Game Gold Nugget Awards Scale
= VERY GOOD
San Francisco’s offense looked sluggish early in the game. It’s great they woke up after the first quarter, but in the playoffs they won’t have the luxury of waiting until later in the game for the offense to produce. Against a team with 10 losses heading into the game that works, but by that time against an opposing team in the playoffs, they will likely have taken the lead.
The offense went three-and-out on its first three drives to start the game. Despite the offense getting off to a slow and unproductive start in the first quarter, they rebounded for 27 points in the final three quarters. Crabtree lead the way for the offense with eight receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He was the only viable receiving option for Colin Kaepernick with his available receiver’s limited because of injuries. Crabtree became the first 1,000 yard receiver for the 49ers since Terrell Owens did it in 2003. Crabtree finished with 1,105 yards on the season.
Captain Kaep was able to find Crabtree for big plays of 28, 31 and 49 yards, and finished with a 114.6 QB rating and seven completions of 19 yards or more. Frank Gore awoke in the second half with 48 of his 68 rushing yards coming in the final two quarters. LaMichael James showed he can be an adequate backup with 49 rushing yards and should be the No. 2 option in the playoffs.
Note: In Kaepernick’s past five starters, Crabtree has 548 receiving yards, which is almost half of his season total.
If you think the 49ers defense is the same without Justin Smith, you are wrong. Arizona headed into the game with the league’s 32nd ranked offense, Brian Hoyer starting at quarterback (who?) and William Powell at running back (again, who?), yet they still managed to give up 129 yards in the first quarter. After going down 6-0 and allowing 134 yards in the first 16 minutes, the defense showed up and shut down the Cardinals for the rest of the game. This started with back-to-back third-quarter sacks by Smith’s fill in Ricky Jean Francois and LB Ahmad Brooks. In the final two quarters, the Niners D only allowed one touchdown, 106 yards and four first downs.
Just like the offense, it’s great the defense finally showed up. But would this have held against a team in the playoffs? Likely not. Remember this is the hapless Cardinals who didn’t have much to play for other than pride.
Oh, Davis Akers, where have you gone? With misses of 40 and 44 yards on field goal attempts, can he be trusted in the playoffs? Jim Harbaugh did not exactly give him a ringing endorsement by saying, “we’ll evaluate the position. … It’s his job to make the field goals.”
The return game was not any better with the 49ers offense starting their first two possessions at the one and 12-yard line. The special team’s best return was a 28-yard return by Ted Ginn Jr., but he misplayed a punt in the first quarter that resulted in San Francisco starting at their goal line. Where the special teams excelled was in punt-coverage by limiting Arizona’s Patrick Peterson to an average of six yards on two returns.
If the 49ers offense expects to do damage in the playoffs, offensive coordinator Greg Roman needs to figure out a way to get his offense going in their first possessions of the game. Three straight three-and-outs to start the game against the Cardinals will not advance San Francisco in the playoffs. It’s simple, Harbaugh and his coaches need to find a way to get their offense and defense rolling earlier in a game than they have the last two contests. Otherwise, the 49ers will be one and done in the playoffs.