March 26, 2017

49ers 26, Bears 20 OT: An Early Frost

The 2015 season may have hit the wall of irrelevance for the Chicago Bears on Sunday with a 26-20 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.

This stunning, puzzling and insulting defeat leaves the Bears at 5-7 as they once again failed in an attempt to reach the .500 mark and firmly grip playoff contention.

After the Bears beat the Packers in Green Bay on Thanksgiving night everyone thought a victory over the woeful Niners was a foregone conclusion. But the other guys, even when they’re bad, get paid too and the Bears probably feel like giving back their paychecks after this one.

The Bears outgained San Francisco 364-291, dominated time of possession 37:24 – 24:46 and have much nicer uniforms and more cultured fans. But Chicago’s first two drives stalled and resulted in field goals when they should have been touchdowns, then Jay Cutler threw a terrible pass that Jimmie Ward plunked out of the Christmas season sky and lugged 29 yards for a score and just like that it was a ballgame.

The Bears luckily – or maybe skillfully –blocked Phil Dawson’s extra point attempt so it was only 6-6. But football’s kicking Gods got revenge later on as Chicago’s normally reliable Robbie Gould ended up missing two field goals – a 40-yarder in the third and a 36-yarder in the final seconds of the fourth – either one of which would have proven the game winner.

The Bears actually switched long snappers this past week so did that have an effect?

Any team can miss a field goal. Playoff teams don’t miss two. And they don’t lose to Blaine Gabbert who connected with Torrey Smith on a 71-yard score in overtime for the walkoff game-winner that left Chicagoans quiet, cold and thinking about hockey.

But then again the Patriots lost to the Eagles and when you lose a game like this you just have to try to compare your team to Tom Brady’s.

In Chicago we thought December was going to be an Advent calendar of contention and anticipation. Now it might be more like Arbor Day in your cousin’s camper. You know, booze, smokes, tears and snowballs.

Arbor Day is OK.

 

Bay Area Battle: Raiders Win 24-13

Up next for the Oakland Raiders was a home game against the San Francisco 49ers.  The 49ers were coming off a bad 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and the Raiders were coming off a horrible 52-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams.  After that game, I didn’t have much hope for the Raiders winning another game.  I figured a 1-15 record was imminent.  Well, that’s why they play the games, right?

The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the 49ers started at their 20.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took to the air on the first play of the game and his pass intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree was picked off by safety Brandian Ross at the Oakland 49-yard line.  Now, I have always been a believer in making the other team immediately pay for their mistakes.  If I were the offensive coordinator, I’d call a deep bomb on first down.  John Madden loved to do that.  But, that’s not how it is in Oakland nowadays.  Greg Olson did his usual play call on first down and running back Darren McFadden ran up the middle for one freaking yard.  That was followed by an 11-yard scramble by quarterback Derek Carr and that netted a first down at the San Francisco 39-yard line.  From the 39, Carr completed an 11-yard pass to fullback Marcel Reece.  They wouldn’t get any farther than that due to a stupid personal foul penalty on guard Austin Howard.  On fourth and 21 from the 39-yard line, they decided to bring in the Polish cannon for a 57-yard field goal attempt.  He nailed it and the Raiders went up 3-0 with 11:46 to go in the first quarter.

Both teams punted on their next possessions.  With six minutes to go in the first quarter, the 49ers got the ball back at their 40-yard line.  On first down, Kaepernick found tight end Vernon Davis across the middle for a gain of 23 yards and a first down at the Oakland 37.  Two carries by running back Frank Gore moved them down to the 21.  Two completions to wide receiver Anquan Boldin and a short carry by rookie running back Carlos Hyde netted another first down at the eight-yard line.  From the eight, Kaepernick tossed a short pass to fullback Bruce Miller and he snuck into the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown.  Kicker Phil Dawson made the point after and the 49ers led 7-3 with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter.

The Raiders took over at their 26.  A six-yard completion to Reece and two carries by running back Latavius Murray quickly moved them to mid-field.  Some more running by Murray and Reece and a 20-yard completion to wide receiver Vincent Brown netted a first down at the San Francisco 28-yard line.  Another short run by Murray and a 19-yard pass to tight end Mychal Rivera moved the ball to the seven-yard line.  Three plays later, Carr rolled out to the left and dumped off a short pass that was caught by left tackle Donald Penn.  He bounced off a big hit and fell into the end zone for a Raider touchdown.  Then he jumped into the stands and had a little party with the rowdy members of the Black Hole.  Janikowksi made the point after and the Raiders led 10-7 with 10:45 to go in the first half.

The 49ers started at their 30 and immediately received some help from the zebras.  Back to back defensive pass interference penalties on the Raiders moved them quickly down to the Oakland 42-yard line.  They would get as far as the 36 and the drive stalled there.  Dawson came on for a 54-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good, but there was another flag thrown.  The 49ers were flagged for holding and that nullified the field goal.  They were forced to punt.  As a matter of fact, there was a lot of punting going on until the 49ers started their next drive from their nine-yard line.  Passes to Davis and Boldin and a 17-yard scramble by Kaepernick had them moving in the right direction.  That was followed by a 20-yard pas to Boldin and some more scrambling by Kaepernick.  With time running out in the first half, Dawson was brought into the game again for a 52-yard attempt.  The kick was good and the score was knotted at 10 at halftime.

The Raiders gained a grand total of six yards on their first possession of the second half and punter Marquette King got off a nice 55-yard punt that was fielded by return man Bruce Ellington at the San Francisco 31-yard line.  Ellington returned it to the Oakland 46 and the 49ers had good field position.  Three carries by Gore and two completions to Crabtree moved the ball down to the nine-yard line.  Gore was stopped for a loss of one on first down.  On second down, Kaepernick looked for Boldin and the pass was incomplete.  That brought up third down.  Kaepernick had time and completed a short pass to Hyde.  It looked like he might make it to the end zone, but he was pushed out of bounds at the two-yard line by cornerback D.J. Hayden.  Dawson came on again and his 20-yard kick was good and the 49ers led 13-10 with 8:34 to go in the third quarter.

The Raiders took over at their 20 and after the usual short carry by McFadden, Carr found wide receiver Andre Holmes on the right side for a gain of 16 yards.  That was followed by a 12-yard pass to Reece.  A defensive holding penalty gave them five more yards and a first down at the San Francisco 45-yard line.  From the 45, Carr ran to his left and with pressure coming at him, he fired a pass down the middle that was caught by Rivera for a gain of 27 yards and a first down at the 18.  McFadden got a few more yards on first down.  That was followed by a short pass to Reece.  He was stopped short of the first down marker and that set up a third and one from the nine.  I thought they would definitely try another run up the middle.  To my surprise, the Raiders came out of the huddle with an empty backfield and five receivers.  Carr took the snap, fired a pass to the left side for Reece and he took it into the end zone for a touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 17-13 with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

The 49ers punted on their next possession and the Raiders took over at their 20.  This drive got off to a good start as Carr completed a 22-yard pass to Holmes.  I was truly shocked not to see McFadden run up the middle on first down.  That was followed by a short run by Murray.  A delay of game penalty moved them back five yards and on second and 13 from the 49, Carr completed a six-yard pass to Reece.  That’s when Carr went deep again and hooked up with Rivera for 27 yards and a first down at the San Francisco 29-yard line.  Two more carries by Murray and completions to Rivera and Reece moved the ball down to the three-yard line.  Three plays later, Carr found Rivera again in the left corner of the end zone for his third touchdown pass of the day.  Janikowksi made the point after and the Raiders led 24-13 with 10:39 to go in the game.

Down by two scores, I thought the 49ers would go to their no huddle offense.  That didn’t happen.  They started at their 20 and methodically moved down the field with completions to Crabtree and tight end Garrett Celek.  On third and eight from the Oakland 25, the Raiders brought the pressure and Kaepernick was sacked by defensive tackle Antonio Smith for a loss of four yards.  Dawson came on for a 47-yard field goal and this time, it was no good.  That was huge for the Raiders and they remained up by 11 points with five minutes to go in the game.  All they needed to do was get a couple of first downs and the game would be over.  Well, on third and three from the 44, Carr rolled to the right side and I guess you could say he took a knee.  He fell to the ground for a loss on nine yards.  I thought that was very peculiar.  Then I remembered that Greg Olson is the offensive coordinator and it didn’t seem so peculiar.  King punted and the 49ers took over at their 23-yard line.

