Article Title: First win but a ton of work to do yet.
The 2010 San Francisco 49ers finally achieved their first turnover free victory on the season in a Battle of the Bay tribute in defeating the Oakland Raiders 17-9 with a stingy reinvigorated defense and with an offense still struggling to find a scrap of consistency that can find and build a rhythm. When you look at the first half it was almost reminiscent of what we are accustomed to seeing from Alex Smith at the helm of this offense as we struggled to move the ball with any sort of efficiency as he completed only but eight of his twenty passes thrown for a total of 98 total yards.
As you are looking back on the gloom and doom of being (0-5) and on the bottom of your own division and still shaking your head as to why you suddenly find yourself falling downward in a spiral out of control realizing that (0-6) is sitting right there on your horizon. There was no doubt about this as you looked at the San Francisco 49er sidelines and saw Mike Singletary pacing and grimacing as to why they were continuing to struggle. Vocal chants of booing Alex Smith and even calls for: “We want Carr,” continued to be heard with Mike Singletary consoling the beleaguered quarterback on the sideline asking him to be patient and focus on the task at hand. I have to be honest I was very pessimistic that we would actually win this game considering what we all had just witnessed last week and the weeks prior to. I still saw an Alex Smith that looked unsure of himself, throwing the ball into very tight coverage and chancing an interception and his accuracy is still something you don’t want to write home about.
Please remember that Alex Smith has lost 15 of his last 21 starts as a quarterback inside the NFL and as the quarterback for our team. He also has the highest mark of nine total interceptions on the 2010 NFL season as a quarterback. His quarterback rating in the first half of this game was a lowly 55.8 and he only completed 16 passes out of 33 total attempts for a measly 196 total yards and an ending rating of 87.4. He did throw for two touchdowns that were jaw-dropping in Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in being both the recipients of those game winning points. Did he redeem himself with these two drives? I would say no not at all because the adversity he has had to endure is still effecting his ability to find a chemistry and a rhythm that he can fall back on to as a strength.
What did go right for the offense is that new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson is making some progress in getting or at least attempting to get the ball into our playmakers hands starting with the starting point in running back Frank Gore who touched the ball 25 times for 149 total yards averaging 6.0-yards per carry and am electrifying big run of 64 total yards that helped set-up the Vernon Davis touchdown pass that made it 17-9. Mike Johnson stuck with a relentless running game that eventually wore down the Oakland defense and accumulated 158 total yards of offense just on the ground. The 49ers were even able to convert 7-of-17 third downs into first downs with a 41% efficiency rating and they put 349 total yards of offense on the field.
Although the game was mistake free on turnovers the 49ers ought to still be ashamed of themselves in incurring 11 total penalties for a total of 143 lost yards that is just way out of control and a lot of these penalties like on special teams was inexcusable along with a botched call for intentional grounding on Alex Smith that was anything but that.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky put together a stellar game with everyone on this unit contributing in one way or another. Oakland Raider quarterback Jason Campbell was under constant harassment as he completed only 8-of-21 passes for 83 total yards and ended the game with a pathetic quarterback rating of 10.7. He was sacked twice by Ricky Jean-Francois and Parys Haralson and threw two interceptions that were landed by two linebackers in Manny Lawson and Takeo Spikes.
The Oakland Raiders couldn’t pass the ball and they couldn’t run the ball with just 110 total yards on the ground and their longest pass reception was to a tight end for just 26 total yards. Because of the many third downs and outs the San Francisco 49ers by care of the defense were able to win time of possession in 33:21 to the Raiders who had the ball for 26:39. What was even more memorable was the mere fact that we kept the Oakland Raiders out of the end zone and tightened up once they did manage to reach the red zone. All of their scoring came on field goals with a total of nine points.
I am very impressed like all of you that kick return specialist Ted Ginn is helping us with enhanced field position as all through this game we averaged with a starting point around our 32-yard line which is a tribute to the athletic abilities of Ginn who averaged 24-yards a return and had a long run of 27 total yards as well. With all the rookies now implanted on special teams the one that stood out on this day was newly signed former San Diego Charger C.J. Spillman on the opening kickoff and later on a punt he made a tackle for no gain.
This game was ugly right from the beginning especially when you look at all the penalties and the context of what they were. The exciting moments though were definitely the great defensive efforts to squash any momentum the Oakland Raiders tried to do and the bullish idea to stick it out with Frank Gore who then assisted Alex Smith in making two game winning drives that culminated with our first victory on the season that was so long overdue. Being now at (1-5) still doesn’t do any of us justice in the realization we are just that, a bottom dwelling team that was blown out twice and battled back in three other games with our backs against a wall. The collateral damage is a reality it has already been done as Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis are all looking down on us. We face a team this Sunday in the Carolina Panthers that is as dangerous as we were without a victory yet. Nothing can be taken for granted as we prepare for this long road trip that takes us out on the east coast and then overseas to London, England to play a decent Denver Broncos team that is fighting to stay in contention for their division.
In all perspective we need to win every game we play as we near our bye week following these two critical games. Beginning the second half of the 2010 season at (3-5) is the best right now we can hope for. If Mike Singletary can hold this last great effort together and build on the hard work the offense is still in the process of trying to find a rhythm we could have a legitimate shot at being competitive. But if we continue to see the erratic behavior of Alex Smith continue as we’ve all become so familiar with before and incur even one or two more losses on this season, our season is all but over in reality.
If that should come to pass the Alex Smith grand experiment should be terminated. Drafting another quarterback and or finding a hidden gem in free agency should be a part of an aggressive agenda to kick-start this team back into battle all over again in 2011. Let’s admit it folks we are not getting any younger watching a former dynasty fall on their face year in and year out. Season ticket holders are selling their seats and not attending like they once did and even one-time ticket purchasers are having second thoughts of wasting their time to even consider buying a ticket again. Fans in the stands around Candlestick are becoming more scarce as you watch on television and see row after row of empty seats as your beloved team takes the field.
The nostalgia of the once great dynasty of Joe Montana and Steve Young are becoming more and more endangered as a species as we talk right now. The wait has been excruciating to all of us and to see a first round draft pick in a quarterback struggle, sink and struggle again is just beginning to wear too thin on all of us right now. I believe the rest of the team is legitimately there and we can add to that roster of 53 even more. But the one person on that 53-man roster that is most important and must succeed before the others do at all is Alex Smith himself.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.