These are the hardest posts to write, so thank God my favorite teams don’t lose the Conference Championship Game all that often.
The worst thing about losing to the New York football Giants (and we’re pulling from a long list here) is not that they lost to an east coast team, or even that Kyle Williams had a nightmare evening subbing for Ted Ginn. The worst part is that the 49ers have never had a defense this good.
It’s about time someone said it. Someone had to say it. It needed to be said!
I absolutely LOVE all those old Niners teams and their defenses. I can talk all day long about Ronnie Lott, Keena Turner, Eric Wright, Fred Dean, Michael Carter, Dwaine Board, Jim Stuckey, Jeff Fuller, Eric Davis, Bryant Young (wore his jersey today), Dana Stubblefield, Don Griffin, Charles Haley … you get the picture, I’ve watched a lot of Niners games.
But those teams had offenses that scored tons of points, kept them off the field and gave them a break every once in a while.
The Niners’ defense had none of those advantages on Sunday evening. They spent almost 40 minutes on the field, and all they had was the backing of 65,000 loud fans (because around 5,000 were NY Giants fans) and their own efforts — which were as amazing as they’ve been all season.
13-3 doesn’t come around very often, but defenses like the 49ers’ are even rarer. Luckily most of the guys will be back next year, including the best players: Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald. Notice I didn’t mention anyone from the secondary. This year’s 49ers didn’t have a perfect defense. The DBs was good, but not perfect — not like the front seven.
Then again, in today’s era of shadow-but-don’t-touch pass coverage, “perfect” defensive backs don’t exist.
A Hall-of-Fame foundation
When Justin Smith sacked Eli Manning in overtime, it was glorious. Seconds later, the Giants had the ball 42 yards downfield after Williams had the ball smacked out of his hands. You know the rest.
After last night’s “Joe Paterno’s dead … wait, no he isn’t yet” silliness on Twitter, it isn’t shocking that dozens (hundreds?) of people with broken hearts and no perspective filled Kyle Williams’ mentions with death threats and other assorted nonsense.
Luckily, what Jim Harbaugh has been preaching all year wasn’t forgotten after one crushing moment in an otherwise miraculous season.
It was a movie plot season that really should have ended with a Super Bowl. A Super Bowl win? Who knows. But they once again outplayed the New York Giants. Too bad they gave away two turnovers on special teams, and too bad both of those turnovers came from the same person.
But were Niners fans feeling sorry for Courtney Roby and Darren Sproles when they fumbled away a kickoff and punt, respectively? Hardly.
Williams will never live the NFC Championship down, but it never should’ve come down to him. Ginn’s got to be feeling TERRIBLE right now, because he was one of the most dependable 49ers all season and his knee injury forced Williams into his role.
But injuries happen. The offense — besides Vernon Davis — was awful, especially when the defense kept handing them opportunities to win. The wide receivers were ghosts (only Michael Crabtree caught a pass, and that’s all he did — one pass for 3 measly yards).
Late in the game, when the 49ers should’ve been pushing the Giants’ defensive line backwards like how Justin Smith and Aldon Smith were manhandling their o-line, they couldn’t run consistently. Or they wouldn’t.
It’s up to Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke to figure out exactly what went wrong here. Is it as easy as adding a healthy Josh Morgan and another receiver or two? Have the receivers been that bad, or does Alex Smith have a hard time throwing to non-tight ends without his passes getting batted down or hitting the ground in the vicinity of a wide receiver’s feet? Frank Gore had decent stats in terms of yards per carry, but how long can they count on him?
And why didn’t they use Kendall Hunter more? Arrrggghhhh….
With a lesser defense, these problems wouldn’t be in the spotlight. The Niners would’ve finished 8-8 and called it a nice recovery year, post-Singletary. But the defense was otherworldly, and almost brought them to the Super Bowl. Hopefully with the team’s strong foundation (Willis’ tweet was a beacon of class in a night full of ugliness) and Harbaugh getting a full year to improve the offense and smooth the edges, they’ll come back stronger than before.
But after watching the defense sack Manning 6 times tonight and squash yet another ground game, it’s hard to imagine how that group could possibly get better.