San Francisco pulled out their second win today, knocking off the the Denver Broncos 24-16.
Up until the fourth quarter, it looked like the 49ers were looking at going 1-7; it was only thanks to some big names that the 49ers leave London with a victory.
It wasn't pretty, but this Sunday provided us Faithful with plenty of things to be happy about—and a couple things to not be happy about. Here are my thoughts coming off this weekend.
With three catches on the day, including a beautiful TD reception, Crabtree is starting to look like the superstar he thinks he is.
He ran his routes great, even against a veteran like Champ Bailey. Crabtree showed a dynamic skill set, including top-notch speed and positioning. Now all the 49ers need is a reliable second receiver to draw some coverage, and the team could fully realize Crabtree`s potential.
I cannot stress this enough: Troy Smith played fantastic.
Going 12-for-19 for nearly 200 yards (including a TD pass), Smith looked a little rusty, but he did one thing we can all be happy about: He did not cause a turnover. He had one fumble that he quickly recovered before scrambling for a couple yards.
Smith made smart decisions all game, except for one play where he scrambled out of the pocket and threw a 50-yard pass off his back foot to Delanie Walker to set up San Fran's first touchdown of the game. If that play was a sign of things to come, the 49ers Faithful have something to be happy about.
The defense played with a "bend don't break" mentality, just like they have all season. And, just like all season, it probably wouldn't have worked if it hadn't been for the defensive line playing great football.
Justin Smith finished with two sacks and a great down field tackle to save a touchdown. Manny Lawson had a sack and caused the fumble that swung the momentum of the game. Ahmad Brooks finished with a sack and a forced fumble. They compensated for a shaky secondary and a mediocre performance by the linebacking corps, and held the Broncos just enough to pull out the win.
Predictable play-calling nearly cost the 49ers once again. Every time San Francisco rushed the ball, it was always the same old half-back draw. Dull plays slowed and even killed drives, and Singletary's "smash-mouth run offence" nearly cost San Fran dearly in the last two minutes when 49ers had to punt after three runs up the middle failed to get the team a first down.
Most of the 49ers' big plays came when the offence stretched the field and played a balanced attack, allowing them to keep the defense on its toes. Unfortunately, these plays were far and few between today.
A "bend don't break" defense is fine, as long as the defensive corps is able to pull it off.
Unfortunately, the 49ers' linebackers and defensive backs couldn't do it. The secondary bit hard on the play-action multiple times, and the Broncos capitalized for big plays down the field, including a long TD pass.
Other times, the defense was caught too deep or out of position, allowing Denver to turn screen passes and simple rushes into big plays. The defensive play calling was nothing short of schizophrenic, which does not inspire confidence.
You'd think that a win away from Candlestick would mean Singletary's job would be safe.
However, today's game leaves us Faithful with a lot of issues regarding the 49ers staff: Where has Troy Smith been all this time? It seems clear that a Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State would fare better than a decent QB from Utah, and today's result just validates that thinking.
As well, San Fran got the best results when they stretched the field on offence, and sent four or five pass-rushers on defence. The 49ers players won the game today, with no help from Mike Singletary.
The 49ers Faithful can be satisfied with the win today. The 49ers staff cannot. Today, we saw flashes of the team that everyone thought would win the NFC West. We know the pieces are there—now all they need is a coaching staff that can put it all together.