The San Francisco 49ers had plenty of motivation, were the favorites to win and playing at home, but even with all that on their side they failed to show up in all aspects of the 26-3 embarrassment against the New York Giants. The offense, defense, special teams and coaching were disappointing in a statement game for the 49ers to show the Super Bowl champs and the NFL they are the best team. In Sunday’s loss the Giants showed they are still the better team. The 23-point loss was the worst so far in the Jim Harbaugh era. The play by the 49ers was very uncharacteristic as the offense did not enter the red zone and the defense did not record a sack or interception.
One good thing for San Francisco is they have short week playing on Thursday Night Football against divisional rival Seattle Seahawks and will need to quickly move on from the loss. With the Seahawks stunning the Patriots, they are now tied with the 49ers and Cardinals for first place in the NFC West.
Donte Whitner on the loss,
We possibly got too high. A lot of people talking about redemption and this and that. Really, it’s Game 6 of a 16-game schedule. We possibly set ourselves up for that.
Game Gold Nuggets Scale:
= VERY GOOD
What the 49ers offense does best, playing mistake-free football and the league’s best rushing attack, was completely abandoned in the loss to the Giants. It’s very hard to win a game when the offense does not enter the red zone. The three points is the fewest scored in a game since 2010. The game went south for the 49ers after Alex Smith threw two interceptions on the first two possessions of the third quarter. Before Sunday’s loss Smith did not throw multiple interceptions in a game in 26 straight starts at quarterback. When it came to the run the 49ers abandoned Frank Gore and the rushing attack as the coaches only called eight runs after the first quarter and finished with just 80 total yards. Gore had his worst game of the season rushing for 36 yards on eight carries. A big reason why the offense was doomed in the second-half was because Gore did not have a rushing attempt in the last 32 minutes of the game as the 49ers were playing catch-up with the Giants.
The offense started out the game on a high note outgaining the Giants by almost 100 yards (120-25) in the first quarter. The Niners had a successful first quarter and a 3-0 lead because they ran a balanced attack on offense calling 13 passes and nine runs. The balanced attack was forgotten about over the final three quarters.
Smith’s three interceptions came in span of eight passing attempts during the second and third quarters and was a signal the Niners were not going to claw back into the game. San Francisco was down 17-3 when Smith threw two interceptions to Giants safety Antrel Rolle on back-to-back possessions. This allowed the Giants to score six points even though they gained only one yard and put them up 23-3 in the third quarter. Smith looked lost and rattled for much of the second half. He finished with a 43.1 QB rating.
Usually the 49ers defense can be counted on to keep the team in the game while the offense figures out ways to score. That did not happen against the Giants. The 49ers D are the best in the NFL at stopping the run, but in the second half they allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to rush for 93 of his 116 total yards. He finished the game averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Leading for the entire second half, the Giants went into kill the clock mode with the lead, running on 26 of their 36 plays in the second half. The Giants offense gained only 33 yards on three second half drives but still managed to score 13 points.
Eli Manning was sacked six times and hit 12 times in the NFC Championship game but the 49ers pass rush was asleep the whole game with zero sacks and only one hit on the quarterback. Manning did not have a huge game with only 193 passing yards and one touchdown but he did complete nine straight passes in the second quarter. The last completion was a six-yard TD to Victor Cruz for a 7-3 score.
The Niners D did not play the way they are capable of and the most glaring weakness was stopping the Giants from running the football. Stopping the run is usually the strongest part of the defense and can be counted on, but they allowed the most rushing yards, 149, in the last 27 games. Bradshaw became the first opposing running back to have over 100 yards at Candlestick Park since November 8, 2009.
Kicker David Akers missed field goals of 43 and 52 yards, both in the first half. He did make a 42 yard field goal that kept the 49ers from being shutout. The Niners needed all of the points they could get and leaving six points on the field slowed the momentum for San Francisco. The kickoff return coverage unit is starting to become an issue after David Wilson returned a kickoff for 66 yard to start the second half. The 49ers are now ranked 30th in the NFL covering kickoffs.
Punter Andy Lee was in true form averaging 49.8 yards on four punts, including one that landed inside the 20-yard line. Cornerback Tarell Brown blocked a punt late in the second quarter that kept the Giants to 10-3 lead and gave Akers an opportunity to pull the 49ers within four points heading into halftime. Akers missed the 52-yard field goal try.
What a difference a week makes. Against the Bills Jim Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio all looked like geniuses in the huge win. This week against a much better opponent, the 49ers coaching staff looked like it was being led by Mike Singletary. Nothing the offense and defense tried seemed to work. Not even the second half adjustments made by the coaches had any good effect on the game for the 49ers.
It was a head scratcher why Harbaugh challenged a fumble by Bradshaw that was clearly not a fumble. But he challenged the play anyways and wasted a timeout. Does he not have his coaches watching TV monitors in the coach’s booth to help him determine if a play should be challenged? I was sitting in the upper reserve and could tell it was not a fumble. Even though Colin Kaepnerick was 4-for-7 passing for 82 yards, Harbaugh and Roman disrupted the flow of the offense by constantly inserting Kaepernick into the game. The Giants defense was fully prepared for when Kaepernick was on the field.
Just like the first loss of the season, this is no time to panic. The 49ers simply lost to the better team. The Giants outplayed and outcoached the 49ers for all four quarters. The Niners offense could not get in rhythm all game and the defense tried their best to stop the Giants rushing attack, but they looked winded and overmatched as the game went on. Luckily this is a short week for the 49ers and the memories of their most recent loss can be wiped away with a dominating win over the Seahawks on Thursday.
Harbaugh on what went wrong,
The plan wasn’t the best plan. And we’ll work to make a good one this week. Wasn’t a great day for any of us.