Maiocco: 49ers' Harbaugh has time on his side

August 13, 2011, 7:23 pm
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The 49ers delivered Friday night.With the NFL lockout that wiped out an entire offseason of organized work and a mostly new coaching staff with new systems and ideas, the 49ers figured to get off to a slow start once the games began.So what happened in their exhibition opener -- a 24-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints -- should not have caught anyone by surprise.RECAP: 49ers bullied by Saints 24-3 in exhibition opener
The Saints went right after the 49ers from the opening moments. New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams turned up the heat, leaving the middle of the field open with blitzes from all angles.If the 49ers thought the first exhibition game after the lockout was going to be a "friendly," they were sorely mistaken. The Saints came to play football."They're allowed to do that," Harbaugh answered when asked about his feelings on the Saints' aggressive approach.You got the feeling that with 11 three-hour practices to prepare for this game, the 49ers were never able to get to the pages of the playbook that dealt with some of the things the Saints threw at them.MAIOCCO: 49ers unprepared for Saints' pressure
The offensive line -- and pass protection as a whole -- was clearly not ready.Quarterback Alex Smith was under constant duress. Even when he wasn't, he struggled completing the simple passes. Rookie Colin Kaepernick showed some flashes, but he also has a lot of work to do.The 49ers will get better. They can't help but get better. But it's not going to be a quick and painless process. And if people thought anything different, they were only fooling themselves.The schedule provides a silver lining for the 49ers. They have just one game against an NFC West opponent in the first nine games of the regular season. After opening at home against the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers do not meet a division foe again until Nov. 20 when the Arizona Cardinals visit Candlestick Park.RELATED: 49ers schedule
Just like a year ago when the Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, there does not figure to be a whole lot of NFC West victories outside the division.So the 49ers can afford to get off to a slow start and remain in contention in the weakest division in football. With five of their final seven games inside the division, Harbaugh has a lot of time to get things straightened out.

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