History has shown that sometimes a young, up-and-coming team or one needing a jump start, have benefited in the past from moral victories. That being said, Sunday’s 23-20 loss by the San Francisco 49ers to the New Orleans Saints wasn’t so much a “moral victory” as it was a wake-up call.
This 6-4 Niners squad, with the worst pass offense in the league, has been in the thick of the playoff hunt all season. Their defense held Drew Brees to just a single touchdown pass at home, which is something Brees hadn’t done in more than 20 games.
They forced three turnovers which lead to 17 of San Francisco’s 20 points scored and committed three crucial errors in the 4th quarter, one of them not being the terrible call on Ahmad Brooks‘ sack-fumble on Drew Brees, that cost them a possession in Sunday’s contest.
The first costly mistake was Frank Gore‘s dropped pass with about seven minutes left in the game. New Orleans blew it’s pass coverage and allowed Gore to break down field wide open for a pass that nine out of ten times is a catch. The result would have been first down close to mid-field but instead, San Francisco punted one player later.
The second costly mistake of the game was Colin Kaepernick‘s decision to run out of bounds on a 3rd and 19 run that gained 16 yards. By running out of bounds, the clock stopped with 1:48 left in the game and allowed the Saints to save their final timeout.
The final mistake and probably the worst since it gave the Saints a short field, was Kassim Osgood‘s fair catch tackle interference penalty at the Saints 25-yard line. On the play, a fair signal call was clearly made, however Osgood failed to notice the action and lunged forward at Darren Sporles, which drew an immediate flag. Six plays and a timeout later, the Saints walked away with the victory.
Even with the lackluster offensive performance by the 49ers for the second week in a row, it was mental errors more than anything that cost this team two weeks in a row, and that may bring some comfort to the defending NFC Champions. They know the root of the problem, and now, they can correct it.
This team, which over the course of the last two weeks lost the likes of: tight end Vernon Davis, guard Mike Iupati, cornerback Terrell Brown, defensive lineman Ray McDonald and safety Eric Reid due to in-game injuries, was able to hang around and compete with two teams that they could eventually see in January.
Sunday’s loss against the Saints might in the long run be a good thing for the 49ers because they know, more than anything, that it was mental errors that cost this team. Despite being banged up, they were in position to win.
So as bad as Colin Kaepernick has been offensively, this team isn’t slumping because of his play.
This 49er team will be fine and after two gut wrenching losses, San Francisco could come out more focused than ever to right the wrong. Following last year’s losses to the St. Louis Rams and a 42-13 humiliating loss to Seattle, the 49ers put together a winning streak that took them all the way to the Super Bowl.
For the 2013 49ers, their hope is that the past two losses will bring about a more focused squad that prepares to hold onto the 6th and final playoff spot.