Tag: 49ers

Niners to Face Saints in First…and Last?…Playoff Game of 2012

I watched the New Orleans Saints second-half dismantling of my old favorite Detroit Lions Saturday evening with no mixed emotions at all. I really wanted the Lions to win that one. Not only because I used to cover the Lions. Not only because I think their fans deserve better. But also because, selfishly, I figured my Niners had a better chance of beating the winner of the other NFC Wild Card playoff game than the Saints.

But what I saw in the game leads me to believe it's going to be all but impossible for the Niners to beat the Saints. As good as the SF defense is, I don't think it can bottle up Drew Brees. The guy is a machine. He's having an awesome year. I don't see any way the Niners can slow him down, let alone stop him. In what I suspect will be a run-and-gun  offensive battle, I expect some league records to fall (they've been doing that a lot already in this remarkable post-season) and for the Saints to come out on top by 10 or more points.

Would I love to be wrong about this! But honestly I just don't see a chance for an SF victory Saturday afternoon at Candlestick. The only real hope would be for the Niners to force two or three early turnovers, score off of them and knock the Saints back on their heels early enough in the game that they have trouble coming back. That could happen, of course; the Niners lead the NFL in takeaway ratio. But I'm not feeling it.

Niners Continue Looking Good, But Thursday Could Be a Real Turkey

The Niners overcame a sluggish and sloppy first half today to blow out the Arizona Cardinals 23-7 as they raised their NFL second-best record to 9-1 and rack up their eighth straight victory.

The win wasn't as easy as the score made it sound. Defense forced five turnovers before the third quarter was a wrap but special teams were uncharacteristically shaky and the offense seemed to have a hard  time finding its way until the D gave it great field position on two straight possessions after the half.

I wasn't surprised the game was harder than many expected. The Cardinals had won two straight under a really unseasoned backup QB and they were not blown out by anyone prior to today's 16-point loss.

Now the Niners have three days of rest (one day of which will hardly be a resting day as they travel east once again) before taking on the Baltimore Ravens. At 7-3, the Ravens are tied with the Steelers atop the AFC North and are 5-0 on their home turf. This game could easily provide the second blemish on the Niners' 2011 record. But this is the last of only two real contests SF faces for the rest of the season. (The other date is Week 14 when they host the Steelers.) All of their remaining games are against their own NFC West conference, and there's not a viable threat in the bunch. 

So the Niners will go at least 13-3, more likely 14-2 and quite possibly 15-1. 

Thanksgiving Day should be a barn-burner. Hope there's no turkeys in the barn.

Niners Overcome Adversity to Notch Win #5

The San Francisco 49ers took a major stride toward a return to respectability today as they overcame 15 stupid penalties, an early turnover, a hot team, a road trip and a loud, hostile stadium to beat the previously undefeated Detroit Lions 25-19.

Aside from the penalties — too many of which came on offense — the Niners played one of their better games of the season, even if not statistically. The Lions' stout defense gave them fits, but they managed to solve the fluid D enough times to pull out a come-from-behind victory. And they did it, as I predicted, by more than five points. (Hey, six is more than five!)

Quite an enjoyable if overly long regulation-time game. So both teams are now 5-1, leaving the Bears the only undefeated team in the NFL. 

Niners vs. Lions: A Feast for an Old Fan

Tomorrow morning Pacific Time, the San Francisco 49ers (4-1) and the unbeaten Detroit Lions (5-0) square off in Detroit. At this moment, at least, I intend to be in church when the game starts and to come home and watch it from my DVR after it has ended. No guarantees. The Church of the NFL may yet beckon me with temptation beyond my endurance.

I grew up a Lions fan. As a young sportswriter, I covered the Lions. I was on the sports staff of the Pontiac (now Oakland) Press the year the long-time iconic Sports Editor, Bruno Kearns, worked tirelessly to get the city of Pontiac to build the stadium that lured the Lions out of Detroit and into suburbia. From the time I left Detroit until I landed in the Bay Area in the late 70's, I was a die-hard Lions fan. And that meant supporting them through some horrible, horrible years.

