49ers vs. Ravens: What Went Wrong for San Francisco on Thanksgiving
Patrick Willis and company played a solid game. They gave up only 16 points while holding Ray Rice to 59 yards and no touchdowns. The secondary did not give up any big completions (although a pass-interference call, which wiped out Tarell Brown's interception in the first quarter, cost the 49ers 50 yards). The defensive line was not able to get any pressure on Joe Flacco, which allowed him the time to pick apart the secondary with intermediate passes.
By giving up only 16 points, the defense played well enough to keep Alex Smith and the offense in the game, but the Ravens were not having any part of that.
The 49ers offense was, in a word, pathetic. The offensive line simply was not up to the task of stopping the Ravens pass-rushers, allowing nine sacks. The pressure caused by Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and the rest of the Ravens' defensive line crushed the 49ers' run game and did not give the receivers any time to get open. Alex Smith looked jittery all game and was hesitant to throw the ball when pressure was in his face. His inability to make quick decisions resulted in half of the sacks.
Excuses are like butt holes: everybody has them, and they all stink. With that in mind, here are the 49ers' excuses for stinking it up in Baltimore.
San Francisco had less time to prepare for this game than they would have liked. After their home game against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, they had Monday through Wednesday to get ready for the game. So did Baltimore, but the 49ers' time was marginalized by their trip out East: one day lost to travel time, three hours lost to the time change. This gave the team only two days to prepare for a big game, on prime time television, against one of the best defenses in the league.
How badly were the 49ers affected by a lack of preparation?
The 49ers have been relying on superior game-day preparation to win games this season. Their two biggest downfalls against the Ravens were the offensive line's inability to block, and the defensive line's lack of a pass-rush.
No doubt the Ravens have an incredible front seven (even with Ray Lewis sidelined with an injury), but this is not the first time the 49ers have faced a team with top talent pass-rushers. The Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and New York Giants all rank within the top 10 of the league in sacks this season. The 49ers were able to beat all these teams in part due to the offensive line's ability to protect their quarterback. This creates the question: Would the game have been different if offensive coordinator Greg Roman had a full week to come up with better blocking schemes?
On the defensive side of the ball, a similar question could be asked: How would the game have been different if defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had been able to have a full week to think about how to apply pressure on Joe Flacco? The 49ers defense is considered one of the best in the league because they stop the run, get pressure on the quarterback, force turnovers and do not give up points. Against the Ravens, they were able to limit points and stop the run, but failed to pressure the quarterback and cause turnovers.
The only way either of these questions could be answered would be in a rematch, the Super Har-Bowl. But after this Thanksgiving game, only one of these teams look to be Super Bowl bound (hint, not the 49ers).
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