kinda what being a free agent is all about. The 49ers cannot be guilty of failing to do something that they didn’t have the final say on.

    August 27th, 2012 5:10 am

  11. Rucrazy

    Payton Manning was never going to play for a team in the NFC. This is because he might have play his brother in the playoffs. Payton only wanted to play against his brother in the Super Bowl.

    August 27th, 2012 8:28 am

  12. Bray

    It’s pre-season nothing is as it seems. Denver had every reason to show the hometown fans ‘look what we got for y’all’. They HAD to show Manning was ‘as advertised’.

    While the ever secretive Harbaugh, didn’t even game plan, choosing to let the #3 wins the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if AS had orders to NOT kill a play at the the line because of the D, just keep the super’nilla call as is.

    Let’s check back in week 8 or 9 and revisit this topic.

    August 27th, 2012 8:29 am

  13. MJ

    Wow, after one preseason game we’re already back to this. How do we know for a fact that Manning wanted to sign with SF? Did SF have the money to offer Manning, or did they want to committ the money to him? Just cause you go to a dealership and look at a car doesn’t mean you have any intention to buy afterward.

    After one preseason game.


    Lets wait until, oh say, January 30th of 2013 before we make any judgements.

    August 27th, 2012 8:52 am

  14. Streetglide

    And this is why you drive me nuts Lowell-san. Smith was five of seven, one TD and a PR of 142.3, you say he stunk out the joint? Think on the other hand it might have been a team effort?
    You did this same act last pre-season. Boo-Hoo said you, Harbaugh is a fake. If we had signed Payton — who for one game looked great — we would have messed up our salary cap for years, had to let a bunch of player go after their contracts ran out, and would have seen Manning retire in two years…
    Didn’t you notice that after Denver did that cheesy onside kick the Niners scored in a flash? You don’t think they were sandbagging like they did last year, and Jim stuck one in their ear as a reminder of who the Broncos was playing – and Denver has always been a cheezy outfit? Sure there were plenty of arm tackles and yes the OL stunk, but I think they will be better when the season starts.
    Why don’t you let the kvetching go until then? And by the way, they are having some great (GREAT!!!) sales on Zin up in Amador County. That’s far more interesting than the-sky-is-falling stuff about the Niners; don’t you think? :- )

    August 27th, 2012 9:09 am

  15. Brady

    This article says as much about your upcoming season as the game did for the Niners’ Lowell.

    For beating a dead horse, you sure forgot a bunch of facts that are integral to the story.

    1) The contract offer to Alex Smith was on the table before Manning, during Manning, and after Manning. York, Harbaugh, Baalke, and Alex have all said that. You not only omit this, but you incorrectly state otherwise.
    2) Manning chose the Broncos. Whether or not you believe Harbaugh when he says they didn’t pursue him, Manning chose the Broncos. This was not a Niner they let get away, this was a free agent who chose to play for another team.
    3) Had they signed Manning, they would have had to commit so much money to him that they would not have been able to re-sign Ahmad Brooks and Carlos Rogers, and likely would not have been able to sign Mario Manningham. The Niners as they stand are Super Bowl contenders. With the addition of Manning they take a step backwards on defense, while taking a gamble on an old, injured QB. When you are contending for a Super Bowl, you try to get better, but not at the possible expense of your contention.

    It’s quite frankly appalling that you misguide your ill-informed readers by not presenting the whole story, and also the facts. If Alex “stunk,” then you certainly stunk as well by omitting details key to the whole story.

    this was a big tune-up before the season. And Lowell, Lowell the Meek and Mild, you turned it over.

    August 27th, 2012 9:46 am

  16. Bob In Portland

    They were missing four guys from their starting defense, which made Manning look really good. Can’t say that Smith looked good, but it seemed like besides the long one to Davis they didn’t call anything deep while Smith was there. Gore didn’t look good either. Maybe we should get rid of him too. And is Manningham on the roster?

    August 27th, 2012 9:48 am

  17. CohnZohn

    Smith threw a deep ball to Moss.

    August 27th, 2012 9:50 am

  18. Streetglide

    And he missed it. He threw a shot to Davis who was clear by a mile and caught it in stride. You are so busted my friend and did you ding my post to Stan on the other thingie saying it was all good?

    (Six bucks a bottle for killer Zins up in the Sierra foothills bubala.) Fahget the Niners and fire up that electric car of yours.
    There’s three cases somewhere with your name on them. Stop at Sloughhouse on the way and get some corn. Then hit “the Dead Fly Café” in Plymouth for a decent burger. Order the steak fries; they’re better…

    August 27th, 2012 10:20 am

  19. David

    Finally some sane minds com on board to post!

    August 27th, 2012 10:32 am

  20. Kommon Senze

    I would be more worried about these performances if they had not looked near dysfunctional throughout last pre-season. I think every coach approaches pre-season matchups differently, and Harbaugh doesn’t seem as concerned about trying to win as he is in gaining some information about his players.

    Smith went 5-7 in limited snaps, and he did make some nice secondary reads that were not throwaways. Kaepernick went 4-4 in his limited time, and actually looked more comfortable in the pocket as he read his progressions.

    Were there some concerns? Absolutely. The defense has not really looked good all pre-season, and even the players and coaches have noted that they need to get it together. That said, they also noted that they have not been game planning for their pre-season opponents (Ahmad Brooks said more time has been spent scouting their week 1 opponent, Green Bay), and many reports noted that they have looked sharp in many practices.

