The 49ers have the same record (2-4) as the Seahawks, and Seattle comes to Santa Clara on Thursday. Can the 49ers pull their season out of the abyss with a win at a time when their rivals are at their most vulnerable? Perhaps, but it’s difficult to picture a scenario where the Seahawks play as poorly as the Ravens did today.
Both of these teams are terrible.
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) October 18, 2015
Yeah, yeah … a win is a win is a win, and the 49ers will gladly take this 25-20 victory over the Ravens. But the 49ers got a ridiculous number of breaks in this game.
— Jarryd Hayne fumbled the Ravens’ first punt, but Dontae Johnson recovered.
— The 49ers couldn’t cover Steve Smith, who told reporters earlier that the fractures in his back would probably keep him out of today’s game. He ended up with seven catches for 137 yards and a touchdown, but he dropped two potential touchdown passes that he normally would’ve secured.
— Trent Baalke released Shareece Wright at just the right time, because after that $2.6 million investment went bust, Wright became a starting cornerback for the Ravens (that’s how far Baltimore has fallen, by the way) and gave up both 49ers touchdowns. On one, he let Torrey Smith (who makes his living running in straight lines toward the end zone) run right past him toward the end zone.
“He’s working on Wright. He just burned him! Torched him!” — Kevin Harlan
On the other touchdown, Wright fell on his ass while Colin Kaepernick moved around in the pocket to buy time, leaving Quinton Patton wide open in the end zone.
— Jimmy Smith and Albert McClellan dropped Kaepernick passes that hit both Ravens defenders on their hands.
— Joe Flacco tossed two terrible interceptions — the worst was the one he threw off his back foot to Kenneth Acker, who was all alone behind everyone.
— Justin Tucker, perhaps the best kicker in the league, missed a 45-yard field goal when his plant leg was devoured by a Levi’s Stadium sinkhole. The turf may have played a role when Wright fell on Patton’s touchdown, too.
— Patton appeared to step out of bounds on a key second down catch with 4:33 remaining, but the Ravens couldn’t challenge quickly enough. (It would’ve been a close call, and the camera angle wasn’t optimal, so it might not have mattered anyway.)
— The Ravens called a timeout early in the second half for some reason, then they lost another timeout when they challenged a long Anquan Boldin reception.
— Kaepernick ran out of bounds with less than two minutes remaining. It was a tremendously stupid move, something we’ve seen before, but the Ravens negated his brainfart with a holding penalty.
All of that, and the 49ers still needed to hold on with a minute to go because they let the Ravens score too easily in the middle of the fourth quarter. The 49ers didn’t play all that differently today than they did last Sunday, only this time they didn’t lose in the final seconds.
But there were some positives:
Kaepernick wasn’t perfect, but he completed 16-of-27 for 340 yards(!) and threw no picks. The ball he threw to Smith was outstanding, even considering how ridiculously open Smith was. The one he floated to Bruce Miller was pretty impressive, too. But the best pass was the 51-yarder to Boldin that Baltimore challenged. Kaepernick threw it while running to his left to the perfect spot.
The 49ers kept the gameplan pretty conservative early, with Kaepernick’s passes all traveling about seven yards downfield or less until the long throw to a wide open Miller. For a quarterback who looked completely lost a few weeks ago, saving his season and quieting the Blaine Gabbert whispers is no small feat.
That goes for the entire team, really. I’ve been writing some harsh stuff about the 49ers for close to a year, and it appeared that they might crumble after the offense went kaput against Green Bay. But they fought the Giants and Ravens, and should’ve won both games. And if we’re going to point to the schedule and question how many wins the 49ers can accumulate, we can’t simply point to how lousy an opponent like the Ravens — who’ve lost five games by a combined total of just 22 points — may be when they travel to Santa Clara.
They had a moral victory last Sunday, and an actual victory today. If they can pull out another in four days, they could make things interesting in a down year for the NFC West.
(I’d wager a lot of money that the 49ers won’t win on Thursday, though. Not with a gimpy Carlos Hyde on three days of rest against an angry, desperate Seahawks squad that’s had the 49ers’ number for the last few years.)
— If you stop Hyde, you stop the 49ers. Right? Actually, Hyde was questionable coming into this game and looked pretty gimpy throughout, and the 49ers still gave him 21 carries. Hyde only had 55 yards (2.6 ypc), and the 49ers won anyway. It helped that Flacco played at times like a guy who wagered on the home team, but it was a nice achievement for Kaepernick and the rest of the team nonetheless.
— Drafting a punter is a strange move. Yes, Andy Lee was a highly-paid punter, and replacing him with Bradley Pinion created some cap space. But the 49ers are over $12 million below the cap (only the Jaguars, Raiders and Browns have more space), and Pinion is not good. He can blast kickoffs through the end zone, and his punting could get better with time, but it seems like the 49ers could’ve used that fifth round pick on an offensive lineman, cornerback, or perhaps a receiver with two intact ACLs.
— Lee is averaging 49.4 yards per punt, and came into today’s action with a 45.0 net average. Pinion is averaging 43.5 yards per punt and his net average was 40.7 before today (it surely went down today, since he averaged 38 yards per punt against the Ravens before we account for return yardage).
— Everyone used to lose their minds when the 49ers had delay of game penalties or had to take timeouts to avoid them. Are we going to see the same collective disgust after the 49ers constantly end up with 12 men on the field, or when we see the HEAD COACH counting his own players like some elementary school field trip chaperone?
— You had to wonder why Flacco threw so many bad passes — the 49ers didn’t have a single sack and rarely got close to him.
— The 49ers spent a ton of cash on Smith. He should get 10 targets a game, minimum.
— Why didn’t the 49ers target Miller in the second half? Actually, why not make him a tight end when they don’t need him as a blocking fullback? They clearly don’t have a better tight end on the roster — Rich Gannon seemed shocked that Vernon Davis wasn’t doing anything, but 49ers fans have gotten used to that.
— Anquan Boldin is an incredible player and the driving force behind the 49ers’ recent run back toward semi-respectability (well, him and Phil Dawson). If Boldin doesn’t end up in the Hall of Fame, there shouldn’t be a Hall of Fame.
— I used to drive to each home game and write these game recaps with quotes, photos, videos, etc. However, the 49ers didn’t give me a season credential this year, so you won’t see any of that in 2015. They said they sent me an email with an application, which was a lie — I never delete anything they send.
Plus, I didn’t need to “apply” last year. They just handed me a season credential while I was there covering a training camp practice, because back then they were happy to provide access to a “fan blogger” (that’s what 49ers PR calls me) who they apparently thought would continue praising the team even if they made poor decisions. That obviously didn’t happen, so this is how they respond. Which is fine. If freedom of the press is something they aren’t interested in, I’ll cover the team as honestly as I can from my living room.