Michael Crabtree San Francisco 49ers

49ers prove once again: when they play good teams, expect the unexpected

Michael Crabtree NinersThis post might be a little briefer than most after San Francisco 49ers’ victories, because once this scintillating game finished my body relaxed and the flu symptoms became that much more noticeable. Then again, I may start rambling due to my fever. You’ve been warned.

This contest went into the historical realm in the second half, when the 49ers’ 28-point lead evaporated in what seemed like five minutes. Losing Justin Smith to an elbow injury was a culprit, but Tom Brady is, well, Tom Brady. The 49ers’ defense came out with extreme confidence and undeniable motivation to prove they are the league’s best, but you simply don’t shut down the Patriots at Foxboro in December.

This game went a lot like I predicted with Joey in our latest BASGcast, when I said the 49ers would jump out to an early lead and shock the fans at Foxboro (and a certain color commentator with a grudge against the 49ers in NBC’s broadcast booth). Then, the Pats would score points in bunches and make it a ballgame.

However, I was expecting maybe a quick 17-0 lead in the second quarter, not a 31-3 lead in the third. But this game featured a lot of the unexpected.

— There were eight fumbles (six by the 49ers, including several mishandled snaps by Colin Kaepernick), and the 49ers recovered seven of them.

— Maybe this isn’t an example of the many unexpected moments in this game, but Michael Crabtree has 23 catches, 300 yards and two touchdowns over his past three games. Like Crabtree himself mentioned when I interviewed him on Monday, he and Kaepernick are “Really getting into a rhythm.”

— Then again, who was expecting Crabtree to run a hook and shake Kyle Arrington one play after…

LaMichael James SF 49ers— …LaMichael James’ 62-yard kickoff return set up the 49ers in surprisingly awesome field position.

— How about James, who started his career with 12 inactives, suddenly becoming the team’s best kick returner (he might get a look as the punt returner if Ted Ginn keeps playing like he has of late).

— Even crazier: James started his career with 12 straight inactives, and in his second NFL game was trusted to carry four times in the fourth quarter.

— The 49ers’ defense focused on Wes Welker above all else, and he didn’t do much damage in the passing game (5 catches for 56 yards on 9 targets).

— And even though I thought Carlos Rogers might not be up to the challenge, it was the 49ers’ oldest cornerback who mostly handled Welker and had a tremendous game — better than Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown (although to be fair, Culliver and Brown were both on their own personal islands).

— Welker was also a non-factor as a punt returner, thanks to Andy Lee. Lee was UN…BEE…LIEVABLE, as Tim Roye might way: Five punts, 56.6 yards (net 54.0), three punts inside the 20.

— David Akers even made the 28-yarder to ice the game, in a sense. Hey, those aren’t gimmes anymore.

— Ray McDonald had two sacks, Ricky Jean Francois had one, and Aldon Smith had none.

— Delanie Walker caught a TD and secured the onside kick in the final seconds as a member of the “hands” team.

— Aaron Hernandez had the worst 10-catch, 92 yards and a TD game I can remember. To say the Patriots (and Welker) missed Rob Gronkowski is a massive understatement (Brady targeted Danny Woodhead 10 times). But injuries are a part of the game, especially at this point of the year. The 49ers will hope like crazy that Justin Smith returns for the game in Seattle, which if the 49ers win sets them up for a regular season finale against the Arizona Cardinals at home that could give them the No. 2 seed.

But as the Patriots showed during the second half, counting wins before time expires doesn’t do anyone any good. But the 49ers won this one, and in the process won their most exciting and important contest since they beat the New Orleans Saints at Candlestick in the playoffs. Those games shared an awful lot of similarities, with one noteworthy difference.

Whether it’s Kaepernick or Alex Smith under center, these 49ers always surprise. Their tough schedule was expected by some to bury them … that hasn’t happened. They won impressively over Green Bay and Detroit (who at the time was considered a very good team), then came out flat against Minnesota, the New York Giants and St. Louis (twice). They also effectively ended Chicago’s season, and they were thought to be a major threat in the NFC when they came to town.

One last note on the QBS — besides the yardage and play totals, Kaepernick was more efficient than Brady, albeit much luckier with the turnovers. Kaepernick had more yards per pass attempt (8.6 to 6.8), more touchdowns (four to two, with one of Brady’s TDs coming on the ground), fewer sacks taken (one to three). And with this win, it’s time to put Kaepernick vs. Alex to bed. And with my fever getting worse as I close out this post, bed sounds pretty good right now.

Published by

Bay Area Sports Guy

BASG (Steve Berman) and his wife started Bay Area Sports Guy in 2008, and now it's the No. 1 independent website covering Bay Area sports. You can follow him @BASportsGuy and on Facebook.