Things didn’t get off to a very good start for the 49ers as Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of five by linebacker Khalil Mack.  That was followed by an incomplete pass to Crabtree.  On third and long, Kaepernick looked for Davis and the pass was picked off by safety Charles Woodson.  The 49ers used up their time-outs and ended up getting the ball back with 28 seconds remaining.  On the final play of the game, Kaepernick was sacked once again by Mack.  And that’s that.  The Raiders won the Bay Area Battle by a score of 24-13.  That loss really hurt the 49ers chances of getting to the playoffs.  Although the Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, they held their heads up high as they walked off the field knowing they won the Bay Area Battle.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 18 of 33 for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 56.  Frank Gore was the leading rusher as he had 63 yards on 12 carries.  As a team, the 49ers rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Chris Borland led the team in solo tackles with 12.

For the Raiders, rookie Derek Carr had himself a great day and looked like a veteran out there.  He completed 22 of 28 for 254 yards and three touchdowns.  Mychal Rivera and Marcel Reece tied for the lead in receptions with seven apiece.  Rivera had the most receiving yards with 109 and a touchdown.  Like most running backs, Latavius Murray found it difficult to run on the 49ers defense.  He finished the game with 76 yards on 23 carries.  16 of those yards came on one carry.  For the most part, the defense looked very good as they sacked Kaepernick five times and picked him off twice.  Charles Woodson and T.J. Carrie tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven.

After that horrid loss to the Rams, head coach Tony Sparano said the Raiders would “bounce back.”  I had sincere doubts about that and said “Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Sparano.”  Well, I liked the action I saw against the 49ers.  Apparently the players did too.  Near the conclusion of the game, Sparano was given a Gatorade bath.  They held the 49ers to 248 total yards and looked damn good.  Up next is a trip to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs.  Which Raider team will show up?  Will it be the one that played so well against the 49ers?  Or will it be the clowns that played in the game against the Rams two weeks ago?  I wish I knew.  Take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

 

 

Seattle 23, San Francisco 17

The NFC championship game featured two NFC west rivals as the San Francisco 49ers headed to Seattle to take on the Seahawks.  The 49ers were coming off a 23-10 win over the Carolina Panthers and the Seahawks made it to the next round by defeating the New Orleans Saints by a score of 23-15.  The loud Seattle crowd was pumped up for this one as the Seahawks started at their 20.  On first down, quarterback Russell Wilson rolled to his left and looked for an open receiver.  He was greeted rudely by linebacker Aldon Smith who sacked him for a loss of seven, forced the ball loose and while Wilson was trying to locate the ball, Smith recovered it at the Seattle 15.  That excellent field position for the 49ers would only result in a field goal attempt as the Seahawk defense was up to the task of keeping the 49ers out of the end zone.  Kicker Phil Dawson made his 25-yard attempt and the 49ers led 3-0 with 12:45 to go in the first quarter.

Both defenses were playing well and the next three possessions resulted in punts.  But with 14:49 remaining in the second quarter, the 49ers took over at their 14.  On third and nine from the 15, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a pass intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree.  The pass was incomplete, but cornerback Richard Sherman was flagged for defensive holding.  That kept the San Francisco offense on the field and seemed to energize Kaepernick.  Two scrambles by Kaepernick netted 70 yards and the 49ers were knocking on the door as they had a first and goal from the Seattle ten-yard line.  Running back Frank Gore got the call on first and second down and gained nine yards.  That was followed by what was thought to be a touchdown run by running back Anthony Dixon.  But the replay showed he came up just short of the goal line.  With the ball being literally inches away from the end zone, they decided to go for it.  Dixon ran up the middle again and this time there was no doubt he was in the end zone for a touchdown.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that starting guard Mike Iupati was injured on the play and would not return.  Dawson made the point after and the 49ers led 10-0 with ten minutes to go in the first half.

The Seahawks started at their 24 and Wilson got the drive off to a good start with a seven-yard completion to wide receiver Doug Baldwin.  On third and three from the 31, Wilson kept the drive going with a four-yard completion to wide receiver Golden Tate.  A short run by running back Marshawn Lynch set up a second and seven from the 38.  Wilson took the snap and ran to his right, then to his left, then backwards, then he spotted Baldwin wide open and heaved a deep pass down the middle where Baldwin caught it for a gain of 51 yards.  Baldwin was injured on the play, but he would return soon.  After that brilliant play, the Seahawks went nowhere and had to settle for a field goal attempt.  Kick Steven Hauschka made his 32-yard attempt and the 49ers now led 10-3 with 5:47 to go in the first half.

The 49ers gained a grand total of zero yards on three plays and punter Andy Lee got off a 43-yard punt that was downed at the Seattle 37-yard line.  Four carries by Lynch and a nine-yard completion to Baldwin on third and eight from the 49 got the Seahawks a first down at the San Francisco 42.  They would get as far as the 38 and on fourth and six, Seattle head coach Pete Carrol decided to go for it.  Wilson looked for Tate, but it was incomplete.  After the play, the flags came flying and our good friend Jim Harbaugh went out of his mind again.  Jim, what did I tell you about all that ranting and raving that you do?  The penalty was a personal foul on cornerback Carlos Rogers but it was a dead ball foul.  That meant that the 49ers would get the ball back at their 23-yard line.  Kaepernick took a knee to end the half and the score remained 10-3.

The 49ers got the ball to start the second half and only managed to get one first before Lee punted the ball away again.  Tate fielded it at the Seattle 30 and returned it ten yards to the 40.  It was time for Mr. Lynch to get into his “Beast Mode.”  He ran up the middle on first down for a gain of 11 and followed that up with a five-yard carry.  Wilson found Baldwin on second and five for a gain of four yards and that set up a third and one from the San Francisco 40.  Lynch took the hand-off, started to his right, cut back to the left, bounced off a blocker and headed up the right side for a 40-yard touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the score was tied at ten with 9:51 to go in the third quarter.

The 49ers took over at their 17 and Gore ran up the right side for nine yards.  Running back Kendall Hunter followed that up with a gain of two and a first down at the 28.  From the 28, Kaepernick threw one down the middle for Crabtree that was caught for a gain of 22 yards.  Following that, Kaepernick scrambled up the left side for 22 more and a first down at the Seattle 28.  Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of eight by defensive end Michael Bennett.  He fumbled, but the ball was recovered by center Jonathan Goodwin.  Goodwin then proceeded to turn into a running back and he was dragged down at the 26.  From the 26, Kaepernick looked for wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the end zone.  Although safety Earl Thomas was in position to pick the pass off, Boldin came down with it for a touchdown.  Dawson made the point after and the 49ers took a 17-10 lead with 6:29 to go in the third quarter.

Dawson’s kickoff went three yards deep in the end zone and Baldwin ran it up the right side for a gain of 69 yards.  That was just what the Seahawks needed to tie the game up again.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Aside from a 13-yard completion to Tate, they went nowhere.  Hauschka came on for a 40-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  That made it 17-13 with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

The 49ers got the ball back at their 20, went nowhere and Lee punted again.  Tate fielded it at the Seattle 38 and was brought down immediately.  11 yards on two carries by Lynch and a 13-yarder to Baldwin moved them to the San Francisco 38.  Running back Robert Turbin got four yards on first down, but an intentional grounding penalty moved them back to the 50.  From there, Wilson found tight end Zach Miller for a gain of 15 and that was enough to get Hauschka into field goal range.  He was late getting onto the field, but it looked like there was enough time to get the play off.  Instead, the Seahawks called timeout and brought their offense back on the field.  Smith jumped offside and that gave Wilson a free play.  He took full advantage of the situation and fired a pass to the right side of the end zone.  It was caught by wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks went up 20-17 with 13:44 to go in the game.

A holding call on the kickoff moved the 49ers back to their 11-yard line.  Passes to tight end Vernon Davis and Boldin netted a first down at the 25.  A three-yard carry by Hunter and a six-yard scramble by Kaepernick set up a third and one.  But a delay of game moved them back five yards and on third and six from the 29, Kaepernick was sacked by defensive end Cliff Avril and the ball was recovered by Bennett.  Although Bennett had a nice convoy of blockers to lead him to the end zone, he stumbled over his own feet and was touched down at the San Francisco six-yard line.

