By Howard Balzer
(KSDK Sports) -- Rams wide receiver Chris Givens has received an inordinate amount of criticism for the pass he dropped on third-and-1 Sunday. Givens had to go high for the pass, and while it can be argued it should have been caught, it wasn't an easy catch.
What made it tough was that quarterback Kellen Clemens was hit as he threw and that affected the throw. What hasn't been talked about a lot is why Clemens was hit.
This was the play in which left tackle Jake Long suffered a concussion. Long left defensive lineman Justin Smith unblocked while he moved right to help pick up blitzing safety Donte Whitner. The problem was, running back Zac Stacy was also moving toward Stacy, so Long and Stacy banged helmets.
Had Long stayed with Smith, Clemens might have gotten off a better pass had Stacy been able to keep Whitner away, and Long wouldn't have been injured.
As it turned out, Smith had an unimpeded route to Clemens and forced the pass to be thrown off target.
Coach Jeff Fisher took the bullet for his decision to call for a fake punt that didn't work, but it was lack of execution that made it fail.
It was unorthodox to attempt the play from their own 22-yard line, but even though they were trailing by only 10 points, the offense had shown little ability to move the ball. At halftime, the Rams had 73 yards on 23 plays with just five first downs. They added two first downs in the third quarter, but hardly challenged the 49ers' stout defense.
On the fake punt, the snap went directly to safety Matt Giordano, who was supposed to flip the ball to wide receiver and gunner Stedman Bailey, who was coming from left to right. However, 49ers running back Anthony Dixon got penetration by pushing back blocker Ray Ray Armstrong, blocking Bailey's path to the ball.
Giordano had no choice to try and run himself and lost five yards. On the next play, the 49ers took a 23-6 lead. Bailey appeared to have lots of room to run had the handoff been executed properly.
Said Fisher, "I tried to provide a spark for them and I take responsibility for that. It's probably unfair that I let the wind out of their sails. We would have liked to steal a possession with the fake punt. I trusted the guys to execute it but we didn't make the play.
"It was there, except the whole thing was walled off. We had penetration. We were pressing with replacements up front and felt like they understood what they were doing, but there was too much penetration. Who knows maybe he's still running."
In terms of the replacements up front, linebacker Daren Bates was inactive for the game and he might have been the blocker instead of Armstrong.
Still, Fisher wouldn't apologize for being aggressive.
"(We) wanted a big play," he said. "That is how we are. That is sometimes how we move. We take chances and sometimes it doesn't work, but that's the way we are with special teams."
Asked about Fisher taking the sword, quarterback Kellen Clemens said, "We appreciate it. That is certainly not surprising coming from a man of character like Jeff Fisher but we need to play better as players. There were plays to be made out there that we didn't make."
Howard Balzer will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 season. Howard hosts "H and Friends" Monday-Friday from 9-11 on Fox Sports 1490 The Champ. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.