Tag: Football

More Shallow “Analysis” of SF QB Situation

Sometimes I’m appalled at what passes for  “analysis” on national sports sites. It seems to me very often that most of the really insightful commentary comes from passionate fans rather than from the professionals and semi-professionals who are featured writers on sites such as The Bleacher Report.

brlogoEven though TBR is one of my favorite sports sites, their commentators very often seem to me to fall victim to the syndrome that suggests that because my byline appears on article on a website with lots of eyeballs, that somehow proves my capability.

Along came Jeremy Sickel  today to provide my latest example of the lack of truth in that belief. Speaking about Sunday’s 49er win over New England, Sickle  actually said this:

“Kaepernick proved on Sunday night that he is the guy who could get this team to the next level by beating the rest of the NFL’s elite.”

Come again? He beats one admittedly elite quarterback on a miserable night after blowing a 28-point lead and against a defense that never did get into sync the entire evening, and suddenly he’s a superstar? Ridiculous!

CK, as I’ve said here several times, is destined, if he stays healthy, to be one of the finest quarterbacks in the NFL. But he’s not there yet and I still think the Niners will pay a steep price for throwing him to the wolves before he’s really ready, just as they did with his deserving processor Alex Smith when his career began in San Francisco.

Hyperbole is a natural part of the sports writer’s vocabulary. Traditionally, it’s what made writing sports more vital, fun and interesting than covering politics, society, and other mundane topics in the news. Some of the best journalists in American history began their careers on the sports desk, and many of them stayed there for long, illustrious careers.

But that does not constitute a license to commit shallow analysis in the interest of developing a reputation as an insightful observer of the sports scene.

No doubt Kaepernick  will someday deserve the accolade bestowed on him by TBR this week. But, exactly like the move that put him in the spotlight, that judgment is decidedly premature.

Kaep Shows Well in Wild Niners Win

Well, they don’t get much stranger than this one. I fully expected the 49ers to slink out of New England with her tail firmly planted between their legs, having been handed a one-sided loss by the Patriots. Instead, I’ll led by mid-season replacement QB Colin Kaepernick,  the Niners won two of three games played under miserable conditions and emerged with a surprising  41-34 victory.

SF backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick

49ers Starting QB Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick got the team off to a huge start, and by the third quarter the game looked all but out of reach for the host Pats. Then the veteran Tom Brady seemed to wake up. In surprisingly short order, the game was tied at 31.

In the end, though, it was the second-year signal caller who has become the butt of my many barbs with season who pulled their game out of the fire, ending with a QB rating north of 100.

CK was able to pull off this win despite some really questionable play-calling from the bench. As the game wound down, Chris Collinsworth was singing in the young players praises, singling out his mental agility at finding secondary receivers.

For me, it’s still too early to become a fan of No. 7, but he certainly made a good, strong impression in the way he handled abundance and lack during one of the most engaging and exciting games I’ve seen in a while.

Next up for the 49ers: the Seattle Seahawks. Having clinched a playoff spot tonight, the Niners will be looking to lock down the division title and a great position during the playoffs.

Harbaugh’s Not Whining. Seattle DBs Break the Rules

According to this piece on Bleacher Report today, 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh plans to seek league clarification on how far defensive backs can go with physical play downfield.

I know a lot of fans around the country will accuse Harbaugh of being whiny and trying to influence the officials before the Dec. 23 rematch between the Niners and the Seattle Seahawks. But the truth is, in this case, it appears to me that Harbaugh’s concerns are legitimate.

During last Thursday night’s game between the two teams at Candlestick, I was continually astonished by the downfield contact the Seahawks DBs engaged in, often right in full view of officials who seemed somehow blind to their offenses. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman were particularly egregious offenders from what I could see.

NFL rules prohibit a defender from making physical contact with a receiver more than five yards from the line of scrimmage. Yet I saw a dozen or more plays in which the ‘Hawks backs blatantly broke that rule. Not one such penalty was ever called.

I’m not saying this is limited to Seattle, though they seem to be the most egregious offenders according to NFL scuttlebutt. Whether it’s Seattle or someone else, though, it’s important that teams be able to count on the rules being enforced consistently. Harbaugh is right to question the performance of Thursday night’s officiating crew on this point.


Nifty Niners Win Big, Show Some Flash

The San Francisco 49ers mixed things up brillliantly at the Meadowlands Sunday afternoon as they handed the New York Jets their asses and their jockstraps in a 34-0 rout. The score would have been higher but for the fact that Colin Kaepernick slid at the 4-yard-line rather than rambling into the end zone for another six as the game entered its final moments.

Putting Kaepernick into the game early and giving him the ball a few times before the result was sewn up was a neat offensive trick that I found quite tasty. It kept the Jets’ defense on their heels, which was considerably south of the parts of their anatomy on which they spent most of the afternoon. There was razzle dazzle and the expected great defense.

The only part of the game that fell down was special teams, where David Akers missed two field goal tries, both to the right. Ordinarily, a placekicker blowing two three-pointers would be a minor footnote. But when that kicker is Akers, routinely among the best in the NFL and a guy who booted an NFL-record-tying 63-yarder two weeks ago, this kind of inconsistency is enough to get my attention.

So the Niners enter a three-game homestand against, consecutively, the Bills, the Giants and the Seahawks, all standing at 2-2 at this point and all dangerous foes. It seems likely they’ll finish that home stand at no worse than 5-2 and probably 6-1.

Nice start, guys!


49ers Face, Lose “Trap Game” to Fired-Up Vikings

The San Francisco 49ers ran into what is called a “trap game” this afternoon in Minnesota and came away with their tails between their legs, having absorbed a handy 24-13 whupping at the hands of the highly motivated Vikings.