Lynch got the call on first down and was stopped for a short gain.  A false start moved them back five yards and a pass to Tate was incomplete.  Then the fun began.  Wilson completed a pass to Kearse down the middle for nine yards.  At the one, he was hit by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.  Not only was he hit, Bowman clearly took the ball away from Kearse.  A huge pileup ensued and Bowman was hurt on the play.  He would leave the game with a torn ACL.  To add insult to injury, not one of the seven zebras saw Bowman take the ball from Kearse.  They ruled that Seattle would maintain possession and that the play was not reviewable.  It would have been reviewable if it had occurred in the end zone or the sideline.  All I can say to that is “WOW!”  Seriously?  You can’t challenge that?  I thought that was it for Harbaugh.  But he didn’t storm the field and after Bowman was carted off, order was restored.  The Seahawks decided to go for it on fourth down and everyone knew Lynch was going to get the call.  However, he couldn’t handle the hand-off and the ball came loose.  It rolled backwards and was recovered at the 15 by fullback Michael Robinson.

Given new life, the 49ers took over at the 15.  Things got off to a good start as Hunter ran up the right side for 11 yards.  But on first down from the 26, Kaepernick looked for Boldin on the left side and threw a terrible pass that was picked off by safety Kam Chancellor at the 40.  He was touched down at the 40 and once again, the Seahawks had good field position.  On third and eight from the 38, Wilson found Tate for ten yards and a first down at the 28.  On second and eight from the 26, the Seahawks were flagged for offensive pass interference.  That moved them back to the 36.  They got as far as the 29 and Hauschka was brought into the game again.  His 47-yard field goal attempt was good and the Seahawks led 23-17 with 3:37 to go in the game.

The 49ers went to work from their 22 and running back LaMichael James ran up the right side on first down and looked like he was going to throw.  Apparently there was nobody open and he was brought down for no gain.  Kaepernick found Boldin for eight on second down, but his pass on third down fell incomplete.  That set up a crucial fourth and two.  Kaepernick took the snap, rolled to his left and tossed a 17-yard pass to Gore for a first down at the 47.  Kaepernick scrambled for four yards on first down and hooked up with Boldin for four more.  It was now third and two from the Seattle 45-yard line.  Kaepernick calmly threw to his left and the ball was caught for a gain of 16 yards and a first down at the 29.  The 49ers stopped the clock with their first timeout.  From the 29, Kaepernick found Davis for 11 more and things were looking real good for the 49ers.  Well, maybe not.  From the 18, Kaepernick threw to the right corner of the end zone for Crabtree.  The pass was tipped by Sherman and picked off by linebacker Malcolm Smith.  That sealed the deal.  Sherman was flagged for taunting after the play and the Seahawks took over at their ten and ran the clock out from there.  Final score: Seattle 23 San Francisco 17.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 14 of 24 for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  He also led the team in rushing with 130 yards on 11 carries.  Anquan Boldin had the most receptions with five and the most receiving yards with 53 and a touchdown.  With the exception of Kaepernick, the 49ers went nowhere on the ground. Gore, James, Hunter and Dixon combined for 31 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.  All totaled, they had 161 yards rushing on 28 carries.  Defensively, NaVorro Bowman led the team in solo tackles with six.  He also had a sack, a tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery that nobody in a striped shirt saw.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 16 of 25 for 215 yards and one touchdown.  Doug Baldwin led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 106.  Marshawn Lynch had a good day on the ground and finished the game with 109 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.  All totaled, the Seahawks rushed for 115 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner tied for the lead in solo tackles with five apiece.  Chancellor also had an interception.

Well, the stage is set for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on February 2nd.  It will be the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos fighting it out for the Lombardi Trophy.  Kickoff will be at 6:25 eastern time.  I have not seen too many teams slow down the Denver offense and the “Legion of Boom” will definitely have their hands full.  All I want to see is a good game and it should be a good one.  It would also be kind of cool if a snowstorm hit too.  Snow or not, I’m sure it will be cold outside.  Until then, take it easy.

 

49ers 23, Panthers 10

The third game of the divisional playoffs had the San Francisco 49ers heading east again to play the Carolina Panthers.  The 49ers were coming off a 23-20 win over the Packers in frigid Green Bay and the Panthers were coming off a bye week.  There was nothing frigid about the weather in Charlotte.  It was sunny and in the mid 50s with a light breeze.  Carolina kicker Graham Gano sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the 49ers started at their 20-yard line.  On third and ten from the 20, quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked to his left and found wide receiver Quinton Patton for a gain of 20 yards.  A five-yard carry by running back Frank Gore and an eight-yard pass to Gore netted a first down at the Carolina 44.  On third and six from the 40, Kaepernick threw to his right for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.  The ball was tipped and fell incomplete.  However, safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That got the 49ers a first down, but they went no farther.  As a matter of fact, Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of seven yards on third down.  Kicker Phil Dawson came on and his 49-yard attempt was good and the 49ers led 3-0 with 9:12 to go in the first quarter.

The Panthers started at their 20 and on second and eight, quarterback Cam Newton completed a six-yard pass to wide receiver Steve Smith.  On third and two, Newton completed another short pass to tight end Greg Olsen for a first down at the 34.  From the 34, Newton hooked up with wide receiver Brandon LaFell for seven yards.  On second and three, Newton looked for LaFell again but the pass was thrown behind him and picked off by linebacker Patrick Willis.  There were three Panthers in the general area of the pass, but Willis still came away with the interception.

The 49ers had good field position at the Carolina 46.  On second and eight, Kaepernick dumped off a short pass intended for tight end Vernon Davis.  The pass was incomplete, but linebacker Luke Kuechly was flagged for defensive holding.  That gave the 49ers a first down at the 44.  The zebras weren’t done throwing their flags either.  On the next play, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was flagged for unnecessary roughness to give the 49ers yet another first down at the 20.  The drive was halted at the 15 and Dawson was called on again.  His 33-yard kick was good.  With 4:33 to go in the first quarter, the 49ers led 6-0.

Dawson kicked the ball short and it was fielded at the Carolina 18 by running back Kenjon Barner and returned to the 34.  Newton went deep for Smith on first down and that play was good for 28 yards.  A seven-yard carry by running back DeAngelo Williams and a 14-yard pass to Ted Ginn moved them down to the 17.  Newton ran up the right side for 11 yards and the Panthers found themselves with a first and goal from the six-yard line.  Big fullback Mike Tolbert got the call on first down and gained three yards.  Newton kept it on the next play and gained two more yards.  On third and goal from the one, Tolbert once again was unsuccessful at finding the end zone.  The Panthers decided to go for it on fourth and about one foot from the goal line.  The attendance for this game was 73,784 and I’m pretty sure all of them knew that Newton was going to run the ball up the middle.  Add 11 more people to that number.  When the ball was snapped, every player in a white jersey did their best to clog the middle and stop Newton from scoring.  It worked and he was stopped short of the end zone.  Why not try a bootleg?  Maybe sell a play fake and toss it to Olsen?  Unimaginative play-calling led to zero points for the Panthers.

The 49ers went three and out and punter Andy Lee hit a nice 52-yard punt that was fielded by Ginn at the Carolina 45 and returned to the San Francisco 31-yard line.  On first down, Newton fired a perfect strike to the left for Smith who caught it in stride for a touchdown.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 7-6 with 13:40 to go in the first half.

The 49ers gained 20 yards on their next possession and punted again.  Ginn fielded it at the 17 and tried to escape, but could only get three yards on the return.  Three scrambles by Newton and a six-yard pass to LaFell moved the Panthers to the 47.  A 35-yarder to Olsen, a nine-yard pass to Smith and a short run by Tolbert had the Panthers knocking on the door again.  Newton ran up the left side and was brought down at the one-yard line.  On second down, Newton was stuffed for no gain.  Before the ball was snapped on the next play, linebacker Ahmad Brooks did his best impression of a bird as he jumped over the line and Newton.  That was an obvious offside penalty and moved the ball a little closer to the goal line.  Tolbert had no luck gaining any yards on third down and the Panthers decided to try a field goal on fourth down.  A delay of game moved them back five yards, but Gano had no trouble making a 25-yard field goal and the Panthers led 10-6 with 3:41 to go in the first half.

