Recap: 49ers 2009 Season


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With a win in the last game of the season against the Ram the 49ers finished with an 8-8 record and ended a seven year streak of finishing below .500.  Technically it is an improvement from last year after finishing 7-9 but head coach Mike Singletary sold the 49er Faithful on this team being able to make the playoffs.  He also said the offense would run the football 60% but that didn’t last long either.  After starting 3-1 with wins against divisional opponents Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams and even with the last second heartbreaking loss to the Vikings your 2009 49ers looked like they might be on their way to reclaiming the NFC West and might have a chance of making the playoffs.  The Vikings loss could have been what derailed the 49ers early on after a hot start but I think that was only part of the problem.  With a game against the Falcons in week 4 the following week at home the 49ers problems on offense and defense were exposed.  On offense it was clear quarterback Shaun Hill was only the starter because the coaching staff believed he would manage the game better than Alex Smith and turn the ball over less frequently.  The other big hole on offense was the offensive line.  This could have led to Hill’s downfall and eventual rise of Smith at quarterback as the O-line in the first half of the season was clearly a problem that needs to be fixed in the off season even as they played better in the second half and gave Smith the time he needed to make plays. 

On defense the 49ers played their version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde each week in that we did not know what team would come onto to the field.  Would it be the five interceptions D that we saw against late in the season against the Bears?  Or would we get the D that come out against the Falcons gave up 45 points and 477 yards of offense?  The Niners D did progress and become more consistent as the season went on and has become a force in the NFL.  However like the offense there are holes in the D mainly with the secondary and giving up the big plays.  The D did not have much of a pass rush early on in the season but that got better as the season went on and in turn the rest of the D, especially the secondary, all played better because of pressure turning into turnovers.

Season Awards 

Offensive MVP: Vernon Davis

Defensive MVP: Justin Smith

Accomplishments

Niners had their first non-losing season in seven years

Frank Gore had his four straight seasons of over 1,000 yards rushing making him the first running back in team history to accomplish that feat.

Gore rushed for the 20th 100-yard game of his career, which ties Joe Perry’s long-standing franchise mark. Gore’s 13 total touchdowns this season is a career high.

Vernon Davis: 78 receptions, 965 receiving yards, 13 TD’s, 12.4 yards per receptions.  Davis finally had his breakout year as he set the 49ers record for touchdowns in a single season by a tight end with 13.  He also tied the NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end in a single season.

Off-season and Training Camp 

In Mike Sinlgetary’s first off-season as a head coach his first priority was hiring an offensive coordinator after Mike Martz was fired.  After a month of interviewing seven different candidates Singletary settled on veteran offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye who had 29 years of coaching experience in the NFL.  I had not heard of Raye before he came to the 49ers so I did not know what to expect from him.  All I cared was that he would do a good enough job to be with the 49ers for more than one year so that we would not have to go searching for our eighth coordinator in eight years.  Raye’s willingness to adapt to Alex Smith’s abilities in the spread formation showed he can change the offense and make it still effective but I am still on the fence whether or not he is the right guy for the 49ers next year and the main reason I want him to stay is for Smith’s development and him having consistency at offensive coordinator. 

Speaking of Smith, he and friend Shaun Hill were in a quarterback competition throughout training camp for the starting job.  It was obvious to me that Hill would be named the starter because of his winning record under center for the 49ers and the abilities he showed in the second half of the season in 2008 after being named the starter allowing Singletary to finish his interim head coaching gig with a winning record.  Smith had not played in an NFL game in over a year and a half so it is not like the 49ers had much to choose from which was confusing considering how long it took for Singletary to name Hill as the starter.  He knew all along that Hill would be the starter, he had to know.  There was no way he was going to have Smith start again after being out with injuries for so long and the fact that he was not too effective when he was healthy and starting.  

The biggest training camp story was Michael Crabtree (MCT) and his holdout.  I was not a fan of MCT when he started his holdout and wanted the 49ers to make him a final offer and to say take it or leave it.  But man I am glad that things didn’t work out that way.  I saw MCT as being cash hungry because he wanted to be paid the same as the first wide receiver taken in the draft Darrius Heyward-Bey.  The unfortunate part of the holdout was that it lasted until the week seven of the season.  But now that we have seen MCT in action this guy will be making plays for years to come for the 49ers. 

 

2009 Season

As the season started I was optimistic about the 49ers and their chances of possibly making the playoffs.  The schedule this year was not tough and the 49ers had plenty of losses that could have turned the other way if not for a play or two or a different offensive game plan for Alex Smith.  I figured the Niners would finish either 8-8 or 9-7 but the only way they could make the playoffs would be finishing 9-7. They had their chances but it seemed that the Niners would either play well in the first half of a game, then suck in the second half or vice-versa and it ended up being too little too late.

