Back on that rainy, windy evening in January, almost every fan stayed until a Lawrence Tynes field goal ended the game in overtime. Today, on a sunny afternoon in October, the aisles were jammed with fans trying to flee Candlestick Park with over nine minutes remaining in a contest that wasn’t much of one.
If the loss in Minnesota was a wakeup call to the players, today was a wakeup call to the fans. The 49ers are a good team, but they’re still a significant distance from greatness.
The Giants picked off Alex Smith three times, while the 49ers’ defensive backs — Chris Culliver in particular — were picked on several times in the first half. In the second half, the 49ers’ vaunted run defense looked like something you’d see from the Bills or Saints, as Ahmad Bradshaw became the first back to rush for over 100 yards this season against San Francisco.
Last year, David Akers was near perfect and the 49ers’ coverage units, led by Blake Costanzo, were feared. Today, Akers missed two field goals in the first half and the 49ers allowed a 66-yard kickoff return to David Wilson to open the second half. Darcel McBath missed a tackle on that play — McBath is no Costanzo.
This was a whipping, and it crushes the feeling many had going into this game (including the so-called experts in Las Vegas, who had the 49ers as a touchdown favorite): the 49ers are a Super Bowl contender the way up, while the Giants aren’t as good as they were when they shocked everyone with their run to the Super Bowl after a 9-7 regular season record.
Today it was the 49ers who showed startling signs of regression, and the Giants showed that they are a team to be feared no matter what their current won/loss record states.
Jim Harbaugh’s team has never been beaten by more than 10 points, and that 16-6 loss to the Ravens came with the caveat that the 49ers were forced to travel to Baltimore for a Thursday night game. There were no built-in excuses for the 49ers coming out and looking worse and worse as the game went on, and Harbaugh didn’t have any answers after the game in what was one of his shortest and least assertive press conferences since taking over the team.
I was in the minority last week when I thought early on that the 49ers were kind of forcing the issue with Colin Kaepernick early on, especially when he lost a fumble after Smith seemed to be having no trouble moving the ball into Bills territory. With Smith forcing the ball more often than we’ve seen him do in quite some time against the Giants, Kaepernick looked like a viable option. But save for some completions when New York was in prevent mode, Kaepernick didn’t seem too effective either.
“When it’s working it’s great, like everything when you’re winning,” Smith said about his backup’s ever-increasing role.
“It’s a changeup, for the most part. I don’t know about today.”
One thing Harbaugh allowed was that there was a chance that the 49ers’ increased usage of Kaepernick might have taken the 49ers out of their offensive rhythm. Harbaugh’s tone was by no means definitive, and when he said, “The plan wasn’t the best plan,” he could’ve been referring to everything — Kaepernick, defensive schemes, special teams and offensive playcalling, including 20 pass plays and 10 rushing plays in a first half that looked awfully similar to their first half performance in Minnesota.
If you’re looking for a few bright spots, here you go:
- The Giants aren’t in the 49ers’ division.
- “With four days until kickoff we have to move on to Thursday,” said Donte Whitner about the 49ers’ first game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks.
- It can’t get any worse than this.
- It’s hard to imagine the last guy pictured in this post letting a repeat of today’s performance occur anytime soon.