The 49ers started at their 20 and a five-yard carry by Gore and a 12-yard pass to Boldin moved them to the 37.  On second down, Boldin caught another pass for 14 yards.  Wide receiver Michael Crabtree got in on the act and hauled in a pass for 20 yards and a first down at the Carolina 29.  Another five-yard run by Gore and a 15-yard pass to Boldin made it first and goal from the nine.  After that play, safety Quintin Mikell was injured and did not return to the game.  Every time Boldin made a catch, he talked a little louder.  After that previous catch, he started chirping again and slammed his helmet into Munnerlyn’s helmet.  Doesn’t that qualify as a head-butt?  Shouldn’t there be a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct?  Taunting?  Guess not.

On third and goal from the nine, Kaepernick floated a pass to the right side of the end zone for Boldin.  The pass was incomplete, but cornerback Drayton Florence didn’t turn around to look for the ball.  As I saw that, I started to count.  5…4…3…Boom! There’s the flag!  It was now first and goal from the one.  Gore was stopped for no gain on first down.  On second down, Kaepernick rolled to his right and tossed a pass to Davis in the end zone.  Initially it was ruled incomplete, but replay showed he had possession and got both feet down for the score.  After the pass was ruled incomplete, San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh stormed the field in protest of the call.  He was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct that was enforced on the kickoff.  Harbaugh, didn’t you have a procedure done last year for an irregular heartbeat?  It was inside of two minutes and that means that every play will be reviewed from the booth.  Just calm down and stop whining.  You’re acting like a damn child.  If you keep having these emotional explosions, you’re going to be in a straightjacket before the game is over.  After all that went down, Dawson made the point after and the 49ers led 13-10 at halftime.

The Panthers needed to get back on track with a good drive to start the second half.  That didn’t happen and punter Brad Nortman got off a 51-yard punt that was fair caught at the San Francisco 23.  Some more tough running by Gore and a 16-yard pass to Boldin moved the ball to the Carolina 47.  Kaepernick looked for Boldin once again and he hauled it in for a gain of 45.  On first and goal from the two, Gore and Kaepernick weren’t on the same page during the exchange and the ball came loose.  Gore pounced on it and the 49ers retained possession.  I’d hate to see what Harbaugh would have done if Carolina recovered the fumble.  On second down, Kaepernick kept it and ran up the left side.  He dodged a couple of defenders and made it into the end zone.  Dawson made the point after and the 49ers increased their lead to 20-10 with nine minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Panthers really needed to get some points on this drive and they started at their 24-yard line.  Passes to LaFell and Olsen and some scrambling by Newton had them moving in the right direction.  On second five from the San Francisco 48, Newton went deep for Ginn, and the pass fell incomplete.  But the 49ers were flagged for defensive holding.  That moved the ball to the 43 and gave the Panthers a first down.  On third and one, Newton completed a five-yard pass to LaFell and the Panthers were looking good.  They were looking good until the 49ers stepped up their pass rush.  After an incomplete pass on first down, Newton was sacked by linebacker NaVorro Bowman for a loss of eight yards.  On third down, Newton had room to run up the middle, but didn’t move quickly enough and he was sacked by Brooks for another eight-yard loss.  That put them out of field goal range and really hurt their chances of getting back into the game.  They had control of the ball for 8:20 and came away scoreless.

Nortman punted and the 49ers took over at their 12.  Another score would most likely put the Panthers away.  On third and two from the 20, the Kaepernick and Boldin connection came through again and Boldin caught another pass for five yards and a first down at the 25.  Two carries by Gore netted nine yards and on third and one, Gore got loose for a gain of 39 yards.  He was finally dragged down by Mitchell and Florence at the Carolina 27.  The drive would stall at the 15, but they held on to the ball for almost eight minutes and took precious time off the clock.  Dawson came on again and made his 33-yard field goal attempt.  With 7:35 to go in the game, the 49ers led 23-10.

All the Panthers could do now was hope for the best and cope with the rest.  Starting at the 23, Newton completed passes to LaFell and Ginn, but he was also sacked two more times.  They moved down to the San Francisco 28, but when Newton looked for Olsen, his pass was picked off at the nine by safety Donte Whitner.  The Carolina faithful started to head for the exits as that pretty much ended any hopes of the Panthers heading to Seattle.  The 49ers ran out the clock and advanced to the NFC championship game for the second straight year.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 for 196 yards and one touchdown.  He added a rushing touchdown and finished the game with 15 yards on eight carries.  Anquan Boldin had himself a good day and led the 49ers in receptions with eight and receiving yards with 136.  On the ground, the 49ers rushed for 126 on 34 carries.  Frank Gore led the way with 84 yards on 17 carries.  Their defense came up huge when it needed to with two big goal line stands.  Defensively, they sacked Newton five times and Bowman, Willis and Brooks tied for the lead in solo tackles with five apiece.  Brooks also had 2.5 sacks.

For the Panthers, Cam Newton completed 16 of 25 for 267 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  He also led the team in rushing with 54 yards on ten carries.  Ginn, Smith, Olsen and LaFell each had four receptions and Ginn had the most receiving yards with 104.  As a team, the Panthers rushed for 93 yards on 24 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Thomas Davis led the team in solo tackles with four.  They had plenty of opportunities in this game.  Simply put, they couldn’t find a way to score from the one-yard line on two different occasions.

Whenever the 49ers and Seahawks get together, you can expect an intense game with lots of trash talk.  I expect that’s what will happen Sunday when they meet at 6:30 eastern time to determine the winner of the NFC.

Stellar Performances and Records in the 2013 Postseason

The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl XLVII Champions after enduring a 35-minute power outage in their 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. There were many stellar performances and records broken during the NFL playoffs, including several of them during Super Bowl XLVII. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers received outstanding performances from several players. Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones, Ed Reed and Joe Flacco broke or tied several records while the 49ers received great play from Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore Ravens receiver/returner Jacoby Jones broke two Super Bowl records. He amassed a record-setting 290 all-purpose yards in the Super Bowl, including a 108-yard kickoff return and a 56-yard reception for touchdowns. His 108-yard kickoff return is the longest return in Super Bowl history. The return was originally ruled a 109-yard return but the NFL later changed it to 108 yards. The NFL record for both the regular season and postseason is 108 yards.

Earlier this season, Jones had a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. Jones is the only player in NFL history with three kickoff returns of 105 or more yards for touchdowns.

On the Ravens defense, free safety Ed Reed tied an NFL playoff record during the second quarter of the Super Bowl with his ninth career playoff interception. Reed is tied with Ronnie Lott, Charlie Waters and Bill Simpson for most career playoff interceptions. During the regular season, the future Hall of Famer has 61 interceptions.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP quarterback Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions during the playoffs. When his Ravens defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 in the AFC Championship Game, he became the first quarterback ever with six career playoff victories on the road, breaking a tie of five road wins that he shared with Eli Manning of the New York Giants.

49ers running back Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Throughout the playoffs, Gore averaged a shade over five yards per carry and had two 100-yard rushing games. Gore quietly puts up good numbers each year. During the regular season, he rushed for 1,214 yards for his sixth season of 1,000 or more yards. He currently ranks 34th all-time in rushing yards with 8,839 yards, just ten yards behind regular season MVP Adrian Peterson. Both look to join the 10,000-yard club in 2013.

When the 49ers defeated the Packers during NFC Divisional Playoffs, Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first QB/RB duo with each having 100 yards rushing in a playoff game. They are only the third duo since 1960 to each have 100 yards rushing in a playoff game.

If the 49ers weren’t running the ball, tight end Vernon Davis was catching passes for them. Vernon had two 100-yard receiving games during the playoffs including six receptions for 104 yards in the Super Bowl. Davis has played in five career playoff games and already has achieved four games with over 100 yards receiving. The player either handing or throwing the ball to Gore or Davis was Kaepernick.

Kaepernick splashed onto the playoff scene in a big way. Against the Green Bay Packers, he became the first player ever to rush for 100+ yards and pass for 250+ yards while passing and rushing for two touchdowns each. Kaepernick joins only Jay Cutler and Otto Graham with two rushing and two passing touchdowns in a playoff game. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards with two touchdowns (20 and 56-yards). His 181 rushing yards are the most rushing yards by a quarterback in any game (regular season or playoffs).

