The 49ers lost against the Ravens in a way that almost no football fan expected—their offensive line was flat-out dominated at the point of attack for the majority of the game. The 49ers’ inability to move the football effectively caused their defense to run out of steam late in the third and into the final quarter.
That said, three crucial plays led to the 49ers loss against the Ravens on Thanksgiving:
Poor performance from the 49ers’ offensive line: This is something that has rarely been a problem for the 49ers this season. In fairness, the 49ers do not run into quality defenses such as the Ravens on a weekly basis. Throughout the game, any time the 49er offense ran into a third-and-long situation, the Ravens defense proved to be too much for the 49ers’ offensive line to handle.
Whether it was the Ravens' all-out blitz, their numerous inside stunts or their well-timed zone blitzes, the majority of the 49ers' offensive linemen had a hard time picking up their blocks. This led to quarterback Alex Smith being sacked nine times in the game. These struggles seemed to multiply once Chilo Rachal replaced Adam Snyder in the second half due to injury.
Donte Whitner’s missed tackle: As the Ravens were approaching the 49ers' red zone, 49ers safety Donte Whitner failed to wrap up and tackle Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans on a critical third-and-seven.
Had this tackle been made, the Ravens' drive would have stopped at fourth down and they probably would have settled for a field goal. Instead, the Ravens got another first down and went on to score the only touchdown of the game. This touchdown put the Ravens ahead and eventually led them to victory over the 49ers.
Ted Ginn Jr.’s dropped ball: As electric as 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. has been on special teams this season (averaging nearly 38 yards per kickoff return), nothing can be more discouraging than dropping a pass on the final play of the game.
Ginn appeared to get a good amount of separation on a 10-yard curl route. Alex Smith threw a great ball that hit Ginn right in the numbers. All would agree that this ball should have been caught.
The 49ers need to improve in some areas of their football team, no one is questioning that. But this loss should not cause fans, players or the coaching staff to panic. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh made the following comment during yesterday’s press conference:
“All of our struggles in this [Ravens] game can be corrected, and they will be.”
Luckily for the 49ers, if they defeat the St. Louis Rams this Sunday, or if the Seattle Seahawks lose on Thursday, the 49ers will be NFC West Champions. Expect the 49ers to bounce back and get more scoring opportunities in their next game.