There were a lot of things that obviously went wrong in the Niners' 16-6 prime-time loss to the Ravens. But there's no denying that the nine sacks surrendered by the offensive line stuck out like a sore thumb.
Daily team observers, though, were far from ready to designate a unit that, for the most part, has been a major strength this season as a potential Achilles' heel down the stretch.
It is worth noting that things went from bad to worse for the line in Baltimore when ORG Adam Snyder left the game with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Chilo Rachal. Snyder's insertion into the starting lineup in place of a struggling Rachal earlier this season had been cited as a key factor in the line's improvement.
"But I really think the improvement was due more to everybody just getting more comfortable with the system," said one daily team observer. "It is true Rachal is not as good as Snyder. Actually, there are times when he looks like the best guy on the line. But he does have a knack for making costly, little errors."
PFW sources believe the main reason behind the offensive line's breakdown in Baltimore was the shortened time frame to prepare for the game.
"This is a team that needs to be coached, and I think there just wasn't enough time for the line to get ready for all the stuff that the Ravens like to do," said one team source. "I really believe that, if the team would have had six days to prepare for this game, they would have beaten Baltimore."
Not helping matters was an ankle injury suffered in the previous game that limited ORT Anthony Davis. "And when Snyder went down and Rachal just wasn't up to speed, things went downhill," said one source on the scene.
While it's possible a nine-sack aberration could give the Niners' O-line a permanent black eye in the eyes of Pro Bowl voters, daily Niners observers believe OLT Joe Staley, C Jonathan Goodwin and OLG Mike Iupati each has played well enough to warrant serious Pro Bowl consideration.
"Goodwin is playing the best," said one observer. "Staley and Iupati had trouble working together at the beginning of the year, but now they are really communicating well. Staley is the emotional leader of the line and the best athlete."