Yes, the story of the evening is that the 49ers beat themselves. The two turnovers that hurt the most were Delanie Walker's fumble and Phillip Adams' muffed punt. I'm sure Matt Maiocco and Matt Barrows will ever so artfully expound upon how the 49ers turned the ball over 3 times inside the Saints' 30 yard-line and ultimately lost the game.
But that's not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about Frank Gore's 112 yards on 20 carries. I want to talk about Anthony Dixon waltzing into the end zone on third and goal from the 2-yard line. I want to talk about Frank Gore establishing himself as one of the most prolific running backs in 49ers history, passing Joe Perry on the list of 100-yard games (21).
The 49ers played true to the identity they wanted to forge against the Saints. They ran the ball effectively against an average, if not ball-hawking defense. Frank Gore averaged 5.6 yards-per-carry on 20 attempts. And the offensive line protected Smith, as they didn't allow a sack all game.
Alex Smith played an efficient game simply because the running game was working. The play-action pass was available nearly all evening. The Saints asked Smith to beat them with his arm, and he obliged.
Sure, there were a few times when the Saints rushed only three players and Smith had trouble finding the open man against an 8-man zone. The Saints either typically rush three players or come with a blitz and Smith was able to beat the blitz with well-timed throws to the open receiver. Greg Williams, the Saints defensive coordinator, took his foot off the throttle late when Smith more often than not beat the blitz.
Let's not forget the final drive when Alex Smith showed that he can be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.
After this Monday night the 49ers showed that "they are who we thought they were." It's too bad that team finally showed up in week 2 as opposed to week one.
This team isn't going to take the NFL by storm. They need to get a handle on the fundamentals (for instance, snapping the ball or holding onto the ball inside the opponent's 30-yard line). But at the very least - even in a loss - they righted the ship and seemingly got pointed in the right direction.
Now if they could only stay consistent from week to week as opposed to being as manic as Lindsey Lohan near white powdery substances they might just fulfill their expectations this year.
I know it seems like this is a game where Niner fans can claim a moral victory. This is not what I am doing. I am identifying a team that, in some regards, finally played to expectations. Moral victories are for losers, and I think the 49ers might agree. Check out the post-game comments
[quote=Mike Singletary]I don't ever, ever want to say that I think we should have won a football game. If we should have, then we should have won. I mean, it's unfortunate. Our guys played, but the last thing I'm going to say is we should have won. They hung in there, they're world champions from last year. They did the things they had to do to win the game. So they deserve to win the game.
[quote=Alex Smith]I mean, in the end, it's a loss just like last week. Lose by one, or lose by whatever - it doesn't matter. Some things to take away from it, but still killing ourselves.
If this was a game of moral victories Sing's cross hanging from his neck might be enough to win us the division. The reality is at the NFL is about wins and losses and until the 49ers can get over their own mistakes, it will be a roller coaster season.