Article Title: 59 Seconds of Glory.
In just a short amount of seconds special teams superstar wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. for the San Francisco 49ers erased any comeback hopes for the Seattle Seahawks in Candlestick Park late in the fourth quarter by returning both a kick return and a punt return for unbelievable touchdowns that culminated an ambitious debut for new head coach Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers. Pete Carroll’s defending NFC West champions had been soundly defeated right before our collective eyes 33-17 after coming within two points in a comeback of ten unanswered points to set the score at 19-17 before the Ginn machine was introduced.
The expectations of San Francisco 49er faithful fans after the exhibition season was at most timid at best, considering that we had struggled to showcase our identities both as individuals and as a collective team on national television after a long NFL lockout that robbed the league’s coaches and players of any reasonable training camp time. But in this debut the collegiate collective juices of what makes a coach tick seemed to flow heavier then normal between the two arch rivals’ one from USC being head coach Pete Carroll and our Stanford’s head coach in Jim Harbaugh.
First and foremost let’s discuss the positives of this Jim Harbaugh debut starting with the turning point in the game with special teams coach Brad Seely. So much is often made public and lauded about when comparing the offense with the defense and talk is made cheap between off-setting coordinators, very little credit is given when it is due to the special teams coach for a job well done and this was a result of some rather unique coaching and training with a two-time Special Teams Coach of the Year.
Brad Seely has also coached three Pro Bowl return specialists and won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots in his illustrious 22-year career. Now he has elevated the San Francisco 49er special teams unit to an all new champion-like level in breaking team history with Ted Ginn Jr. to return a kick and a punt for a touchdown all within the same game. What was even more enthusiastic was the way Ted Ginn Jr. handled the fame and glory by keeping the footballs he returned to present to his twin children in which he celebrated.
Special teams played a huge part in the overall context of this victory with new kicker David Ackers making all four of his field goal attempts on offensive drives that stalled inside the red zone and punter Andy Lee averaged a remarkable 59.6 yards on his five punts with a 54.2-yard net average which were both career highs. The coverage units as well executed remarkably well as the Seattle Seahawk average offensive starting line was at their own 22-yard line while ours was at our 38-yard line.
The fact that the special teams unit played so well and executed on a dime is a testament to some great coaching and placing an emphasis on the importance of what this unit does and can make happen on a moments notice within the games framework. Brad Seely is a coach that deserves immense credit for helping find talent he can mold into a force to be reckoned with as the season moves forward as this debut turned all the collective opposing heads of state within the NFL.
San Francisco 49er defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is also a hero within this debut as his unit created multiple headaches for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tavaris Jackson who threw a late 55-yard touchdown pass to former Stanford star receiver Doug Baldwin for a bad taste in Jim Harbaugh’s mouth, but Jackson was limited to 21 completions out of 37 for just 197 total yards.
Jackson was also sacked five times for a loss of 42 total yards, fumbled three times losing two of them. He went on to throw an interception and ended the game with a 78.3 quarterback rating. San Francisco 49er defensive linemen Justin Smith and Ray McDonald harassed Jackson all day long collecting sack trophies and creating intense pressure on the mobile quarterback keeping Seattle’s total net yardage at 219-yards on the entire game. One can give credit to Parys Haralson who played his heart out in this game to keep first round draft pick Aldon Smith watching from afar as he forced a fumble on Tavaris Jackson and finished with a sack.
Besides shutting down the passing game with a totally revamped secondary that played collectively very well, the 49ers contained the Seattle big horse in Marshawn Lynch to 13 carries for 33 total yards and a 2.5-yard average which in all aspects is difficult to do with such a bruising big running back like he is and very hard to take down. Credit for this victory must also be attributed to the brilliant execution of all players on the defense even despite some personal fouls resulting in unnecessary roughness that were in my opinion bogus at best.
Jim Harbaugh’s parents Jack and Jackie watched as their son took his first NFL victory from the Seattle Seahawks and applauded Jim’s antics on the sidelines as he openly embraced and congratulated different individuals for their outstanding efforts on the field. Even Alex Smith did enough to be credited with management of the game, avoiding the pass rush courtesy of his solid offensive line that played and executed without much flaw and Smith even made a sprint into the end zone for a touchdown while taking a hit and spinning into the end zone for the score.
The San Francisco 49er offense was officially labeled vanilla in this game with only 124 total yards thrown in the air and 59-total yards by Frank Gore it proved ultra-conservative in almost every fashion statement. Smith completed 15-of-20 passes and finished with a rating of 90.4. He was never sacked and he fumbled but once but it was recovered. We couldn’t convert on third down for the life of us as we only completed 1-out-of-12 which was attributed to getting into too many third downs and long to begin with and we seemed to run a lot on third down which was an irritation to some degree because we weren’t sustaining drives as we should’ve been.
The long pass down the field only happened once for 27-total yards and that was to veteran Braylon Edwards who is setting a fine example of what a player does to find the first down marker. The pass protection on the offensive line was stout but their ability to create running lanes for Frank Gore was seemingly difficult. I think more appearances by back-up running back Kendall Hunter would’ve helped for a fresh set of legs at times. I come away after watching this game with jubilation for the victory but still concerns about the consistency level at which Alex Smith must execute and play especially with the heavy weight champion Dallas Cowboys coming to town.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.