FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons coach Mike Smith did his best Lou Holtz impersonation during Monday’s press conference.
When it was over, you were convinced that Smith had a healthy respect for the 0-3 San Francisco 49ers.
He wasn’t all over the top with it, but he noted that when the Falcons beatdown the 49ers last season that running back Frank Gore didn’t play, wide receiver Michael Crabtree didn’t play and the since-departed Shaun Hill was the quarterback.
While Gore, Crabtree and quarterback Alex Smith don’t exactly make you think of Roger Craig, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, they are upgrades.
“Last year’s game in San Francisco will have no bearing on the outcome of the game this week,” Smith said. “It will have no bearing whatsoever. They’re a completely different football team.”
The 49ers were predicted to win the NFC West, but have struggled early this season. Head coach Mike Singletary fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on Monday. Former Falcons assistant coach Mike Johnson will call the plays.
Here’s a quick look at the 49ers:
Record: 0-3, with losses to Seattle, New Orleans and Kansas City.
Last time played: Wide receiver Roddy White caught eight passes for a franchise-record 210 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yarder, a career-long catch. He broke Terance Mathis’ team record of 198 receiving yards, set on Dec. 13, 1998, against New Orleans. Here’s the game story from last year.
San Francisco on offense: They have weapons in Gore, Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, but things have not clicked for them this season. They did play the Saints close, but had four turnovers. The Chiefs took away their running attack, Davis and then sacked Smith five times. They are 31st in the league in points scored at 12.7.
San Francisco on defense: The defense is led by middle linebacker Patrick Willis, but they have not stopped the run. Last week, Jamaal Charles rushed for 97 yards on 12 carries and Thomas Jones had 19 carries for 95 yards. Singletary has denied reports that he is going to bench linebacker Takeo Spikes and safety Michael Lewis.
San Francisco on special teams: Joe Nedney is the kicker. Andy Lee is the punter. Nedney made a 51-yard field goal last week against Kansas City, which gave him a franchise-record nine successful field goals of 50 yards or more. Kyle Williams had three kick returns for 65 yards against Kansas City, but he had a fumble. He replaced Phillip Adams, who had a fumble against the Saints.
What you should know: The 49ers are not Road Warriors under Singletary. They are 4-11 on the road under the former Chicago Bear great, losers in eight of the past nine away games, with no road victories outside the NFC West since they won in Buffalo on Nov. 30, 2008
What you might not know: Johnson, 43, is a former backup quarterback with Arizona State, who’s spent 10 seasons as an NFL assistant with the Chargers, Falcons, Ravens and 49ers as either a receivers or quarterbacks coach. The Los Angeles native coached with the Falcons from 2002 to 2005.
Coach: Mike Singletary, who was a candidate to be the Falcons head coach before Bobby Petrino was hired, is in his fourth year with the 49ers.