On the road against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, Kaepernick lifted the 49ers to a victory after trailing 17-0 in the first quarter. The 17-point deficit is the second greatest comeback in a conference championship game. The Indianapolis Colts came back from an 18-point deficit against the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Kaepernick nearly lead his team to the greatest comeback ever in Super Bowl history. The 49ers trailed 28-6 in the early part of the third quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback as his 4th and goal pass fell incomplete late in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick completed 16 out of 28 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 62 yards on 7 carries, including a 15-yard rushing touchdown.

 

Super Bowl XLVII

This year, the Super Bowl matched up the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.  It was the first time in Super Bowl history that brothers (John and Jim Harbaugh) were coaching the teams and it was being billed as the “Har-Bowl” or the “Super-Bro.”  So, after two weeks of hype, we were finally ready for the game to start.  The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Justin Tucker kicked it deep for a touch-back and the 49ers started at their 20.  They got the game off to a good start when quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis.  Unfortunately, that play was called back due to an illegal formation penalty.  Three plays later, punter Andy Lee came on and hit a 50-yard punt that was fielded at the Raven 32 by return man Jacoby Jones.  He returned it to the 49 and the Ravens had good field position for their first drive.

From the 49, quarterback Joe Flacco completed a short pass to fullback Vonta Leach that went for eight yards.  Running back Ray Rice ran for four yards on the next play and that got the Ravens a first down at the San Francisco 39.  From the 39, Flacco went to wide receiver Torrey Smith for 20 more yards and the Ravens were marching.  A short run by Rice and an incomplete pass made it third and nine.  On third down, Flacco looked for tight end Dennis Pitta and the pass was incomplete.  However, the 49ers were flagged for an offside penalty.  On third and four from the 13, Flacco threw for the end zone and the pass was caught by wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens had an early 7-0 lead.

Starting from their 20, the 49ers went to work.  Running back Frank Gore was thrown for a loss of one on first down, but Kaepernick came back with a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Michael Crabtree.  Runs of nine and five yards by Gore and 16 more rushing yards from Kaepernick moved the ball to the Raven 32.  Kaepernick then found Davis open for a gain of 24 and the 49ers were at the Raven eight-yard line.  They would go no further.  In fact, they went backwards as Kaepernick was sacked on third down for a loss of ten by linebacker Paul Kruger.  Kicker David Akers came into the game and made his 36-yard field goal attempt.  That made it 7-3 with 3:58 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens managed to get a couple of first downs on their next drive but ended up punting.  Sam Koch’s punt went into the end zone and the 49ers were starting from their 20 again.  Passes of 29 and 11 yards to Davis had the 49ers off to a good start.  Rookie running back LaMichael James ran up the left side for eight yards and Gore got seven more on the next play.  On first down from the Raven 24, James ran off right end and the ball came loose.  It was recovered by defensive end Arthur Jones at the 25.

Running back Bernard Pierce got some action to start this drive and he netted 12 yards on three carries.  From the 37, Flacco found Pitta for nine and Pierce got two yards on his next carry for a first down at the 48.  Flacco then found tight end Ed Dickson for 23 yards and Rice ran up the right side for seven more.  Flacco looked for Dickson again and he was dragged down at the San Francisco eight-yard line.  A facemask penalty on safety Donte Whitner made it first and goal from the four.  On second and goal from the one, Flacco fired a pass into the end zone that was caught by Pitta for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-3 with 7:06 to go in the first half.

The 49ers got the ball back at their 21 and Kaepernick put up a deep ball for wide receiver Randy Moss.  The ball was picked off by safety Ed Reed at the San Francisco 44 and returned to the 38.  After that, a huge brawl ensued.  Offsetting penalties were called and the Ravens were in business again.  Three runs by Rice, a short pass to Leach and a seven-yard pass to Rice got them a first down at the San Francisco 15.  The next three plays netted one yard and Tucker came on for a field goal attempt.  Instead of kicking the ball through the uprights, Tucker took the snap and ran up the left side in hopes of getting a first down.  He was pushed out of bounds one yard short of the first down marker by safety Darcel McBath.

A quick three and out by the 49ers gave the Ravens the ball at their 44.  On third and ten, Flacco looked deep for Jones and the ball was caught at the San Francisco nine.  After Jones caught the pass, he fell to the turf, quickly got up and made his way into the end zone for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now had a 21-3 lead with 1:45 to go in the half.

Starting at the 20, Kaepernick completed a six-yard pass to Crabtree and a 14-yard pass to tight end Delanie Walker.  A roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata got them 15 more yards and a first down at the Raven 45.  Kaepernick looked for Walker again and found him for a gain of 28.  That got them down to the 17, but they couldn’t get the ball into the zone.  Akers made his 27-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens took a 21-6 lead into the locker room.

The second half got started with a bang as Jones fielded the kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone and ran straight up the middle.  Not a 49er could catch him and he ran it in for a 108-yard touchdown.  By the way, that was the longest scoring play in Super Bowl history.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 28-6 with 14:49 to go in the third quarter.  The 49ers started at their 14 and on first down, Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree for a gain of 29 yards.  On first down from the 43, Gore ran up the left side for three and Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of six yards.  And then the lights went out.  The lights stayed out for a grand total of 34 minutes.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.  After they finally came back on, the 49ers faced a third and 13 and didn’t get the first down.  The Ravens didn’t fare much better on their next drive and punted after four plays.

From their 20, the 49ers went to work knowing they had to get something going if they wanted to avoid being blown out.  Kaepernick had two scrambles that netted 20 yards and a first down at the 40.  On third and eight from the 42, Moss caught a nine-yard pass for a first down at the Raven 49.  From the 49, Kaepernick hit Davis for 18 yards and a first down at the 31.  Next, Crabtree caught a pass on the left side, bounced off a couple of defenders and made his way into the end zone for a 49er touchdown.  Akers made the point after and the score was now 28-13 with 7:20 to go in the third quarter.

On their next drive, the Ravens went nowhere as Flacco was sacked on third and ten by linebacker Ahmad Brooks.  49er return man Tedd Ginn fielded the punt at the San Francisco 48 and returned it to the Raven 20.  It took two plays to go 20 yards and Gore ran the ball in from the six-yard line for a touchdown.  Akers made the point after and it was now 28-20 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.  You could feel the momentum swing in favor of the 49ers.  What made it worse for the Ravens was an injury to Ngata.  He would not return to the game.  It couldn’t get worse than that, could it?  Yes it could.  On second and seven from the 23, the 49ers brought the blitz.  Flacco managed to dump off a pass to Rice on the left side where he was hit by cornerback Tarell Brown.  The ball came loose and Brown recovered it at the 24.

This time, the Raven defense was ready.  The 49ers managed to gain only three yards on three plays and it was up to Akers to put some more points on the board.  His kick sailed wide left, but the Ravens were flagged for running into the kicker.  That moved them up five yards and Akers was granted another try from 34 yards.  The kick was good and the score was now 28-23 with 3:10 to go in the third quarter.

The Ravens took over at their 28.  Two runs by Pierce and a 30-yard catch and run by Boldin moved the Ravens to the San Francisco 35.  Pitta caught another one for seven yards, Rice ran for two and Pierce had a nice run up the left side for a gain of eight.  He was hurt after that play, but would return later in the game.  A four-yard run by Rice and a nine-yard catch by Boldin made it first and goal at the four.  Two runs by Rice got them down to the one.  Instead of running it again, Flacco rolled out to the right side and couldn’t find anyone open.  The pass was incomplete and the Ravens had to settle for a 19-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and that made it 31-23 with 12:54 to go in the game.

The 49ers had little trouble moving the ball from their 24-yard line.  A five-yard run by Gore, a 32-yard catch by Moss and a 21-yard run by Gore made it first down at the Raven 18.  On second and seven from the 15, Kaepernick took it the rest of the way for another touchdown.  That made it 31-29 and they went for two to tie the game up.  The Ravens blitzed and Kaepernick’s pass to Moss was overthrown.  The score remained 31-29 with 9:57 to go in the game.

