My San Francisco 49ers lost their home opener in their new stadium in Santa Clara last night on Sunday Night Football to the mediocre Chicago Bears by the score of 28-20.
There were two primary factors in the defeat.
First and foremost, QB Colin Kaepernick flat stunk up the joint. He turned the ball over four times to a suspect defense that played over its head a bit but which Colin consistently misread. Three picks and an ugly, ugly fumble later and the game was over.
Second — and only of slightly less importance — was one of the most zealously over-officiated games of a season that already promises to be one of the most intrusively officiated seasons in the history of the NFL. As Bleacher Report put it, “There were 26 penalties called on a nationally televised game. Some of those were the right calls, but that doesn’t change the fact that this game was diluted thanks to a severe case of over-officiating.”
It wasn’t so much that the calls were bad or that too many went against the Niners or that those that did were more costly (though all of those were facts in my admittedly prejudiced view). It was the fact that the officials didn’t let the teams play. And when a well-oiled machine of an offense like that of the 49ers gets constantly interrupted and disrupted by yellow hankies (on more than one occasion there were three or four on the field on a single play!), its rhythm gets thrown off. Its performance suffers. And the fans experience a less enjoyable game, regardless of outcome.
Back in the day (you can tell I’m really old, right?), when I was officiating all three major sports year-around and/or writing about them, we had one thing drilled into our heads over and over again: if the officials are visible, they aren’t doing their jobs. The role of the official is to play unobtrusive and objective observer and rule-keeper. The League had better get this epidemic of yellow flags under control quickly or the season is going to deteriorate badly.
Now, back to Mr. Kaepernick.
He appears this year to be caught up in an inability to deal with adversity. In short, he panics. Two of his three interceptions were clearly in high-pressure situations. (One of them was a brilliant case of route-jumping for which he was only partly responsible.) The fumble took place on a run where he should have gone down sliding sooner, though how anyone smashes the ball out from under that huge bicep of his is beyond me. On several other occasions when he didn’t throw an INT, he did panic and do dumb stuff. He also lost focus twice and cost the Niners a delay of game and two unnecessary timeouts.
The good news is, these are all things that can be fixed.
The bad news, is we lost to the freaking Bears. Yeesh.