But I have always believed that when you relocate, you need to adopt the local teams, so I became a 49ers loyalist and I have remained one ever since.

So for me this game is going to be wonderful no matter how it turns out. I expect a really great game, but I think the Niners might win this one by more points than most folks think.

The last time the Lions were 5-0 was in 1956. They faced the Niners for their sixth game and defeated the gang from SF. I was 11 at the time but I remember the game from the newspaper accounts.

But the Niners have won the last five meetings between these two teams, having outscored Detroit almost 2-to-1 (115 to 62).

I think the Lions depend far too heavily on the long game and the 49ers are far too good deep on D to give up many long plays for the Lions to stand a real chance in this one. There are a number of key stats I watch that all favor my Niners, most important of which are the Niners much higher-rated defense (they're 2nd through 4th in the stats categories while the Lions are in the bottom third on all three) and their better takeaway ratio (+10 to +7) even though Detroit is good enough to be tied for second in the league.
But the real reason I think the Niners are likely to win Sunday is that long winning streaks are really tough to sustain in the NFL. The Lions are a good team, a much-improved team and I think they'll give SF fits a good part of the day, trying the defense particularly. But when it's all over, I expect the Niners to win by 5+.

Niners Fans, Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

Fans of the San Francisco 49ers, of which I count myself one for many years, should be afraid after watching their beloved team appear to decimate the Seattle Seahawks 33-17 today.

Defense was strong, but against a young, weak, and injury-hampered offense run by a new, rusty quarterback. Special teams were strong but any time you see one club's special teams do well, it's almost always at least in part because the other club's special teams did poorly.

Offensively, the Niners were highly disappointing. They never hit a rhythm, never put together a convincing drive, played far too conservatively at inappropriate times, and just didn't look right. One third-down conversion all day?  You're not going to win many NFL games with that kind of offense, I don't care how good your D is. And frankly it's hard to tell just how good the D really is yet. In the first half, it looked like they really disrupted Tarvaris Jackson's rhythm and schemes. He was sacked several times, hurried a lot and hammered just as he released the ball more times than I've seen in a lot of years. But that's mostly attributable not to the pass rush of the Niners as it is to the sieve-like nature of the Hawks O-line.

Frank Gore had a terrible day. In fact, the Niners running game was pathetic. And on at least two or three third-and-short situations where you'd want Gore in the lineup, he was on the bench.

It's not a huge shock that the offense would be shaky after the lockout-delayed season start, and I saw a few glimmers from QB Alex Smith today that I had not seen in the past couple of dismal years. Maybe the best quarterback ever destroyed by NFL stupidity and greed can pull his career out of the fire. I'm skeptical, but it could happen.

It's nice to start with a conference win but there's still a lot of room for wait-and-see with these guys.

Niners’ Smith Probably Washed Up

Well, it appears that the San Franiso 49ers' oft-injured and badly managed quarterback Alex Smith probably saw his prospects for a recovered career come to a crashing halt today. Making some of the poorest throwing decisions I've witnessed in many years of watching the game, Smith threw away opportunity after opportunity as the Niners managed to lose to the lowly Tennessee Titans.

Smith, who's been as badly handled as any No. 1 draft in NFL history by a team with fewer football smarts than any but the Oakland Raiders and the Detroit Lions in the past half-dozen or so years, threw three crucial interceptions. Only one of them was a bad throw that led to a clean pick; the other two were tips that were picked off in mid-air by Titan defenders. But none of those passes should have been thrown at all. They were into double coverage. They were on poor trajectories. Smith also held the ball too long on several other occasions. In general, he did the kind of job you'd expect from an inexperienced quarterback. Trouble is, that excuse has been used on his behalf for five years. He is now destined to be dumped into the dustbin of history along with other highly disappointing first picks.

It is clear that Smith is not the QB of the future for the Niners. It only remains to be seen if he can become the QB of the present. So far, as a starter of late, he's strung together six straight losses.