The Ravens started at their 21 and on third and nine, a pass interference penalty was called on cornerback Chris Culliver.  That gave them a first down at their 36.  A short run by Pierce and another catch by Boldin appeared to give the Ravens another first down.  But 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the spot and it was ruled Boldin was short of the first down.  That made it third and one from the 45.  I think everyone in the building was expecting a run up the middle on the next play.  Instead, Flacco called an audible and threw to the right side to Boldin.  Despite being blanketed by cornerback Carlos Rogers, Boldin managed to haul in the pass for a gain of 15 and a crucial first down.  Rice finally got loose for a gain of 12 and another first down at the San Francisco 28.  Two short runs by Rice and an offside penalty made it third and two at the 20.  Flacco fired a pass to Pitta, but he couldn’t hold on and that brought up fourth down.  Tucker came into the game again and his 38-yard attempt was good.  The Ravens now led 34-29 with 4:19 to go in the game.

Eight-yard runs by Kaepernick and Gore got the 49ers a first down at their 36.  On second and ten from the 36, Kaepernick hit Crabtree for a gain of 24 and a first down at the Raven 40.  From the 40, Gore ran up the left side and was finally pushed out of bounds at the seven-yard line.  The 49ers had to go seven yards to take the lead after they had trailed 28-6 earlier in the game.  From the seven, James ran for two yards.  On second down from the five, Kaepernick looked for Crabtree and the pass was incomplete.  He would look for Crabtree again on third down and get the same result.  That made it fourth and goal from the five.  Kaepernick took the snap and once again looked for Crabtree in the end zone.  The pass fell incomplete and the 49ers turned the ball over on downs.  There was definitely some contact between Crabtree and cornerback Jimmy Smith on that final play, but no flag was thrown.  This caused Jim Harbaugh to lose his mind and he was very critical of the zebras after the game.

The Ravens took over at their five-yard line and three plays got them exactly three yards.  The 49ers used up their remaining timeouts and on fourth down with 12 seconds remaining, the Ravens went into punt formation.  Koch took the snap and held the ball as long as he could before running out of the end zone for a safety.  That made it 34-31 with four seconds remaining.  From the 20, Koch blasted a 61-yard punt that was fielded by Ginn.  He fielded it at the 19 and was brought down at midfield.  That brought the game to an end with the final score: Baltimore Ravens 34 San Francisco 49ers 31.

For the Ravens, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco completed 23 of 33 for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 104 and a touchdown.  The Ravens had a tough time moving the ball on the ground and Ray Rice led the way with 59 yards on 20 carries.  Rice also had 19 yards receiving and one lost fumble.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for just 93 yards on 35 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Dannell Ellerbee led the Ravens with six solo tackles and one tackle for a loss.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 16 of 28 for 302 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also had 62 yards rushing on seven carries and one rushing touchdown.  Vernon Davis led the team in receptions with six and Crabtree had the most yards receiving with 109 and a touchdown.  On the ground, Frank Gore led the way with 110 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.  As a team, the 49ers averaged 6.3 yards a carry and racked up 182 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Patrick Willis led the 49ers with eight solo tackles.

That was one hell of a game.  The Ravens could do no wrong until the lights went out.  After they came back on, all the momentum switched to the 49ers.  But, when it came to crunch time, the Raven defense got the job done.  Linebacker Ray Lewis played his last game and is retiring a champion.  The next time we see him will be at his Hall of Fame induction speech.  It was indeed a tough loss for the 49ers, but they have a bright future with Colin Kaepernick at the helm.  I would imagine quarterback Alex Smith won’t be back next year.  Maybe he’ll end up in Arizona or Kansas City.  As of right now, your guess is as good as mine.

I enjoyed writing all these post season articles and I’ll return next month as The Raider Guy.  They have the third pick in the draft this year and need help at lots of positions.  As far as I am concerned, Damontre Moore from Texas A&M is the guy they need to get.  That will be discussed at a later time.  Until then, take it easy.

 

49ers 28, Falcons 24

Up first on the schedule was the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons.  The 49ers were coming off a dominant 45-31 win over the Green Bay Packers and the Falcons were coming off a game in which they blew a 27-7 lead, but managed to pull out a 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks.  49er kicker David Akers kicked the ball deep for a touch-back and the Falcons started at their 20-yard line.

A three-yard run up the gut by running back Michael Turner and a 13-yard completion to Julio Jones got the Falcons a first down at the 36.  On third and nine from the 37, quarterback Matt Ryan completed a pass to wide receiver Roddy White for a gain of 16 and a first down at the San Francisco 47.  Two plays later, Ryan went deep for Jones who had gotten by safety Dashon Goldson and hit him in stride for a 46-yard touchdown.  Kicker Matt Bryant made the point after and the Falcons had an early 7-0 lead with 11:24 to go in the first quarter.

The 49ers netted exactly one yard on their first possession and punter Andy Lee nailed a 62-yard punt that was fielded at the Falcon 17 and returned to the 18 by return man/wide receiver Harry Douglas.  Completions of eight and six yards to Jones were followed by a five-yard catch by tight end Tony Gonzalez and a ten-yard catch by White.  That made it first down at the 50.  Then Ryan found Jones for 27 more.  However, a two-yard loss on a run by running back Jacquizz Rodgers and an eight-yard completion made it third and four from the 17.  Ryan looked for Rodgers on the right side and the pass was incomplete.  That brought out Bryant for a 35-yard field goal attempt.  His kick was good and the Falcons led 10-0 with 3:12 to go in the first quarter.

The 49ers followed with another three and out and the Falcons took over at their 43.  Rushes of ten and four yards by running back Michael Turner and a 23-yard pass to White made it first and ten from the San Francisco 20-yard line.  Ryan wasted no time in looking for the end zone.  He put one up the left side and Jones did an excellent job of keeping his feet in bounds for another Falcon touchdown.  Bryant made the point after and they went up 17-0 with 14:54 remaining in the second quarter.

It was time for the 49ers to get something going and they did just that.  They started at their 20 and two runs by running back Frank Gore got them a first down at the 30.  Two more carries got ten more yards and another first down at the 40.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked for wide receiver Randy Moss from the 40 and found him for a gain of eight.  Two completions to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, a short one to running back LaMichael James and a 27-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis gave them a first down at the Falcon 15.  From the 15, James ran off right guard for an easy touchdown.  Akers made the point after and the lead was cut to 17-7 with 8:08 to go in the first half.

This time, it was the Falcons who went three and out.  Punter Matt Bosher punted the ball away and it was fair caught at the San Francisco 18 by return man Ted Ginn Jr.  With just under six minutes to go in the half, the 49ers went to work.  A short run by James and a 19-yard completion to Davis  had them headed in the right direction.  On second and ten from the 31, Kaepernick showed off his scrambling ability and took off up the left side for a gain of 24 yards and a first down at the Falcon 47.  After a short gain by Gore, Falcon linebacker Stephen Nicholas was flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That gave them a first down at the 29.  Next, Kaepernick hit Davis who was wide open for a gain of 25 yards.  He was open again on the next play for a four-yard touchdown.  Akers made the point after and it was now 17-14 with 1:55 to go in the first half.

1:55 was plenty of time for the Falcons to get some more points.  Ryan found White for 15, Gonzalez for 16 and White for 13 more.  Jones caught another one for 16 and the Falcons called a timeout.  On first down from the 16, Ryan hooked up with Gonzalez for a gain of six.  On second and four from the ten, he found Gonzalez in the end zone for a touchdown.  Bryant made the point after and the Falcons took a 24-14 lead into the locker room.

The 49ers started the second half from their 18-yard line.  A 21-yard pass to Moss and two runs by Gore got them to the Falcon 44.  On second and eight from the 42, Kaepernick completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Delanie Walker.  On first down from the 22, Moss caught another one and was brought down at the five.  Gore got the carry on the next play and easily made it into the end zone.  Akers made the point after and that made it 24-21 with 10:47 remaining in the third quarter.

On the strength of two more receptions by Gonzalez and a couple of runs by Turner and Rodgers, the Falcons found themselves in San Francisco territory again.  On the play after a short run by Rodgers, Ryan couldn’t get his receivers set and was forced to waste a timeout.  On second and ten from the 47, Ryan looked to his right and fired a pass that was picked off by cornerback Chris Culliver at the 38.  He returned it to the 44 and the 49ers were in business.  They got down to the Falcon 20 and on third and five, Kaepernick looked for wide receiver Chad Hall.  The ball was knocked away by safety William Moore.  That brought Akers out for a 38-yard field goal attempt.  His kick hit the left upright and it was no good.

