In fact, without some gutsy performances from a handful of players on offense and defense, last week’s outcome could have been much worse.
Three key 49ers players gave some great performances, and football fans should be aware of these high-caliber players.
When the 49ers needed a first down, there was Michael Crabtree.
When they needed a big chunk of yardage on a first-down play, there was Crabtree.
When they needed a big-time, physical-possession catch, there was Crabtree.
When the 49ers had a 3rd-and-17, Crabtree made an 18-yard reception.
Crabtree finished the game with six catches for 54 yards. Considering his seven-catch performance last week against the Arizona Cardinals, many 49ers fans will agree the 49ers coaching staff is making him the primary target in the passing game.
Knowing the 49ers have another target to go to when tight end Vernon Davis is being double-teamed, or having to focus on blocking, is definitely encouraging news for 49ers fans.
While running back Frank Gore’s final box-score numbers were not earth-shattering by any means (14 carries for 39 yards), Gore’s role in this game was extremely important. Those that viewed this game had the opportunity to witness one of Gore’s strengths, which is picking up the blitz. In the first half alone, Gore made three key blocks on blitzing safeties.
This allowed Alex Smith to buy at least a fraction of a second to complete a pass or scramble and run for his life. Unfortunately, with the Ravens defense sacking Smith nine times, Smith spent more time running for his life and being thrown onto the turf than he did throwing the ball.
Nevertheless, Gore’s presence was definitely needed for pass protection. Also, although it is not known to be one of Gore's strengths, Gore also had one reception for nine yards. That reception helped the 49ers achieve one of their seven first downs in their passing game.
In the NFL, if there were such a thing as an “unsung hero” from the losing team, that unsung hero would definitely be 49ers safety C.J. Spillman. One thing that even the Baltimore Ravens respected about the 49ers is the fact that before this Thanksgiving game, the 49ers had not given up a rushing touchdown in 11 straight games. In addition to that, the 49ers' streak of 33 games without a 100-yard rusher was still alive and well.
So, what is Spillman’s significance?
In the second quarter, when the Ravens had the ball on the 49ers' 1-yard line, Spillman got around Ravens’ Ed Dickson’s block and made a clutch solo tackle on running back Ray Rice for a loss of four yards. As a result, the frustrated Ravens had to settle for a field goal.
Had Spillman not made this tackle, this would have been an easy touchdown for Rice, and it would have ended both of the 49ers defensive streaks. Not only that, but giving up a touchdown at this point in the game would have definitely lowered the morale of the 49ers offense, which failed to get the ball into the Ravens’ red zone the entire game.
In addition to Spillman’s key tackle in the first half, he also had a solo tackle on special teams.
As stated in the beginning, if these players did not give above-average performances, the Ravens would have won by a much larger margin than the actual final score of 16-6.