Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Week 12 - upon further review...

Last week I was about as pessimistic about the 49ers as I've been this year. And I should know better! My mantra is "Never assume a team is as good as they seem to be during a hot streak, and never assume a team is as bad as they seem during a cold spell". I was CLEARLY guilty of assuming that the 49ers were as bad as they played during the first half in Green Bay.

Try selling that to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who got humbled 20-3 by the 49ers on Sunday.

This was the first "complete game" the 49ers have played since the Vikings game week 3. The offensive was impressive and unpredictable. The defense was the best it's been all year. "But Vulture! The defense gave up over 400 yards!" And this is of importance why? The only number that matters to me as far as defense is concerned is the number at the top of the scoreboard. 3 points. 3 piddling points. Now THAT'S quality defense.

Patrick Willis is a MONSTER. He may be the best inside linebacker in football. Twice I saw him run down Maurice Jones-Drew from behind. MJD is no slowpoke! Patrick is just THAT GOOD. 12 tackles and .5 sack good.

The D-line and the secondary had excellent games. The D-line seems to get better and better as the season progresses.

I believe I owe Coach Singletary an apology. I called him stubborn and rigid for sticking with his ho-hum run-oriented offense until the team falls hopelessly behind. This week Coach S. turned offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye loose and Jimmy made the most of it. The offense was, as I said before, impressive and unpredictable. 4th and one in Jacksonville territory? No mincing, fraidy cat punt or long field goal attempt like last week. No, Raye had Alex Smith throwing deep to Vernon Davis for a 30 yard gain! It set up a touchdown.

Alex Smith was very, very good on Sunday. His numbers aren't going to blow your mind: 27-41, 232, 2 TDs, no INTs. You had to see it to appreciate it. You get a sense that Smith is FEELING the role of NFL starting QB now. You get a sense that it's starting to slow down and become manageable, whereas it all seemed to be happening in super fast-forward mode when he was younger. I don't want to get too carried away, but Alex Smith may just be the real deal. I certainly hope so; we haven't had a decent QB for any period of time since Jeff Garcia.

Smith's second touchdown pass, to Frank Gore tip-toeing on the sideline, was masterful. Smith scrambled right, looking like he was flustered. He ran forward just a step or two to suck in the defense, and then he lofted a pretty touch pass to Gore. It was the stuff of Montana and Young days.

The offensive line played well in terms of pass blocking, giving Smith all day to scan the field and giving up no sacks. But Frank Gore was shut down all day until the 4th quarter. The line is going to be a huge off-season priority.

Sunday's win, coupled with a last-second Cardinals loss at Nashville to the Titans, completely changed the complexion of the NFC West race. Now, if the Niners beat the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday and the Cardinals lose to the Vikings Sunday night -- a real possibility and practically a given if Kurt Warner is out again -- then the winner of the following Monday's game between SF and Arizona will take ownership of the Division.

It's so funny. Last week I was thinking "wait 'til next year". This week - upon further review - I'm thinking that the 49ers can still win the Division.

More 49er Kool-Aid, please!