Article Title: Regaining our composure.
Sometimes one of the most difficult lessons you learn in life is how to actively listen to someone else, especially that someone that is so close, you can hear them breath. With family there are those that you cling to and those that you actively avoid just like any real normal family out there where you donít get to choose who your spouseís family is sometimes once you marry.
Mike Singletaryís second family is the San Francisco 49ers. He wants what is in the best interests for this team to be successful and ultimately for it to be a winner in the NFL. Together with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye they collectively listened to a group of offensive players have their say on what the ills of the team really were for the offense to be endlessly stuck in neutral.
An open door policy of a company for its workers to not feel intimidated to come and voice grievances and or suggestions to management is always the best policy in accomplishing a collective goal. Mike Singletary was approached by several offensive playersí in particular premier tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker along with quarterback Alex Smith and rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree in presenting their cases to rejuvenate an offense that had no continuity or consistency. Mike stood and sat and actively listened and proposed they do the same with Jimmy Raye who graciously concurred with what Mike did while taking in communication that set the stage for it to reflect in this surprising Jacksonville performance.
I made several references in my previous article after the Green Bay defeat, that it was way overtime for the ownership and management of this team to reevaluate where it was in identifying what were the real sources of the offensive cancers that had inflicted this team all season long. Just this past Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Candlestick Park they made our institutional founder in Bill Walsh so proud in defeating the Jaguars 20-3.
Everything that was and is Mike Singletary is to run the ball and run it some more. Control the line of scrimmage with an overwhelming behemoth of human flesh that could impose its intimidating will on anyone in front of it at anytime it felt like. This requires an offensive line that has girth, size, intensity, continuity and consistency in every sense of the word. We never had it when the season started and we still donít have that even today, although this last game it was the closest it ever came to that with two veteran linemen sidelined due to injuries in Tony Pashos and Joe Staley.
The thought of opening it up and becoming a passing team first and a running team after went against all the rationality and ideologies Mike had been exposed to for almost his entire career as a player and as a coach. Yet it occurred to him suddenly that he had the answers to his ineffectiveness on the offensive side of the ball staring at him right in the face. His players petitioned their concerns in earnest seeking to overturn the usual with creativity and ingenuity. Leadership was suddenly cast into the forefront with captains and players voicing their beliefs and opinions openly in a forum of evolution to manifest change.
We had lost five out of six games coming back home to face the playoff contending Jacksonville Jaguars. Alex Smith was suddenly on a bubble after being compared to his counterpart in the 2005 NFL draft in now Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers success was vividly apparent while Smithís was still preadolescent in every form imaginable because of the coaching and injury situations he was imposed with. Alex became the scapegoat of so many ills the team was affected with and drew the direct fire of many a fan unable to grasp the complexity of the entire situation at times. Yet being the quarterback you inherit this calamity and wear it with distinction on your chin. His unemotional walks to the sideline as a rookie and a sophomore were now replaced with anguish and frustration both of which encourage change within one-self and others.
Cooperative spirit now reins inside the San Francisco 49er locker room and in the halls of the Santa Clara complex. Players are rediscovering what is important to them and what is beneficial to the team as a collective whole. Mike Singletary is a motivational oracle that instills value in those around him. He makes you question what is going on inside yourself and to seek redemption for your sins rather it is in evaluating your professional life or just plain being a better human being to relate to. He carries a positive manifestation around him that despite his convictions it remains reasonable.
Flickers of a breakout offense appeared in several games from Houston to Green Bay as Alex Smith found key selective offensive weapons with his eyes and arm. He flourishes in spreading the offense out and surveying the field in front of him for selective morsels of yardage eaters. His only prayer is that he has just a few seconds of protection to make that prayerful throw with distinction and revelation. He completed 27-of-41 passes this day for 232 total yards. He was never sacked and threw for two touchdowns. He threw a long accurate throw of 30+ yards and earned a quarterback rating of 96.8.
Frank Gore the known centerpiece of this offense for so long was not the star yet again due in part to an offensive line that has not been able to find its own niche. He carried the ball 16 times for 33 total yards averaging a pathetic 2.1 yards a carry. In all the 49ers only rushed for 52 total yards casting this part of the offense into the classroom for more focus and thought in evaluating what needs to be done to create more opportunities for Frank.
Alex is gradually becoming the focal point of the offense in establishing the rhythm and collective first down achiever via his eyes and arm without wavering from time to time to run with it when all options are covered. What made this offense so effective Sunday was its ability to stay on the field and convert manageable third down situations and win time of possession with the ball, providing needed rest for the 49er defense to come out and perform at a very high level so much so they limited the Jacksonville Jaguars a playoff contender to all but just one field goal in the entire game.
Although the defense did bend it never broke as the Jaguars put 357 total yards of offense on the field, it solidified once they came within the red zone. Jacksonville Jaguar running back Maurice Jones-Drew carried 15 times for 75 yards averaging 5.0-yards per carry and several Jaguar receivers including former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tory Holt were able to dissect our secondary at times. However Jaguars quarterback David Garrard was sacked astonishingly six times and fumbled twice losing it both times to assist in our quest for victory.
49er defensive tackle Justin Smith and linebacker Parys Haralson led the sack attack with three combined and linebackers Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes and Manny Lawson dialed up some heat of their own. Veteran cornerback Dre Bly proved to be a more stable presence over the demotion of Tarrel Brown and Dashon Goldson continued to show why he is so valuable in the middle of the field. Converting 8-of-16 third down attempts was a measure of an improved and versatile offense willing to put the ball into the array of playmakers that exist on this team.
I was proud to see tight end Delanie Walker used more as an option rather then just a reliable blocker as he touched the ball five times for 52 total yards and shows you a weapon of tremendous versatility that has been underutilized all season long. Josh Morgan starting over the wise old veteran Isaac Bruce continues to show why he is so special with 6-of-9 receptions for 43-yards and a weapon of continuous improvement. Michael Crabtree just continues to be someone who radiates brains and brawn all in one with an intensity of a Terrell Owens.
Obviously I am excited to revel in a victory for once as all 49er fans are. Iíve accepted the fact that establishing and moving forward with our new identity is now more important than the playoffs. The cohesion of this team stands to be tested over the next five games. Realizing we still need cultivation of what is proving to be successful with the addition of some new personnel and a new team consensus of openness and reason are already victories.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.