With Michael Turner out with a sore ankle, the running chores now belonged to Rodgers and running back Jason Snelling.  The two of them combined for 30 yards on four carries and the Falcons moved into San Francisco territory again.  On third and ten from the 42, Ryan completed a 13-yard pass to Jones for a first down at the 29.  On second and nine, the 49ers showed blitz and Ryan bobbled the snap.  It rolled to the left side of the field and was recovered by linebacker Aldon Smith.

That gave the 49ers the ball at their 37.  On third and seven from the 40, the Falcons were flagged for a personal foul and that set up the 49ers with a first down at the Falcon 45.  On second and eight from the 43, Kaepernick found Crabtree again and he got loose for a gain of 33 yards.  On second and goal from the five, Crabtree caught another one and headed for the end zone.  He was flattened by Moore just short of the goal line.  Cornerback Dunta Robinson knocked the ball loose and it was recovered at the one-yard line by Nicholas.

From their one, Ryan looked for White on first down and the ball was knocked away.  On second down, fullback Mike Cox took it up the middle for four yards.  That made it third and six.  On third down, Ryan found Gonzalez on the left side, but he was brought down short of the first down.  Bosher punted and the ball was returned 20 yards by Ginn to the Falcon 38.  That gave the 49ers excellent field position and this time they would take advantage of it.  Gore capped off a six play, 38-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run.  Akers made the point after and the 49ers now led 28-24 with 8:23 to go in the game.

Starting at the 20, Ryan went to work and found White for a gain of nine.  Rodgers netted a first down at the 31 with a two-yard run.  A six-yard pass to Douglas and a five-yard pass to Jones moved the ball to the 42.  A three-yard scramble by Ryan, a five-yard completion to Jones and a 22-yard completion to Douglas had the Falcons at the San Francisco 28.  On the pass to Douglass, cornerback Carlos Rogers fell down and Douglas was wide open with no one around him.  Unfortunately for him, he also lost his balance and fell down after making the catch.  The initial ruling was a catch, but it looked like the ball may have come loose.  49er head coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the play, but the ruling was upheld.  A nine-yard run by Rodgers and another short completion to Douglas got them a first down at the 16.  From the 16, Rodgers was stuffed for a gain of one by linebacker Patrick Willis.  On second down, Ryan completed a five-yard pass to Snelling.  After he got rid of the ball, he was brought down hard on his left shoulder and was in obvious pain.  That made it third and four from the ten.  White was open on the next play, but the ball was knocked down by Brooks.  It all came down to this play.  On fourth and four, Ryan threw a pass down the middle of the field for White and it was broken up by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.  There was definitely some contact going on, but no flag was thrown.

The 49ers took over at their ten with 1:09 remaining in the game.  Gore ran for three yards and the Falcons called their second timeout.  If you recall earlier in the game, Ryan had to waste a timeout.  They sure could have used it now.  Two more runs by Gore didn’t get a first down and Lee punted with 13 seconds on the clock.  The Falcons took over at their 41 and Ryan completed a 24-yard pass to Jones.  He was brought down by Rogers and that ended the game.  Final score: 49ers 28 Falcons 24.  The 49ers came back from a 17-point deficit and held the Falcons scoreless in the second half.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 16 of 21 for 233 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.  Unlike last week where he ran all over the Packers, he only had 21 yards rushing on two carries.  Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with six and Vernon Davis had the most receiving yards with 106 and one touchdown.  Frank Gore led the ground game with 90 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.  As a team, they racked up 149 yards on 29 carries and three rushing touchdowns.  Defensively, Patrick Willis was the leader in solo tackles with 11.  He also had one tackle for a loss.

For the Falcons, Matt Ryan completed 30 of 42 for 396 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and one lost fumble.  Julio Jones caught two of those touchdown passes, had the most receptions with 11 and the most receiving yards with 182.  The ground game never really got going for the Falcons.  Jacquizz Rodgers had the most rushing yards with 32 on ten carries.  As a team, the Falcons rushed for a grand total of 81 yards on 23 carries.  Defensively, safety Thomas DeCoud and linebacker Akeem Dent tied for the team lead in solo tackles with five apiece.  Dent had one tackle for a loss and DeCoud had one pass defensed.

So, the NFC champion has been crowned.  The 49ers will meet the winner of the Ravens-Patriots game in the Super Bowl on February 3rd.  I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a recap of that game.

 

 

49ers 32, Bears 7: God Help Us

The Chicago Bears lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 32-7, at Candlestick Park on Monday night in a game that was embarrassing, humiliating, deflating, soul-crushing, odd, uncomfortable, irreligious, illegal, lugubrious, metaphor-laden and nationally televised for all the football world to puke at.

This was less like an NFL game and more like something that happens behind the barn.  At midnight.  On a Tuesday.

This was like watching Keira Knightley trying to wrestle Kirstie Alley for a brownie.

My DVR began bleeding in the third quarter.

The Bears played without passion, purpose, pride or prejudice.  It was unhappy.  They couldn’t block, couldn’t tackle, couldn’t run, couldn’t throw, couldn’t catch, couldn’t cover and probably couldn’t spell Colin Kaepernick even if they had gotten close enough to read his jersey.  He was #7, the one making his first career start and turning the vaunted Bears defense into a moldy jellybean stuck in a hobo’s ear.

Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and admitted to reporters afterwards that he thought the Bears were only playing with seven guys on defense.  Dead guys.  Kaepernick’s counterpart was Jason Campbell who made his first start at QB for the Bears in place of the concussed Jay Cutler.  Campbell is a decent quarterback but spent much of Monday night looking like a man with no arms or legs tossed into a bathtub of sharks and Journey fans.

Jason was sacked five and-a-half times by Niners defensive end Aldon Smith who spent so much time in Chicago’s backfield he now receives mail there.

In 90 years of Chicago Bears football there might have been games worse than this one but that’s like telling a man on death row that he just won a lifetime supply of sugarless nougat.

America hasn’t seen anything this ugly on a Monday night since “Lou Grant.”

The Bears have now lost two straight and are 7-3, which looks good on paper, but this is 2012 and no one uses paper – except for maybe the Bears.  The Bears are half a team.  They have a good defense – despite the San Francisco slaughter – but cannot block, and have no offensive vision, philosophy or identity.  True, it’s tough to establish a plan of attack when you’re running backwards and screaming like a little girl who just watched back-to-back episodes of “Charlie Rose,” but surely they should be able to muster a more formidable scheme than “close your eyes and hope the defense forgets about us.”

The Bears cannot beat a good team and, disagreeably, there are a few of those around.  In the NFC the Falcons, Packers, 49ers, Giants and Saints are all better than the Bears and the Vikings, Seahawks and even the Lions are thinking about it.  Next up for the Mommy Please Make it Stops of the Midway are those 6-4 Vikings who come to Chicago playing good football and looking for someone to kick and tease.

When was the last time a city had so little confidence in a 7-3 team?  It was a year ago, when the Bears also won seven of their first ten before Cutler got hurt and Chicago finished the year 8-8 and spent January home alone with the lights off sitting in the corner clutching a dirty sock and humming.

Things might have been different in San Francisco if Cutler had played.  Let’s tell ourselves that as we stand in line at JCPenney trying to exchange our Gabe Carimi pajamas.  (Worn only a couple of times!)  It’s actually a good thing Cutler didn’t play because instead of a disaster, catastrophe and imbroglio this game might have proved permanently debilitating.

The Bears haven’t won in San Francisco since 1985 and hope they don’t have to go back until 4006.

It was only one game.  That’s what the Bears have to tell themselves and ignore the reality that this really wasn’t much of a surprise.  The best thing for the Bears to do going forward is to start believing their own legend.  Really.  They have to convince themselves that they’re good.  They have to believe they are who some sanguine people thought they were.  They have to give the ball to Matt Forte and Michael Bush a combined 35 times a game.  They have to establish the run and eat the clock to give the offensive line some confidence and keep Messrs. Campbell and Cutler ambulatory and possibly able.

7-3 never felt so squishy.

