The 49ers NFC Championship loss to the Giants is only a day and a half old but it seems like the game just ended. This is the first time I have been able to write about the devastating loss. I tried multiple times yesterday to write this review, however, every time I started to rethink the game in my head, the frustration and disappointment was still too fresh to get all the way through. Usually after a 49ers game, whether it was a win or a loss, I search for as much information online and on TV to hear different insights about why San Francisco won/loss the game. Since the end the of game on Sunday I have avoided anything associated with sports. In the morning I have a routine of watching local news and ESPN’s First Take. That did not happen yesterday, or this morning because I did not want to see highlights from the game. Even with trying to avoid seeing images of the game, they still crept into my TV watching last night with a local news commercials showing a distraught Kyle Williams after fumbling the football.
The local news commercial was reporting the recent death threats and hate messages Williams received via his Twitter account because of his two fumbles. With me removing myself from having to relive the 49ers for the last day and a half, I only recently heard about these threats. To any human being this is appalling. The fact that the hate messages came from Niner fans to a 49ers player, spits in the face of the dignity and respect of the 49ers franchise and tradition. Any death threat from one or one hundred people is serious. The stupid Niner fans who sent the messages have tarnished all the 49ers Faithful image. I understand the passion and heart we fans have for the 49ers. Heck, it took me almost 48 hours to write a post about the loss. I cried in excitement last week when Vernon Davis caught the game-winning touchdown. If I wasn’t at a bar for the NFC Championship, I probably would have cried in disappointment. I cursed Williams in a short post after the game on Sunday. But never in my mind would I ever think of making a death threat or sending a hate message to Williams. That really shows courage.
This. Is. A. Game. Wear your heart on your sleeve but don’t be King Stupid and direct your disappointment, frustration and even hate at somebody else. I get it, it was a big loss that ended the 49ers season on one play but go for a run, play a video game, or smoke something to calm yourself down. Williams is not the first option at returning punts. With Ted Ginn out with an injury, Williams did the best he could in the game on punt returns. He almost broke for big punt returns during the game so who are we to question him trying to make a play on the fumbles? Would you have rather Williams just take a knee and not try running for a big return? I say no, even after the two fumbled punts. Mainly because the 49ers offense was non-existent in the second half but also because we have won games with our special teams, and that was what the 49ers and Williams were trying to do, put the game away.
Keep your head up Kyle Williams. The 49ers Faithful still supports you and we reject the so-called Niner fans who solely blame you for the loss by sending death threats.
“It’s one of those things you have to take accountability for,” Williams said. “Everybody is responsible for what they do on the field. It’s something that I was responsible for and I made a mistake, and it’s time to own up to it and move forward.”
What Went Wrong
In the end the 49ers offense dashed any hopes of the franchise advancing to its sixth Super Bowl appearance. The most glaring stat is the offense was 1-for-13 on third-down conversions. In the fourth quarter the stat kept coming up on the TV screen, and I would think to myself, “We are due!” That was not the case. The offense failed on third-down because they could not get anywhere near the first-down marker on the previous plays. The average distance on the 13 third-down situations was 8.7 yards. Actually the 49ers did horrible on third-down in both playoff games only converting 5-of-28 against the Saints and Giants. Oh, and the one third-down conversion came on a desperation pass at the end of regulation.
One reason the 49ers offense failed to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime was a lack of a receiving threat. Yes, we had Davis and his 3 receptions for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of which was a 73-yard TD, but the 49ers have no deep receiving threats and really not even a number one receiver on the roster. Michael Crabtree is listed on the 49ers depth chart as a number one receiver but he has the skills of a number two receiver. With his drops in the post season he clearly showed he is not reliable to be a main receiver. Joshua Morgan, who broke his leg in week 5, and Ted Ginn are good enough number two receivers but both are free agents. The 49ers need to re-sign both while also adding a true receiving threat. When the Giants defense knew the 49ers were going to pass they attacked Alex Smith with pressure, almost daring the 49ers to beat them down field with a pass. Once the Giants started double teaming Davis and took him out of the offense, the 49ers offense had no chance. Crabtree and Williams combined for one catch for 13 yards.
We have to give credit to Vernon Davis for the regular and post-season he had. I will never forget Davis’ game-winning catch against the Saints and will always remember where I was at and my reaction. But in the NFC Championship Davis let his emotions get the best of him with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike and unnecessary roughness penalties. The unsportsmanlike penalty was for his celebration after scoring his first touchdown. Davis stepped up onto a TV camera platform and crossed his arms which drew a penalty right away. Not sure how this is any different from the Lambeau Leap because Davis did not use any props and just stood up on a platform. The unnecessary roughness penalty was a really dumb thing for Davis to do because he jumped into a group of players who were pushing and arguing. I thought Davis had learned to keep his emotions in check?
We did not see the Alex Smith against the Saints in the loss to the Giants. Smith passed for only 196 yards, 2 touchdowns and completed 46.2% of his passes. Smith’s touchdown passes of 73- and 28-yards were great throws but they combined for over half of the passing offense. You got a sense Smith was not going to have the magic again when with 4 minutes left in the game and the score tied at 17, the offense went three-and-out that ended with a sack that lost 10-yards. On the 49ers next possession with under two minutes left in regulation, Smith threw three-straight incompletions. The offense had one possession in overtime that ended in a three-and-out. Simply put, the 49ers offense had two opportunities in the final minutes to advance to the Super Bowl but could not find last week’s magic and came up short.
The 49ers did not win 14 games this season by leaning on the offense. It was a combination of a great defense that pounded offenses into mistakes, a play-making special teams and limited turnovers by the offense. Against the Giants only the defense showed up. Eli Manning did manage to throw for 316 yards and two touchdowns, however, in the second half the 49ers defense shut down the Giants offense. The Giants had to punt on six of their eight second-half possessions and the 49ers defense recorded four of their six sacks in the third and fourth quarters. The two touchdowns by the Giants offense in the second-half come after Williams’ two fumbles. The Giants only had to drive 29- and 11-yards to pull ahead of the 49ers. In the first-half the defense had no answer for Victor Cruz who finished with ten receptions for 142 yards. In the second-half the defense adjusted and Carlos Rogers started to keep Cruz in check allowing only two receptions for 17 yards. The 49ers defense in the end did what is was supposed to: Give the 49ers offense opportunities to score. But the offense could not do its part.
We made it to the brink of the Super Bowl with a rookie head coach taking over after a lockout, Alex Smith at quarterback and a brutal defense. We have a lot to be excited about going forward with the 49ers. For now, the loss stings with disappointment. In the coming months 49ers coaches, players and the fans will move on and use the loss to the Giants as fuel for a 2012 run at the Super Bowl.
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