Week 1

49ers 20  Cardinals 16

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The defense and offense for the Niners got off to a slow start in the first half but both came out of their shell in the second half and Shaun Hill lead the 49ers on a fourth quarter drive that would put the Niners up for good against a good Cardinals football team.  The Niners were only up 20-16 in the fourth quarter with still plenty of time for Kurt Warner and his offense to come back.  But the defense stopped the Cardinals on the next two drives and defensive end Justin Smith sealed the win with a sack in the final seconds.  This was a great way to start off the season with a win on the road against a division rival who was coming off a Super Bowl appearance the previous season.

Record: 1-1

Week 2

Seahawks 10  49ers 23 

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The Niners followed up their week one win with another one against a division rival. Running back Frank Gore had a huge game rushing for 207 and two touchdowns with runs of 79 and 80 yards.  The 49ers D knocked out Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback early in the game and held them to only 10 points all scored in the second quarter.  With Gore’s big rushing day it seemed like Singletary vision of pounding the opponents D with the run was going to work. 

Record: 2-0

Week 3

49ers 24  Viking 27

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*sigh*….we know what happened in this game.  I hate you Brett Favre.

Record: 2-1

 

Week 4

49ers 35  Rams 0

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After the Red and Gold’s most heartbreaking loss in recent years what better way to increase your confidence than by playing the Rams and shutting them out.  With the huge win against the Rams 28 of the points the Niners scored were in the second half.  This would become the trend of your 2009 49ers: Not playing a full game and only showing up for the first or second half.  Fortunately for the Niners it was the Rams so the D did not have much to fear from the Rams offense.  The 49ers D had one of its best games of the season as they only gave up 177 yards of offense, had five sacks and scored two touchdowns one by an INT by linebacker Patrick Willis and a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Ray McDonald.

With a 3-1 record after the first four games of the season the 49ers looked to be on their way to having their first winning season in years.  But then the Falcons came to town…

Record: 3-1

 

Week 5

Falcons 45  49ers 10

Game Gold Nuggets: Zero, lumps of coal for all.

This would be the beginning of the end for Shaun Hill and his last full game he would start.  The game was well over by half-time with the score 35-10 and the 49ers looked unprepared for the game from the start of the first quarter.  Entering the game, the 49ers’ fifth-ranked defense had given up an average of 13.2 points per game but Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan torched the 49ers secondary for 329 passing yards for two touchdowns.  And let’s not forget wide receiver Roddy White’s huge game catching eight passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.  The turning point was in the second quarter with the 49ers trailing 14-10.  After a Niners field goal White caught a 90-yard pass for a touchdown that took all of the air out of the 49ers and the stadium. 

Record: 3-2

Week 6

BYE

Entering the bye week the 49ers had a record of 3-2 and plenty of time to think about and learn from the embarrassing loss at the hands of the Falcons.  But a good distraction happened following the week five, the signing of MCT.  No one knew what impact if any he would have for the 49ers but to know you had a wide receiver with his skill set gave the 49er Faithful some confidence in the offense for the rest of the season.

Week 7

49ers 21  Texans 24

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The week seven loss to the Texans is a huge example of the 49ers not being able to play well for all four quarters to get the win.  The offense and defense was non-existent in the first half of the game as the Texans went up 21-0.  With Shaun Hill’s horrible first half Singletary went to Alex Smith and to the surprise of the 49er Faithful he not only scored touchdowns but he almost lead the Niners to a come from behind victory.  Smith had 206 passing yards and three touchdowns with one interception, all in the second half.  The defense lost the game for the 49ers as they were unable to stop Texans tight end Owen Daniels and the rest of the Texans offense.  The D did hold the Texans to only three points in the second half but they allowed the Texans offense to control the football and have long drives that limited the 49ers offense when on the field. 

Record 3-3

Week 8

49ers 14  Colts 18

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After the 49ers had their first losing streak of the season it did not get any easier to end the slide as they headed into Indianapolis to take on Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Alex Smith started his first game since the 2007 season and no knew what to expect.  Frank Gore returned from injury after missing three weeks and came back with a bang as he scored the games first touchdown on a 64-yard run.  This would be the most exciting play for the 49ers on offense during the game as the 49ers defense was the most impressive.  Even though they gave up 347 passing yards to Peyton Manning they held the high powered offense to only 18 points.  But the offense sputtered out in the second half scoring zero touchdowns and was stopped by the Colts D as they intercepted a pass from Smith in the final minutes to seal the win. The Niners fall below .500.

Record: 3-4

Week 9

Titans 34  49ers 27

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The Titans game was one that the 49ers should have won.  The Titans were 1-6 at the week nine point in the season and with the way the Niners played against the Texans and Colts the 49ers should have carried the momentum home. The Niners were keeping up with Titans and back and forth they scored into the fourth quarter.  But the D could not stop Titans running back Chris Johnson and in the fourth quarter Alex Smith, who had three interceptions in the game, threw a pick to cornerback Cortland Finnegan who ran it back for a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown.   Even though the Niners kept up with the Titans all game the final pick thrown by Smith was the nail in the coffin.