A trap game is one that comes against an apparently vastly inferior opponent when you’re coming off one or more wins against teams that were expected to defeat you, or at least looked highly challenging on paper. The Niners opened this season with two good, tough wins over NFC North foes, taking it to Green Bay in Week One and then beating an improving Detroit Lions squad in SF, both by eight points.

They were heavily favored this week. The guys at the Bleacher Report laughed the game off the scoreboard, predicting a final score of 31-3. But the Vikings, apparently tired of being taken lightly, ran an impressively long opening drive for a 7-0 lead and were never headed.

Despite the fact that the replacement officials made two horrible decisions late in the game, both in the Niners’ favor and both of which the crew admitted after the game, the Niners looked confused, out of place and out-coached all afternoon.

Niners Win Handily, Officials Decimated by Stupidity

Check out my Storify story today about yesterday's surprisingly easy 30-22 Niners' win over the Green Bay Packers. The story also includes:

  • my comments on the Niners' new-found #1 Power Ranking
  • the worst officiating I've seen in more than 50 years of fandom and sports writing
Let me know how you're enjoying this Storify approach I'm poking at. I'm finding some blemishes but it may be worth my spending more time with, assuming you, my readers, don't just hate it!

Bleacher Report Mysteriously Drops Niners to #3

The Bleacher Report has had the San Francisco 49ers ranked as the top team in the NFC and NFL throughout the pre-season. But in today's final release before the opening of the regular season, they have mysteriously dropped the team to #3 behind the Packers and the Patriots. 

I don't necessarily disagree with the final ranking. If anything it may be too optimistic. But when you go through the pre-season singing the praises of the Niners and then wimp out to the favorites everyone else is picking before the first real kickoff, that requires an explanation. And Matt Miller absolutely takes a swan dive on that score. After admitting that the sudden change of heart required an explanation, the best Miller can muster is a lame, "This isn't a knee-jerk reaction to the preseason, but more so a recalibration based on the entire offseason. The 49ers were great in 2011, and they were one play away from a Super Bowl berth; but expecting the same level of dominance this year may be unrealistic."

What wishy-washy mealy-mouthing. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The Niners will go 12-4 or 11-5 this season, win their conference easily, and almost certainly make it to the NFC finals where they'll probably meet Green Bay. It's too early to call that one, but I won't be shocked if the Niners make it to the Big Show.

Niners Show Lack of Defensive Depth

The San Francisco 49ers demonstrated a real lack of depth on the defensive side of the football in yesterday's 20-9 loss to the lowly Houston Texans. The first string held its own reasonably well on both sides of the ball but when the second quarter opened with the Niners' backups on the D side, things went downhill in a hurry.

A mediocre QB, Matt Schaub, looked like a Pro Bowler as he picked apart a pass defense that seemed to mail it in. The backfield never got in synch. Based on this performance, the Niners' vaunted starting D had better not experience many injuries this year or things could get ugly.

Another disappointment for the Niners had to be the so-so performance of backup signal-caller Colin Kaepernick. He seemed completely out of synch at times, narrowly missing three interceptions that a first-string NFL defense would have rammed back down his throat. His stats (4/6 for 16 yards) were pathetic and the team seemed flat with him on the field. Josh Johnson, on the other hand, was impressive as he completed the same number of passes in the same number of attempts as Kaepernick, but for 64 productive yards. He also seemed far more poised.

The Niners were dismal in third  down efficiency, converting 23% (3/13) but Coach Jim Harbaugh took no less than three fourth-down shots and the team converted one.

I'm sure the coaches learned a lot and a considerable number of guys sealed their fates with the team by their inattentive and sloppy performances.

NFL Preseason Live App is Way Cool

I downloaded the NFL Pre-Season Live iPad app and signed up for their service before tonight's San Francisco 49ers Preseason Opener. I am really, really impressed.

When I watch football games, I often use what i call "speed mode." I record the game, then watch every play but fast-forward between plays and through commercials. It's a rough experience sometimes, because I "overbutton" and have to backtrack too much of the time. Of course, even though I fast-forward through stuff, it still takes some time.

This app — which runs in my desktop browser as well — has a "condensed" game viewing mode which captures every play start to finish, no breaks, no time-outs, catches the penalties…. Perfect. It takes about 30 minutes to watch an entire NFL game. I'm going to be watching a LOT more football this year!

Great job, NFL.com!

All Four Niner QBs Look Good in Preseason Opener

The San Francisco 49ers opened the 2012 pre-season at home this evening with a 17-6 win over the rebuilding Minnesota Vikings. All four of the Niners' QB corps — starter Alex Smith, backup Colin Kaepernick, Scott Tolzien and Josh Johnson — looked pretty good on opening night. I was particularly impressed with Kaepernick, who's viewed by many NFL observers as a potential superstar. His legs are awesome and his field awareness was outstanding. He does need to learn to make quicker decisions and get rid of the ball a bit faster but that's probably a matter of more turns over center. Smith was nearly in season-opening form, making good decisions and keeping his head in the game.

I found myself more concerned with the defense, which was our main strength last year and which I expected to be slightly better this season. Justin Smith took the night off but the rest of the crew was intact. I was amazed at how easily the Vikings picked that D apart both through the air and on the ground in the first half.

The non-union, untrained officials did a credible job. I only saw a couple of bad calls but I usually see more than that with a regular crew, so that was pleasantly surprising. I hope the owners get their heads out of their collective butts pretty soon, though; this game can't be played properly with raw zebra.