    I’m willing to give the coaching staff and the team some benefit of the doubt at this point, since I do not think these games are representative of the overall state of the team. The Colts, back during the heyday of Peyton’s tenure, typically had losing records throughout the pre-season (going winless in a few that I can recall). Peyton took very few snaps, even in game 3, because they knew what they what they had and had different priorities than trying to put together a real dress rehearsal. I’m not saying that the situations are identical, because they are not, but I do think Harbaugh and his staff probably have different priorities than what many beat-writers and analysts might be looking for. I think the 49ers went undefeated in one pre-season under Singletary, if I’m not mistaken, and they didn’t exactly carry that over into the regular season.

    Point being, let’s wait to pass judgment until the live bullets start flying. If the 49ers continue to look to have the same real issues in week 2, 3, etc. then I think the criticism will be far more warranted. Right now, a wrinkle of concern, imo, is absolutely fair.. but that’s about all I’d give it at this stage.

    August 27th, 2012 10:54 am

  21. Joe H.

    There is still something wrong with the O-line.

    Not sure what the next steps are, but they’re going to have to run more Fullback blocking schemes and double tight end formations just to keep Alex Smith on two legs for more than 3 seconds.

    The pickup of Davis and Iupati were good decisions, but last year’s draft pick was all about the outside game (Rec’vrs and running back), obvious problems.

    But the core issue isn’t just pass protection breakdown, as much as it is early panic onset (EPO), resulting in skittery leg syndrome (SLS) and other unintended consequential results, incompletion, interception, sack, fumble, or loss of yards.

    Alex Smith has always had EPO and SLS.

    August 27th, 2012 10:57 am

  22. Gopal

    They look better this preseason than they did last year.

    I don’t think Smith will be an All-Pro, but he may still be good enough to put 20+ points on the board, and lead the occasional game winning drive.

    I predict he will also have a low number of turnovers, due to his propensity for not making risky throws, and taking sacks instead of scrambling to make something out of nothing on a broken play.

    Considering what the alternatives look like at this point, I’ll take that.

    Incidentally, the Parducci Mendocino Sustainable Red is a pretty nice low cost wine that is easy to find in markets now.

    August 27th, 2012 10:57 am

  23. CohnZohn

    Gopal, thanks for the wine tip.

    August 27th, 2012 11:00 am

  24. Chad

    I have no idea what to expect come week 1 against GB. I’m thinking (based off of last pre-season and what followed) that the 49ers will be more competitive than most think. Most people note that the 3rd pre-season game is the one that the coaches game plan for. It seems most have forgotten who the coach of the 49ers is. If anything, he doesn’t follow the “norm” when it comes to most things. Therefore, I will wait until after week 3 or 4 to start worrying that the season is over and the 49ers are doomed.

    Just a side note. I think that Alex Smith does exactly what Harbaugh wants 90% or more of the time. If he didn’t, Harbaugh would have a different starting QB. The result is probably not always what Harbaugh wants/expects, however I can’t see Harbaugh having a QB that doesn’t follow “his plan”. If Harbaugh wanted to throw the ball consistently down field and not have all of the check downs, I find it very hard to believe he wouldn’t have replaced his starting QB by now. Just saying that maybe some of the “meek and mild” comments should be saved for the head coach. Even if Colin isn’t totally ready, I can’t see Harbaugh keeping Smith as starter if he wasn’t following the Harbaugh plan. After all, he is the one that has the power to replace the QB that most seem to complain about and yet, he doesn’t.

    One more thing, anybody know what Peyton’s stats were in the first two pre-season games? I honestly don’t know, however ,I’m hoping everybody isn’t basing their expectations on what Peyton will be this year (post surgery) off of 1 pre-season quarter against the 49ers. That would be like saying Alex Smith is going to be league MVP this year based on the Saints game last year.

    August 27th, 2012 11:17 am

  25. Mugsy

    Harbaugh treats preseason games different than other coaches. Most coaches do indeed view it as a real dress-rehearsal for the regular season, with starters playing a full half. Harbaugh, on the other hand, shows nothing, plays vanilla offense and defense, and just tries to get through the game. I’ll reserve judgement on Payton Manning’s effectiveness until about one-third of the season has been played. Most of the balls he threw looked like wounded ducks to me — his reduced arm strength makes Alex Smith look like Terry Bradshaw. It won’t be long before d-coordinators start to figure out what he’s no longer able to do and start to creep on him. Not saying he won’t have a relatively successful season, but he’s physically diminished and that will impact his game. Also curious to see if he can suit up 16 times. Old, beat up quarterbacks get hurt — a lot.

    August 27th, 2012 11:25 am

  26. Giantsfan

    The personal vendetta is getting old. What a crock article? Lowell, if you’re going to blast A. Smith and the 49ers after 1 sack in a preseason game, why don’t you at least mention the long TD to VD? At least be fair.

    I’ll take Alex Smith over Manning right now thank you. Manning may have more TDs and yards after the season, but lets see who has more wins and gets farther in the postseason.

    I’m going to remind you of this article in January. Will ask for a retraction or some sort. Kinda like I did when you bashed Lincecum before the Giants won it all in 2010…

    August 27th, 2012 1:04 pm

  27. Dave T

    I am not sold on Manning and his health overall. He was away from the game for a year and I don’t think anyone, including Peyton, knows how he will react under game conditions. I would say look at where he is for the Broncos bye week in week 7. The opponents of Pittsburgh, Atlanta, San Diego, Housotn, Oakland and New England will give us a better gauge of where he is at and conversely we can compare where the Niners stand at that time as well.

    I am not a Smith fan, nor do I dislike him, but I do think the Niner staff knows how to manage him and his abilities to the best potential. And to me, that has some value.

    For the record, my pre-season SB picks are Green Bay v. Pittsburgh in a re-match of two seasons ago, Steelers take home title number 7. Green Bay over SF in NFC title game, Pittsburgh over New England as the Steelers finally get the Patriots playoff monkey off their back.

    August 30th, 2012 3:46 pm

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