The goal during the Mike Singletary “era” was to win the division. Jim Harbaugh succeeded in doing so in his first two years as head coach. It’s not going to happen this season, not when they’re 3.5 games behind Seattle with six games remaining. Not when they’re tied for second with the Arizona Cardinals.
Not with this offense.
Disclaimer: it’s difficult to come through with some cogent analysis after you watch a game in a bar full of enthusiastic football fans. We held an event in North Beach today at a spot that’s actually a Bills and Eagles bar, but the staff was nice enough to clear out the back room at 1:20 pm so we could watch the 49ers play (and lose on a last-second field goal to) the Saints. So, while I watched every play, there was also socializing and imbibing going on, so be forewarned before you read any further. The ideas presented in this post might get a little kooky.
I’ve thought about the clothesline penalty too much already. We all have. Brooks would’ve avoided this mess by tackling Brees around the midsection while whispering sweet nothings in his ear. Troy Aikman said it was “clearly a violation.” Golden Tate probably agrees.
The 49ers’ defense was outstanding (again), and they should’ve been allowed to seal the victory when Patrick Willis recovered that fumble. But Brees is cute and tiny and a great quote, so we all knew going into this that he’d be protected. A minute or so before that play I mentioned to Kyle (Ruthless) how I couldn’t remember Brees getting sacked. Then he was sacked for the first and only time all evening, but in a way that wasn’t allowed. That’s the NFL.
It was Ahmad Bradshaw’s “forward progress” all over again. When teams lose the ball near the end of key games against the 49ers, something illegal probably took place. It’s the law of the land. But just like during that NFC Championship Game loss against the New York Giants, the 49ers couldn’t move the ball against the Saints. They didn’t go 1-for-13 today on third down like Alex Smith and Co. back in January of 2012, but the team’s offensive performance was even worse overall: 3.5 yards per play.
The personal foul was very difficult to stomach, especially in a loud bar where we couldn’t hear the official’s explanation. That doesn’t mean the 49ers were screwed, because good teams find ways to get through questionable calls and bad bounces. So far this year, the 49ers haven’t been that team. Not against good teams, anyway.
Oh, brother …
If the 49ers have any hopes of even getting into the playoffs, let alone advancing, they’re going to have to follow the same path John Harbaugh’s Ravens did last year. Baltimore finished 10-6, but they did some interesting things on their way to their Super Bowl win.
Like firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in December.
The Ravens looked like a sinking ship at the time, but they weren’t all that bad. They had lost two in a row (by the way — the 49ers have lost consecutive games on two separate occasions this year, effectively erasing the “Jim Harbaugh rallies the troops after defeat” narrative), and after an overtime loss to the Redskins they replaced Cameron with Jim Caldwell. Baltimore actually went on to lose their next game and two of their first three after Cam-Cam was fired, but John showed that it’s never too late to make a drastic change when things aren’t going the way they should.
I’m not advocating for the 49ers to fire Greg Roman (or Cam Inman, which wouldn’t be allowed), but could you blame Jim Harbaugh for at least considering that move right now?
In the 49ers’ four losses, they have averaged 202 yards, 10 points and 12 first downs per game. They were able to muster twice as many points against New Orleans (thanks in large part to a huge break on special teams and an interception by Ahmad Brooks), but 12 first downs to the Saints’ 23 isn’t going to cut it unless the officials actually placed good money on the 49ers to not just cover, but win.
Besides the “Michael Crabtree should be fully healthy in a week or two” pipe dream, this is the 49ers’ offense … for better and mostly worse (at least lately). This is what Roman has to work with, and now Mike Iupati is on crutches. Still, San Francisco had their chances to beat both Carolina and New Orleans, yet they failed to convert first downs when needed and rushed only 22 times for 81 yards against the team that came in allowing more yards per carry (5.0) than any other NFL team.
So many errors were made by players — Frank Gore should’ve caught that pass, Colin Kaepernick (who made some great and horrendous throws today) should’ve stayed in bounds on the 49ers’ last offensive play, and Vance McDonald needs to learn how to make a contested catch. But the 49ers are in danger of sliding into the irrelevant zone, and quickly. They’re good enough to beat anybody, and bad enough to lose to every team in the NFL with a winning record — just like the Ravens last year.