49ers Looking to Do Their Part Against Seahawks on Angst-Ridden Thursday
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I know how you're feeling, 49ers fan.
You're nervous, agitated, a bit scared.
There's this nagging doubt creeping in, a persistent knock on the back door of your mind that refuses to go away, like your kid brother trying to eavesdrop when you're having a serious conversation with your friends about what getting to second base feels like.
What if all of this was a fluke?
What if Alex Smith is who they all thought he was?
What if the stat guys were right and this team really is headed for a major regression?
Usually, as football fans we can't wait for the next game, we're practically scratching ourselves raw like junkies going through withdrawal by the time the next kickoff rolls around (although this may have to do with putting up with those god-awful morning pregame shows).
Admit it, though, this game is different. You are so not ready for the Niners to be playing another game already.
Not coming off that ugly spanking against the New York Giants what seems like eight minutes ago.
Not with the San Francisco Giants involved in a tense NLCS against an annoying St. Louis Cardinals team at the same time, down two games to one in a best-of-seven series.
Not against a team that just beat the freakin' New England Patriots, for the love of Pete.
You do not need this kind of aggravation, yet the schedule is what it is. Either the 5-9 p.m. block Thursday night will be among the happiest you've ever known as a sports fan, bittersweet one way or the other, or the kind that will cause bartenders across the peninsula to sneak quick chuckles to each other while pretending to be sad and sympathetic about your tragic plight.
While I can't offer you much help as far as the baseball is concerned (I'd recommend the superb Grant Brisbee at McCoveyChronicles.com for that), I can tell you that you'd be well served to relax, take a breath, and stop acting like a little girl.
Unless you are a little girl, in which case, go ahead, with the understanding between us that this kind of behavior is neither cute, sweet nor tolerable once you reach adulthood.
As bad as the 49ers looked last Sunday for the final three quarters against the defending champs, particularly on offense, they looked just as bad last year in stretches.
Sure, you remember the pathetic second halves at Baltimore and Arizona, but that's because they lost those games.
What about the first half at Cincinnati, at Philadelphia, vs. the Browns?
What about the middle two quarters in the playoff win over New Orleans?
It wasn't always ice cream and pie for the defense, either.
Maybe you remember the late collapses against the Saints and the Cowboys, but the Eagles certainly had their way with the boys in the first half last year, the Cardinals ran roughshod in the second half during their upset win and even the Rams got hot late in the fourth quarter against the Niners.
"Wasn't this column supposed to be uplifting?" you're asking.
Well, uplift this: Jim Harbaugh hasn't had a two-game losing streak as a head coach since three years ago yesterday, when the Stanford Cardinal dropped back-to-back roadies at Oregon State and Arizona.
He also owns Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, having beaten him in four of five meetings, including both last year when they squared off in the pros.
There's also the little matter of the 49ers having won their last 10 home games against divisional opponent.
Need more convincing? Well, how's this? The 49ers defense hasn't allowed so much as a single touchdown in a game following a defeat in the Harbaugh era, winning by scores of 13-8 (at Cincinnati), 26-0 (vs. St. Louis) and 20-3 (vs. Pittsburgh) last year following losses to Dallas, Baltimore and Arizona, and beating the Jets 34-0 this season after getting creamed by Minnesota.
Perhaps the best cause for optimism though is that Harbaugh has a track record of learning from his mistakes, though he'd be loath to admit to making any in public.
My guess is that he and his coaches have come to the conclusion that they got a bit too caught up in Colin Kaepernick hysteria, bringing in the backup QB/wildcat specialist too often and in too many important situations, and that it interfered with what little rhythm Alex Smith and Co. had going on offense.
It's undeniable that the 49ers are a more dangerous, versatile and talented team than they were a year ago. Mario Manningham and Randy Moss have improved the receiving corps, the offensive line was upgraded with the addition of Alex Boone and the continued development of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, and even Kendall Hunter looks more explosive after a year in the system.
However, with all that being said, they're still not the kind of offense that can survive sacks, holding and false start penalties and the kind of bugaboos that happen when you insert a kid like Kaepernick and have him run around left end.
I'm all for Kaepernick's development, but using him as gimmick for a play here and there does neither him nor the team good in the long term, and as we saw in the past two games, it can have dire short-term consequences as well.
They'd be better off just bringing him in the fourth quarter of blowouts or maybe just giving him a series of his own under center at some predetermined time in the game. Maybe one per half, just to mix it up. The shuttling back and forth, though, that's gotta stop, and I think Harbaugh will see that.
It's true that playing on a short week does the 49ers no favors, especially in a spot where left tackle Joe Staley, who suffered a concussion against the Giants, might have to miss the game (he's questionable), but at least they're the home team here and will be facing an opponent they're well familiar with in Seattle, albeit one with a new starting quarterback in rookie Russell Wilson.
Seattle's already lost two division road games at Arizona and St. Louis to lesser teams, so it stands to reason that they're a different team away from CenturyLink Field or Qwest Field or whatever the heck they're calling the airplane hangar they play in.
The one road victory the Seahawks have was against a terrible Carolina Panthers team, and even in that game, a decent pass from Cam Newton to a wide-open tight end in the end zone would've beaten them (provided that tight end had better hands than Delanie Walker, of course).
So settle back, grab an adult beverage or six, a mountain of wings and pile on the hot sauce and the angst, watching your two favorite sporting teams (unless you're one of those weirdos who follows the Warriors) play simultaneously in wildly different circumstances in terms of importance.
Back in 2002, the San Francisco Giants won a pennant, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 in Game 5 in San Francisco while the Niners beat (you guessed it) the Seahawks 28-21 at Seattle on "Monday Night Football."
Yes, that was the game Terrell Owens signed the ball after scoring.
Still, that was a pretty good night, right?
I predict we'll have a similar one tonight. And if the opposite happens and both the locals lose, well "Parks and Recreation" had better really be funny.
Week 7 Picks:
49ers 23 (-7), Seahawks 13
Colts 27 (-1), Browns 24
Packers 26 (-6), Rams 17
Vikings 20, Cardinals 16 (+6)
Redskins 27 (+6), Giants 24
Buccaneers 27 (+3), Saints 20
Cowboys 30 (-1), Panthers 20
Patriots 30 (-11), Jets 3
2012 Record: 57-34 (7-7 Last Week)
Record Vs Spread: 43-45-3 (4-10 Last Week)
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