15 comments
DeafwriterJC
DeafwriterJC

DeafWriters Notes II: 2. When Harbaugh switched from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick, I was a little puzzled over the timing since Smith was having his best year in his career and had just come off a 18-19 completion/attempts, a career high and a rare thing for any QB to do. But since then, I never cease to be amazed how Harbaugh pulled this off and I feel so fortunate to have Kaepernick at the helm as the team's starting quarterback. 3. Kap needs to protect the ball more. The 49ers had too many fumbles, 7 of which was successively recovered by the 9ers. But this can't continue because those fumbles will come back to haunt the team eventually. We need spiderman hands, for crying out loud. 4. LaMichael James! Hard to believe he was inactive for 12 games, but I am glad Harbaugh is now using Kap and LaMichael. We cannot say what if....earlier...but we can only focus on what both are contributing to the 49ers since they started playing. 5. I cross my fingers that AJ Jenkins will be a very pleasant surprise once he gets to play. I never get tired of all the surprises we have had all season. 6. I am very happy we have Jean to sub for Justin Smith, he did a great job- but I hope Justin will be able to play again this season.

DeafwriterJC
DeafwriterJC

DeafWriterJC's notes: 1. Obama interrupting the 49er game was annoying but afterwards I got to thinking, "how precious the lives the 6-7 yr old kids are." It is truly a tragedy and these kids including the survivors should be recognized and what can be more important than these victims for a few moments than the game is on prime time TV? We need to stop everything we do and watch our leader talk about Sandy Hook. If you died, you would want Obama to address the nation over a terrible mass murder rampage, on your behalf. 2.

John Sports
John Sports

Did anyone else see Tom Brady blowing a snot-rocket during the memorial before the game?...Classy move Brady.

3rdKing
3rdKing

regarding the president on TV GET OFF THE TV until guns are outlawed, this will happen all the timeā€¦. gun people should be but in a box to shoot themselves every year it seems like a new school shooting DO SOMETHING ABOUT GUNS, OR GET OFF THE F#@#NG TV

JayT
JayT

This game also demonstrated just how important Justin Smith is for our defense.

Stan
Stan

Throwing isn't the diff between he and Smith. Its when CK runs...just a huge,huge,advantage for the team. You don't get a sense of CK's size in the pocket surrounded by lineman...but when he gets down field? Its like Bolt chased by Munchkins. Fast and big. Great,great game...loved every minute.

Beaver
Beaver

TheMichael is the man!

3rdNking
3rdNking

Captain kap rides again! Droptimus prime walker comes thru big Rogers shuts us up The defense is the best in sf ever Go Niners Hey smith lovers, its over

Fitz's Future Unemployment Check
Fitz's Future Unemployment Check

Part of me wants to be upset or react to how they got back in it, but the only thing I really fault is that they let them back into it by packing it in once they were up 28. Defense caved, but that was without Justin Smith and in the face of an offense that can score as fast and efficiently as any team in the history of football. Once the lead was regained, D tightened up and got enough to close the game out. Niners won 45 minutes out of the 60, and that's why they won the game. You're allowed to say "a win is a win" against an opponent of that caliber when your track record says you consistently can win close/ugly games. They need to trust Kaepernick more rather than sitting on a big lead against an opponent of that caliber.

Eric
Eric

Kap misses the same throws as Alex, makes more mistakes, BUT nails the big plays when the team needs it. I will admit that after the Pats game I am eating a bit of crow on the QB switch. CK is sure fun to watch, and the 49'er defense has moments where it looks unbeatable...before giving up 28 straight points in a quarter and a half, and almost coughing it up.

Majorajam
Majorajam

Flu shots dude. But great post as usual.

Rich
Rich

I accidentally thumbs-upped your post. I should have thumbs-downed it. I agree about the President getting off the TV. He should not be politicizing a tragedy. However, the problem is not guns, but society. It's getting sicker and sicker. If guns are outlawed, crazy people will still have ways of doing crazy things unless there are better methods of identifying and neutralizing such lunatics. Cars, knives, baseball bats, can all be used for mass murder. For that matter, rap glorifies illicit and violent gun usage. Perhaps rap should be banned too. Regardless, most important is that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the innocent victims of a lunatic. Condolences to all affected by this horrific event that Obama and 3rdKing are using to politicize even sports events with.

Paperback Writer
Paperback Writer

3+king Yes it was a big game - and Kap played very well minus the 'dropsies', but defense was vulnerable to top competition, Akers is still short and shaky, Ginn? (I'm not comfortable with him back there). Sure I'm emphasizing the negative, yes it was a great win, but so was last years's New Orleans game in the play-offs - so I'm saying' it's too soon to be spiking the ball in the end-zone, metaphorically . "Smith lovers it's over" ??? We love Justin and Alden- right? Oh you mean ALEX - stop it, you may need to be cheering him on before the season is over. If it ends before Super Bowl, you may recall him fondly. if they win the Super Bowl with Kap at the helm, you'd be wise to appreciate Alex's grace and sportsmanship under a difficult situation.

Stan
Stan

Guns kill people. All the time. There is no such thing as a "responsible" gun owner since everyday one shoots somebody..or themselves in the leg. The Gun lobby and owners are cancer on a civilized society. You cant ban the urge to kill with a gun..But,you Can ban guns.