There were many questions for the San Francisco 49ers leading up to the much anticipated home opener against a divisional foe in the Seattle Seahawks who pummeled the Niners high hopes last season in a crushing 31-6 road loss that left the Niners on a tumultuous road to its first 0-5 start since 1979.
This ultimately led to the firing of Singletary and the majority of his coaching staff, and the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh coaching era in San Francisco.
The 49ers were hardly dazzling in the preseason, going 2-2 and not scoring an offensive Touchdown with their first unit until the last game, leaving many fans and experts speculating about a team that could place third or fourth in the NFC West.
While I know this is obvious, it’s still very important as the Niners Schedule doesn’t get any easier with the next four games against the Dallas Cowboys at home, on the road against the Bengals and Eagles respectively, then back home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This does not look to be an easy stretch for the Niners who still have yet another road game against Detroit leading up to the bye week.
So how important was this win, very important!
Perhaps the most important game of the first half of the season, given that Seattle is the only divisional opponent that the Niners will see until week 11.
It’s interesting to note that of the six rookie head coaches making their debut on Sunday, Jim Harbaugh was the only one to come out with a win (Two more square off tonight in Denver). So while it was only Seattle, and we’re not ready to crown the Niners NFC West Champions, this was the must-win game needed to give this historically talented yet underachieving team a much needed confidence boost. It also gave a rookie head coach in Jim Harbaugh plenty to build on as they brace themselves for the tough road ahead.
The title of this slide should’ve been, Ted Ginn is the man! However, this unit performed beautifully together in all facets of Special Teams.
Whether it was David Akers 4/4 field goals, the tackling of Leon Washington when it looked as though he might break one to the house or the beautiful 64 yard punt by Andy Lee that looked like it stalled in the air and just sat on the Two yard line.
Everyone in Brad Seely’s unit came prepared to play and play they did.
Now, Tedd Ginn is the Man! Yes, it’s true that Ginn took a pay cut last week in order to remain with the team in what looks to be a primary contributor on Special Teams, many fans were expecting to see rookie Kendal Hunter returning Kick offs and Ginn returning Punts, however, the coaches put the best players on the field and had Ginn returning both.
And return he did, Ginn became the first player to return both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game since Eddie Royal of the Denver Broncos did it in 2009, and it’s unknown whether it has ever been done back-to-back like Ginn did it.
Considering that the Niners only had one punt returned for a touchdown all of last season and no kickoffs returned for touchdowns last year, this unit looks to be much improved, as they bested their longest kickoff return from last year of 61 yards, and that’s with the new rule moving the kick offs up five yards this year.
So, if anyone ever tells you that Special Teams aren’t a big part of the game, just tell them to talk to the San Diego Chargers.
If there were any questions regarding how the new line would look with the departure of Aubrayo Franklin and the shuffling of Sopoaga and Ray McDonald, they were answered with a resounding 64 net rushing yards allowed, 4 tackles for loss and 5 sacks—that’s 2.5 more than last year’s per game avg.—keeping QB Tavaris Jackson under duress all game. Furthermore, it didn’t let up despite the amount of time spent on the field, which can wear a defense out, especially in the first game of the season.
In addition to the D-line, the linebackers played very well, and the secondary looked much improved. So, while it’s a long season, these were some of the major concerns and, for now, all looks to be as Harbaugh says, “getting better every day”.
Speaking of getting better, does anybody remember the number of sacks the Niners gave up in the preseason? If you guessed 12, you’d be correct.
Now, the bonus question: how many did they give up in Week 1? That’s right, zero.
So while you can’t put too much stock in preseason statistics, one thing’s for certain, be it the conservative game plan, or just gelling, these guys looked much improved. My hunch is that as the season goes on, and based on the opponent, Jim Harbaugh will continue to show more of his exotic plays and offensive creativity.
But, for Week 1, I think Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman did exactly what they needed to do here: make Alex Smith comfortable, quiet the boo birds and win the game.
Also, I know that Alex Smith didn’t blow anyone away with his 124 yds. Passing and zero TD’s, but, when you consider that this was by design from the coaches and when you look at the fact that Smith executed every play to near perfection, plus the fact that he threw zero interceptions, added 22 yards rushing and a rushing TD, posting a 90.4 QBR, I think you have to say that Alex did well.
Okay, so I know that it’s not all Popsicles and fairy tales!
This team does have some work to do, and while most fans were impressed with the performance of the team as a whole, there’s definitely room for improvement. This has to start with Coach Harbaugh. While he clearly demonstrated the poise, knowledge and genuine leadership that this team has been lacking for 10+ years, he’s still got a long way to go.
1. You cannot win your division, got to the playoffs or win a Super Bowl with 1/12 (8%) Third-Down conversion
2. You cannot win consistently in the NFL by calling run plays on 3rd-and-8, 3rd-and-12, etc.
3. You cannot win against the great or even good teams by settling for field goals in four red-zone appearances
4. You cannot win on the road when your team commits 9 penalties for 102 yards, nearly half of your opponent’s total net yards.
Yes, Harbaugh and his team have a ways to go, but they need to get better every day and they’ll have yet another chance to show it against a worthy opponent in the Dallas Cowboys next week.
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