The excitement of the 49ers 27-20 victory over the Giants on Sunday has not worn off. For the past 24-hours I have had a constant smile on my face. Thinking back to the game before, during and after, I have not felt this way about the 49ers in a long time. Before the start of yesterday’s game I had not felt so much anticipation for a 49ers game since, well, it’s been a long while. With so many up and down seasons the past few years it is hard to remember. The last time was probably when the 49ers were in the playoffs back in 2002, against the Giants. During yesterday’s game I celebrated often, took countless deep breaths of anxiety and cursed at the TV as I saw fit. After the game the realization that the 49ers are 8-1, had just beaten one of the top teams in the NFC and are now clearly the second best team in the NFC settled in. This team is not your typical Niners squad of the 80’s and 90’s when they dominated the NFL and enjoyed much of the franchise’s success. In fact, the 2011 49ers are not even on the planet of the legendary teams but the excitement and winning is just the same. If you still hold doubts about the 49ers you are not even in the same solar system as the rest of the 49er Faithfull. I suggest you joins us. Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets (GGN):
= VERY GOOD
We all heard how Alex Smith is just a game-manager and cannot be relied on to win a game with passing. From the start of the game yesterday Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman wanted to show to the Giants and the rest of the NFL Smith is cable of passing and they trust him. In the game Smith threw a pass on the first play of the first five drives. The passes went for 11, 14, 9, 5 and 14 yards. Cleary the 49ers coaches trusted Smith and Smith showed he can step up for his team in a big game. Smith was 19-of-30 passing for 242 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The 31-yard TD pass to TE Vernon Davis was on target and allowed for Davis to turn and run up field, giving the 49ers a 20-13 early in the fourth quarter. Smith’s interception was not his fault as the pass was catchable but went through WR Ted Ginn Jr.’s hands, hit his helmet and went into the hands of a Giants defender. Smith looked poised and sharp all game making good and quick decisions on offense. Smith looked for the first time in his career like a number one overall draft pick.
From the start the Giants defense was focused on stopping RB Frank Gore and the 49ers running game. Cleary the Giants D did not respect Alex Smith and his abilities. The Giants D constantly stack up seven to eight defenders in the box which allowed the passing game to move down the field. Gore had only six carries for zero yards and missed the second half with a knee injury. Rookie backup RB Kendall Hunter stepped up again for an injured Gore with 40 rushing yards and one touchdown. With Hunter’s fourth quarter TD run the 49ers extended their lead to 27-13.
There some signs the offense still has some learning to do. For the second straight week the 49ers had to settle for three field goals even though the offense drove inside the Giants 30-yard line. When it comes time for the playoffs the 49ers offense will need to convert those field goals into touchdowns.
We all know of Patrick Willis’ greatness and abilities but each game the linebacker continues to amaze me. Willis was a freak all game recording nine tackles and one sack. One the Giants final drive of the game Willis came up big twice with tackle of Brandon Jacobs for a 4-yard loss and on the next play took down Eli Manning for only a one-yard gain. Fellow linebacker Navarro Bowman contributed to the defense with 10 tackles and helped limited the Giants to 93 rushing yards on 29 carries, averaging 3.2 yards per carry.
Redskins fans have to be wondering if the same Carlos Rogers, who recorded his first career two interception game, is the same person they had on their team the past few seasons. Rogers is having a Pro Bowl and career season and is the anchor of the 49ers’ secondary. Even with the great play secondary did have multiple miscues. Manning passed for 311 yards, two touchdowns and completed passes of 32 and 36 yards in the game. A game-tying 42 yard pass to WR Mario Manningham on the Giants final drive could have changed the outcome of the game but the pass was off and landed incomplete. The secondary needs to figure out how to limit offenses to under 300 passing yards a game.
The hero of the game on defense was DE Justin Smith who had five tackles and his most important pass deflection in his career. On fourth down with just ten seconds left in the game Smith deflected a pass that ended the Giants drive and any hopes of victory. It was only fitting that Justin Smith would be the man on defense to make the big play and give the 49ers the win.
David Akers for MVP! That won’t happen but Akers is the MVP of the 49ers through nine games this season. Considering Akers was perfect on his four field goals of 36,52,39,28, had four touchbacks and successfully pulled off a surprise onside in the second half, the win would not have happened without Akers. In fact, if not for Akers and his automatic leg the 49ers could have four to five more losses to their record
Somehow Jim Harbaugh has taken basically the same roster from last season and made them into winners and contenders. This is most evident with how Alex Smith has played this season but you can also see it in players like Braylon Edwards, Michael Crabtree, NaVarro Bowman and Carlos Rogers to name a few. When no one believed in the 49ers Harbaugh coached up their confidence and molded them into the contenders the team is today.
Greg Roman showed in Sunday’s win why he is one of the best up-incoming offensive coordinators in the NFL. Roman knew the Giants defense would stack up the line to take away the run and make the 49ers beat them in their passing game. The problem for the Giants was that Roman was ready for this, drew up a game plan that went to the air and showed the NFL the 49ers can pass to win the game.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was able to stop the running game by the Giants but had difficulty being able to stop the passing game throughout the game. However when it mattered most on the final drive Fangio called the right defenses to stop Manning from tying the game which he had successfully done the previous week against the Patriots. Manning found out the 49ers defense is much different, and better, than the Patriots D.
I had a feeling the 49ers had a few tricks up their selves for the game. No way I would have thought the 49ers would go for a surprise onside kick in the second quarter. Special teams coordinator Brad Seely showed again why he is the best at what he does in the NFL. Seely drew up the onside kick because he most likely saw a weakness in the Giants kicking game. It was a gutsy call by Harbaugh but he believed his coordinator and the players would get it done. Seely drew up the play so perfectly it almost looked too easy. Akers laid the onside kick right into the hands of Delaine Walker who had no one around him.
NEXT UP: @home vs. Arizona Cardinals
The 49ers have a great chance to extended their winning streak to eight games with a matchup at home against the Cardinals. The Cardinals are coming off an upset win over the Eagles on the road but the Eagles more beat themselves than the Cardinals beat the Eagles. Going up against a division rival the Cardinals will not be a push over and will give 49ers a good game.