Record: 3-5

Week 10

Bears 6  49ers 10

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As the saying goes, a win is a win no matter how ugly…or something like that.  That could have applied to the Niners on a Thursday night showdown against the Bears.  The 49ers defense intercepted Bears quarterback Jay Cutler five times but only managed to get 10 points off the turnovers from the offense.  Frank Gore was the lone offensive stud of the game, for either team, rushing 25 times for 104 yards and a touchdown while adding four catches for 21 yards.  Gore’s 14-yard run in the second quarter was the only touchdown of the game.  This was a defensive win by the 49ers as they carried the team with their turnovers and with the fifth and final interception in the last seconds of the game by safety Michael Lewis they held off a last second drive by the Bears and ended the Niners four game losing streak.

Record: 4-5

Week 11

49ers 24  Packers 30

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Against the Packers we saw another example of the 49ers playing only one half of the game, almost come back to win, but ended up being too little too late.  After Alex Smith and the offense scored 21 of their 24 points in the second half it became clear that with Smith under center he is most comfortable in the spread formation.  Jimmy Raye rarely went with the spread in the first half but after being down 23-3 at half-time Raye was forced into it for almost all of the second half.  The Niners scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to close the gap to 30-24 but the Packers took over and never gave the football back.  If only the spread formation had been in the game plan at the start of the contest the Niners might have won the game. 

Record: 4-6

Week 12

Jaguars 3  49ers 20

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With the 49ers still in the playoff hunt the game against the Jaguars, who were also chasing a playoff spot, was important not only to keep up with the Cardinals in the NFC West but to get a winning streak going with the Niners having lost four of six games since the bye week.   Surprise, surprise,  Raye goes with the spread formation from the start of the game and Smith completed 27 of 41 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns and he didn’t throw an interception for the first time this season.  The Niners D did its part limiting Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew to 75 rushing yards with no touchdowns and forced quarterback David Garrard to fumble twice, both inside the red zone.

Record: 5-6

Week 13

49ers 17  Seahawks 20

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The 2009 season was an up-and-down one for the Niners and with their playoff hopes still alive the game at Seattle was not only a must win but should have been won by the Niners with the way they played earlier in the year against the Seahawks.  The Niners do love to kill their own momentum and could not came back as Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired, giving them the win.  The Niners D held its own and stopped the Seahawks on drives multiple times and kept the Red and Gold in the game.  But even with the offense having 356 yards gained the downfall was the 49ers only converted one of 13 third down attempts.  With the loss the 49ers were still technically alive for a playoff spot but all the Cardinals needed to do was win one game out of the remaining four to eliminate the Niners. 

Record: 5-7

Week 14

Cardinals 9  49ers 24

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On their only appearance on Monday Night Football in 2009 the 49ers made the best of a national audience by showing case how dominant their defense can be.  Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky drew up a great game plan for Kurt Warner and his high powered offense.  The Cardinals offense did not look comfortable all game as the Niners D forced seven turnovers and scored 24 points off of them.  Warner threw two picks and before the game he had not thrown one in his last 130 attempts.  Gore ran all over the Cardinals with 167 yards rushing and one touchdown on 25 carries.

Record:  6-7 

Week 15

49ers 13  Eagles 27

Game Gold Nuggets: New Picture

With the loss the 49ers were finally eliminated from the playoffs.  As well as the 49ers D had been playing nobody could stop Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson as he had six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.  Alex Smith did not play any better throwing three interceptions.  The 49es offense committed four turnovers in the first half alone. 

Record: 6-8

Week 16

Lions 6  49ers 20

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The 49ers D capitalized on the Lions third string quarterback Drew Stanton who was making his first NFL start by picking him off three times.  The D also forced and recovered three fumbles.  Frank Gore had a huge game with 152 total yards and one touchdown.  Even though the 49ers were playing the Lions and their 2 total wins on the season the 49ers offense, just like the Bears game, could not convert the turnovers into touchdowns.  If the Niners want to think they are a playoff caliber team getting touchdowns off of turnovers is a prerequisite to becoming a playoff team. 

Record: 7-8

Week 17

49ers 28  Rams 6

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If you did not watch the game and only saw the final score you would have thought the Niners had a solid game winning by 22 points.  But the first-half was a snoozer as the Niners only gained 52 yards in the first-half but had 277 yards in the second half.  There were a total of 20 punts from both teams.  Again, the Niners offense showed that even against the NFL’s worst team they still struggled to get anything going in the first half.  I can only imagine the speech Singletary gave at half-time as the 49ers offense woke up in the second half.  Going up against backup quarterbacks Keith Null and Kyle Boller the 49ers D had eight sacks with DE Justin Smith getting 3.5 sacks of them.  Great to end the season with a win and a two game winning streak which ended with the 49ers finishing 8-8 their first non-losing season since 2002.

Record:8-8

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