A Backgrounder on the 49ers and Giants in the Playoffs

During the ‘80s the 49ers and Giants matched up four times in the playoffs, twice in San Francisco and then twice in the Meadowlands. Here, adapted from my e-book covering the 49ers under Bill Walsh, are summaries of these four games, followed by quick notes on the teams’ three following playoff games and a wrapup of the Giants-49ers playoff rivalry. I do not claim that looking back at these games has any predictive value for the NFC title game Sunday, but the renewal of a rivalry that goes more than 30 years back is a welcome occasion to reflect on the clashes between two of the great teams of the past few decades.

1981
In a game deeply overshadowed by the next week’s title game vs. the Cowboys, the 49ers beat the Giants, 38-24, at Candlestick. In the second quarter, a Ricky Patton 25-yard run produces a 24-7 lead for the Niners. But the Giants come back and, in the third quarter, go on a drive that puts them at the SF 11, hoping to tie the game at 24 with a touchdown. A fine defensive play by Eric Wright and following missed 21-yard field goal by the Giants’ Joe Danelo leaves the 49ers still up 24-17. A 49er touchdown on a short drive and then a second touchdown on a 20-yard Ronnie Lott interception return late in the fourth quarter seals the game.

Afterward, Giants coach Ray Perkins predicts: “Next Sunday the Cowboys will win. The Cowboys are a better football team. That’s nothing against the 49ers, but the Cowboys have been in this situation before and they’re a better football team.”

Giants linebacker Harry Carson: “During the week you only have time to work on so many things. But the 49er passing game is so complex, so sophisticated, there just isn’t time to work on everything that they might use against you.”

49ers tight end Charle Young: “Montana is a winner. I can see it in his eyes.”

1984
As in the 1981 playoffs, the 49ers start their trip to the Super Bowl at home, playing the Giants. Excellent defense and competent but not memorable offense gives the 49ers a 21-10 win. There is not a lot of interesting detail to this game, which in retrospect was a sign that the Giants, who intercept Joe Montana twice, including a 14-yard Harry Carson return for the team’s one touchdown, were ready to handle the 49ers’ complicated offense.

Bill Walsh: “The Giants are definitely a team of the future.”

Joe Montana: “I expected more of Lawrence Taylor coming. I got enough of him, but I expected a lot more.”

1985
The Giants, playing at the Meadowlands, swarm the 49ers for a 17-3 win in the wild card round. The 49ers come into the game banged up from accumulated injuries to Montana, Dwight Clark, Wendell Tyler, and others. An interception of Montana by Terry Kinard sets up one Giants touchdown, and a second touchdown drive gives the Giants more than enough points. Although the 49ers get into Giants territory repeatedly, stout defense and drops by San Francisco receivers prevent the drives from coming to much. A crucial second-quarter, 15-play 49er drive ends in a 21-yard field goal instead of a touchdown.

The Giants get a superb 174 rushing yards, 141 of them from Joe Morris, and put a lot of pressure on Montana, while not allowing him any deep completions.

Lawrence Taylor: “One thing that I think intimidated the 49ers was that long (15-play) drive. They scored three points, and we got three penalties. They were aggressive penalties. We’d get one, and we acted like we didn’t care as long as we were hitting somebody. I think it was enough (for the 49ers) to say, ‘Hey, these guys are crazy.’”

1986
Back in the Meadowlands, the Giants annihilate the 49ers in a 49-3 win. Jerry Rice starts the game with probably his most humiliating play: after catching a slant-in throw from Montana, Rice starts running in the clear, but at the Giant 27, he simply loses the ball from his hands, and Giants strong safety Kenny Hill falls on it in the end zone for a touchback. The Giants respond with an 80-yard drive to go up 7-0, and the second quarter features a midfield interception by the Giants’ Herb Welch to set up Joe Morris for a 45-yard touchdown run, a 57-yard touchdown drive late in the quarter, and a 34-yard Lawrence Taylor interception return for another score just before halftime. On that Taylor play, a frightening hit from future 49er Jim Burt takes Montana out of the game with a concussion. It’s 28-3 at the half, and the rout is really on.

The Giants add three more touchdowns in the third quarter, and so the fourth quarter’s just a matter of running out the clock for both teams. It’s the third-biggest blowout in the history of the NFL playoffs, and the Giants are on their way to a Super Bowl victory.

Rice on his fumble: “I wanted to keep on running into the locker room.”
Lawrence Taylor said that if Rice had scored that “would have made it 49-10.”

Walsh: “We were shattered by a great team. The Giants played a great game. Physically, they just shattered us.”

Giants quarterback Phil Simms: “We were fortunate that we caught them in a few things today, caught them in some blitzes and we made the plays. People say we don’t have good wideouts, but put them across the field and you can’t cover them one-on-one.”

1990, 1993, 2002
After the 1990 season, the Giants came into Candlestick for the NFC title game and won, 15-13, in the most memorable game these two teams have had in the playoffs. A late-game Roger Craig fumble set up Jeff Hostetler to lead about a 45-yard drive ending in a 42-yard Matt Bahr field goal for the win. This game signaled the end of the Montana-led 49ers, as the quest for three titles in a row ended with Montana devastated by a fourth-quarter Leonard Marshall hit, and Craig and Ronnie Lott playing their last game in San Francisco. In 1993, the 49ers to some extent paid the Giants back for 1986 by beating them 44-3 in the division round, a game that featured five Ricky Watters touchdowns. But the 49ers promptly lost their second NFC title game in a row to the Cowboys. And then, after the 2002 season, there was the memorable 39-38 49ers victory in the wild card round, with San Francisco overcoming a 38–14 deficit by scoring 25 points in the second half. A last-minute Giants drive ended with a botched field goal snap and desperation heave to the end zone that fell short.

So in sum, the seven playoff matchups have the 49ers winning four games, the Giants winning three. Gauged by points, the 49ers lead, 161 to 156; the Giants have beaten the 49ers twice on the way to Super Bowl victories, and the 49ers have beaten the Giants twice on the way to Super Bowl victories.

Saints 45, Lions 28

Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz had to be feeling good about his team early in this game.  The Lions got the ball first and marched right down the field to take an early 7-0 lead as quarterback Matthew Stafford found tight end Will Heller for a ten-yard touchdown.  The defense also forced two fumbles in the first half.  When you’re playing the Saints, you have to capitalize on the opportunities that are given to you.  Unfortunately for the Lions, they couldn’t capitalize on those turnovers.

After a two-yard touchdown run by running back Darren Sproles tied the game at seven, the Lions came back with a 14-play, 87-yard drive that was capped off by a 13-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Calvin Johnson.  The score remained 14-7 until the Saints took over at their own 16 and moved the ball to the Detroit six-yard line.  The drive stalled there and kicker John Kasay made a 24-yard field goal to make the score 14-10 in favor of the Lions at halftime.

The Saints got the second half off to a fast start when quarterback Drew Brees tossed a 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devery Henderson and a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham to put the Saints on top 24-14.  The Lions still had some fight in them as Stafford took his team on another 80-yard drive and capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to make it 24-21 at the end of the third quarter.

However, the fourth quarter belonged to the Saints.  They picked Stafford off twice and outscored the Lions 21-7 with a 17-yard touchdown run by Sproles, a 56-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Robert Meachem and a one-yard touchdown run by running back Pierre Thomas.  Calvin Johnson did manage to catch a 12-yard touchdown pass late in the game, but it was too little and too late to mount a comeback.

For the Lions, Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 43 for 380 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.  He spread the ball around to seven different receivers and Calvin Johnson led the team with 12 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns.  The Lions finished the game with just 32 yards rushing as a team.  Kevin Smith led the team with 21 yards on six carries.  Linebacker Stephen Tulloch led the Lions with eight solo tackles, two passes defensed and one tackle for a loss.

For the Saints, they were never forced to punt and Drew Brees had another outstanding game as he completed 33 of 43 for 466 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  He spread the ball around to eight different receivers with Marques Colston leading the team with seven catches for 120 yards.  The Saints rushed for 167 yards as a team.  Pierre Thomas led the team in rushing yards with 66 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.  Cornerback Tracy Porter led the team with seven solo tackles.  The Saints had possession of the ball for 37 minutes, ran 81 plays and racked up a total of 626 total yards.

The next game for the Saints is next Saturday at 4:30 P.M. Eastern time against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers.  The 49ers pride themselves on having the number one run defense and the Saints won’t have the comfort of their dome to protect them from the temperamental  Bay Area weather.  It will definitely be a game worth watching.