Niners’ Win Over Falcons Meaningless, But Telling

49ers-FalconsThe San Francisco 49ers won a football game Sunday. They beat the 6-2 Atlanta Falcons. Can’t you feel the excitement in my voice? Ah. Didn’t think so.

The win, which has the Niners at 3-6 with a bye week coming up, is fairly meaningless because:

  1. The Falcons didn’t appear to send the A Team onto the field. Instead, they played flat and complacent, taking the win for granted. That’s always a mistake. The Falcons lost this one far more clearly than the Niners won.
  2. The Niners were without several key players, including three of the four starting corners, so it’s hard to take any lesson from the game with any certainty.
  3. A one-point victory at home is never a good sign. Conventional wisdom gives the home team a three-point advantage before we start tallying comparative strengths and weaknesses. (But the Niners were huge underdogs, so there is that….)
  4. Backup QB Blaine Gabbert, pushed into the starting role, was almost bound to have a decent game in his first start in 3+ seasons. In that setup, he’s almost a rookie and the Falcons’ defense couldn’t quite figure him out. Next game won’t have that same advantage.

Still, a win is a win. A year from now, few will remember the weakness of the opponent or the good fortune (along with some good coaching; more on that in a moment) that led to the victory. It’s in the W column and that’s what counts long-term.

The defense played particularly well Sunday against a top-10-ranked Atlanta offense. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that they held Devonta Freeman, the league’s second-leading rusher, to 12 rushing yards on 12 carries. This may say more about Eric Mangini, the twice-head-coach-turned-defensive-coordinator, than about the on-field talent. Still, that’s impressive.

Gabbert was average, which is to say much better than Colin Kaepernick has been the last two outings in particular. He definitely earned the coaching staff’s confidence, which they demonstrated by announcing him as the starter Week 11 after the bye this week.

All in all, a squeaker win from which we could take a very few lessons but not garner much long-term hope. I’ll take it.

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