The 49ers expected to beat the Rams last Sunday, but more importantly, they took it a step further, they HAD to beat the Rams. Otherwise, they would have been at risk of having their season completely unravel, just as their confidence was at its most vulnerable, after the “Favre breaker” a week earlier.
The Rams game this past Sunday was one of the most astonishing games the 49ers have played in quite some time.
Last year, under Mike Nolan, one would have expected this game to end up 10-7 or so, perhaps with an overtime finish.
But there was something different this time.
This time the 49ers were riding a wave.
They manifested a blowout, forged from pure belief. Belief that existed on BOTH sides of the ball.
After an entire first half of offensive ineptitude, the 49ers came out in the second half as if they had only thrown an incomplete pass, and that this error was to be quickly corrected.
A microcosm of this, occurred after Shaun Hill through a beautifully placed long pass right into Josh Morgan's hands at the start of the third quarter.
Morgan dropped the perfectly thrown pass. But again, it was as if this was just another temporary hiccup, because after that play, the tidal wave of belief in the entire stadium, on both sides of the ball, hit; it hit really hard...
Not long after the dropped pass, St. Louis had the ball deep in their own territory.
Kyle Boller stepped back into a well protected pocket. That was the reality; but the BELIEF was different. The perception in Boller's mind, in that spooky, creepy, loud stadium, was that there must be someone emerging from the shadows, about to grab him for the sack.
Running from ghosts, Boller rolled to his right. At this point of course, there truly was pressure put on him, because he had just stepped out of a well protected safe zone into a defenders charge.
Panicked, like Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, he committed a cardinal sin of quarterbacking. He threw the ball across the field without vision of the middle of the field.
Patrick Willis, to his credit, read Ichabod's eyes and galloped up in front of the throw, and took it to the end zone like a headless horseman holding a flaming pumpkin.
It was then the stadium came alive, and the 49ers offense was now finally able to operate, throwing two touchdown passes as if it was something they expected to do all along.
The sheer willpower in that stadium, made it happen.
This 49ers team has “soul.” Whatever that might mean, it is the best way to describe the Rams game. Because no matter how inept the offensive attack looked, it was as if they were simply expecting to do great things regardless of what had happened up to that point.
Mike Singletary has tattooed an intangible image upon the logo of the 49ers this season.
This shouldn't be happening. We have essentially, the same defensive personnel we had last year.
But this defense has a beating heart, that carries the will power of Mike Singletary himself.
Yes, the scheme is slightly different. Yes, we are more committed to running a “true” 3-4 etc, but these slight alterations are not good enough to explain such a dramatic turn.
Singletary is a great leader. Plain and simple.
He has a defensive soul with a willpower to win that is, using his own words, “uncomparable.”
Say and think what you will about what the word “soul” means. But whatever that is, this team has it; in spades.
There is however, a piece missing from this well-oiled machine.
Before this 49er team can start singing the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” Singletary will have to work on his rhythm.
Sorry Mike, its just not there. You're great and all, but you've got no RHYTHM.
Although it's possible, it's very tough to win the Super Bowl with an offense that goes three-and-out all the time. Dynasty? Forget it.
Rhythm is less esoteric than “soul,” but it is still hard for some to grasp.
A quarterback who completes a couple passes in a row, has now adjusted to the flow and tempo of the game.
However, a quarterback who is asked to bail his team out on 3rd-and-long because the first two running plays didn't work, has a much more difficult task at hand.
Like an NBA shooter who has been in the game and made a couple of shots versus a player who has just come off the bench, you would much rather put your trust in the player who has been in the game to make the big shot instead of the “cold” player coming off the bench.
Once the quarterback is in a rhythm, the offense can now run the ball effectively, because the defense is not completely focused on stopping the run anymore.
The main point, is that you need BOTH.
Unless you have a team like the Colts, you should never rely on only one dimension of your team.
Because, except for two long runs, our running game was more consistent under Mike Martz.
Teams were afraid of our pass (effective or not) because they knew we would stick with it and make it work at some point.
We had the same talent we have now.
We had the same offensive line. We had the same WRs and the same running back. We have the same quarterback as well, yet our offense was able to move the ball last year, get first downs and score points.
As it is now, teams expect us to run, and they just attack because they know that they can take risks against us due to our conservative approach on offense.
Singletary soup for the 49ers' soul
The soul of this team is being molded into a winner. Singletary has willed it into being.
Our long-term leadership looks bright. And what better news could you want, other than winning leadership?
But in the short term, we are making it tough on our defense. We are asking them to hold the fort until the sputtering offense makes a couple of plays late in the game.
Its going to be tough to win like this against the best teams in the league. They are going to attack like every team, except their talent will be able to put points on the board.
We almost beat a good team in Minnesota, but handcuffed ourselves with the three-and-outs.
We are going to have to get a lot more rhythm on offense before we can feel confident against the best teams.
Singletary is going to have to learn some rhythm, before he can expect to do another Super Bowl Shuffle.
I didn't come here, lookin' for trouble,
but you need to find rhythm, if you want to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.