A (Mostly) Perfect (Two Quarters-Plus of a) Signature Win

Dec 18, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Not surprisingly, I like to focus on the beginning.

After last week's offensive snoozefest, Greg Roman seemed to figure it out. Two things, actually. First, though Roman was clearly a run-first guy, his young QB was one of the league's most dynamic throwers. And, second, to beat the Patriots, he'd have to score, and score a lot.

It's not rocket science.

You throw. You throw deep. And you watch Colin Kaepernick explode.

Our first drive should be kept in a bottle. Short passes, for 11, 12, and 13; and three plays later, a bomb for the score. And there it was, after all these years, the West Coast Offense that we grew up with: dink, dink, dink, BOOM!

Oh, sure, we backed up that score with gobs of opportunities missed: Delanie Walker's latest drop, David Akers' latest miss, a bomb just out of VD's reach, a fumbled snap on fourth-and-one. Still, touchdown bomb #2, followed by an Akers chip-shot—about the only thing he's good for anymore—provided a reasonable halftime cushion. Thanks also to our D, of course, which left Tom Brady completely befuddled.

Take my advice, friends. Don't dwell on how last year's Super Bowl might've gone. It's just not worth that kind of pain.

Early in the second half, the Niners started to pile it on. Kaepernick was tricked into a deep pick—a real offense involves more risk, so you might as well get used to it—but Dashon Goldson took a fumble all the way back to the Patriots' six. Frank Gore scored on yet another fumbled snap—it was pouring rain, so just calm down—and not even 20 seconds later, after an Aldon Smith interception, Kaepernick threw touchdown bomb #3.

The Patriots, having eviscerated the Texans the week before, were the league's consensus #1 team. They hadn't lost a late-season game in nearly three years. They hadn't lost a December home game in nearly 10 years. And the Niners were up, 31 to 3.

It'd been an up-and-down season, for sure. But at that moment, the Niners were the greatest team in the league, by far.

Let's not dwell on what happened with the Patriots' next four drives. Suffice to say, I'll never understand the thinking, insanely common in every sport. You come out aggressively, you get a big lead, and then for some reason you simply stop. Against some crummy, low-grade opponent, maybe you get away with it. Against Tom Brady, not so much.

Our D went into a nice soft zone, which Brady promptly picked apart: 31-10. Our O responded with a five-play drive whose last four plays were run, run, pass, punt. Our D, still playing zone, gave up another easy one: 31-17, with the crowd now thoroughly back in the game. Another three-and-out on O. Our D sort of went back into man, but the Patriots were now on a roll, and a questionable PI call gave them another score: 31-24, and sheer delirium. A penalty and a sack produced another three-and-out, and our D, now looking exhausted, gave up a tying 90-yard drive.

Faith and fandom are all well and good. But you couldn't help but think, it's over. We are about to suffer our very worst regular-season loss. Of all time.

Knee-deep in a mess like this, there's gotta be a real temptation. Maybe it's just a tiny one, and maybe it's just in the darkest corners of an athlete's mind. But an athlete, no matter how rich or gifted, is a human being; and to some extent, he must be tempted to just check out. At times, the wave against you is so overwhelming, you just can't summon the will to keep fighting.

But the Niners did. LaMichael James broke a big return, Kaepernick made a great read on a blitz, and Michael Crabtree broke a tackle and went to the house.

And after precisely 18 seconds, the Niners were alive again.

Even then, there were heads to be shaken. Ted Ginn continued his best impression of Kyle Williams, and Roman called three runs and out. But somehow, perhaps revitalized by their reprieve, our D summoned one more push. And what might've been a 50-point win turned into the narrowest of narrow escapes.

Naturally, in the aftermath of such a wild affair, there's a bit of unrest in the zeitgeist. That was truly a signature win, putting us back at the top of the heap. And indeed, notwithstanding the missed opportunities, the team that built that four-touchdown lead would beat anyone, anywhere—and they'd win the Super Bowl in a rout.

And the stirring straw, of course, is Kaepernick. I'm simply in awe. Yeah, he occasionally shows his inexperience. But despite having had to endure some of the game's most daunting conditions—with a trip to Seattle looming next—the kid has put up a start for the ages. He's gone deep with 24% of his throws, good for fifth. Yet his rating is 101.4, which would rank fifth as well. If you want a mix of efficiency and explosiveness—and you might've guessed, that's kind of my thing—I'm telling you, you can't do too much better than this.

But New England's comeback showed all the things that'll make these playoffs so nerve-wracking. As we've discussed, Jim Harbaugh's aggressive competitive philosophy—knock your man down, kick him in the ribs, then crush his windpipe under your heel—doesn't seem to extend to his coordinators. Those two have shown that they tend to let up, and it almost produced an epic disaster. Add to this the stupefying regressions of Akers and Ginn, and it's easy to see how the Niners might lose.

A blown lead. Or a missed field-goal. Or God forbid, a fumbled punt. After last year's crushing heartache—I'm still not over it, even today—I won't be able to deal with another.

So let's make a deal, okay? Let's keep those reins off Kaepernick. Let's stay after it on D. Let's go to Seattle and seize that bye.

And let's take Sunday's win to its logical conclusion.

Let's go win the Super Bowl.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • James
    Yeah we need to take more chances downfield and why are we not really using Vernon Davis? He is a fast and strong mismatch against any team.
    Dec 23, 2012 at 7:39 AM
  • onemoretime
    Do 49er fans ever wonder what happened to the slow-witted, lazy, under the influence, more than likely inbred official who gave the rams the illegal 2 points which pushed that game into o.t.? The niners would be playing with a game and a half lead tomorrow if not for him being a lazy ass (not studying his profession). Can we expect to see him in the playoffs? Talk about the replacement officials. That poor Bas... is in a league of his own. Somehow I think he's still getting full pay.
    Dec 22, 2012 at 2:07 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Mr Ceadderman and Mr B., when you two decide to make a sex video, would you please let us know. I'm not sure how this will turn out, but one of you I'm sure will regret it. Mr. B., are you the one that will regret this? (this really is a loaded question, think about it)
    Dec 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM
  • Mike Singleterry HOF'er
    Ceadderman, dude there's no use arguing with these fools. This is one big troll circlejerk, can't you see that?
    Dec 22, 2012 at 12:06 PM
  • STL Niner Fan
    I'm so sick of the Seahawks hanging around. I hope we crush them so completely tomorrow night it destroys their collective will. And I hope Harbaugh runs up the score if he gets a chance. I'm glad the Seahawks are favored and I'm glad there is substantial doubt about our ability to pull this one out. For whatever reason we seem to respond well in those situations.
    Dec 22, 2012 at 8:37 AM
  • Ceadderman
    What part of "you have your opinions and I have mine" don't you understand. I am TRYING to follow through with Diego's request. Damn dude just let it go already. Why do you feel the need to have the last freakin word?!? Just stop talking to me already. >.<
    Dec 21, 2012 at 6:00 PM
  • onemoretime
    hey Mr.Ced..man. If you believe the collective comprehension level is low, who knows anything besides you? Or is running a distant second? You know Kap for being a rookie has had some fortunate turnovers go his way. But the ship is still afloat. At this time I think that J.H. has the best perspective and continues to produce wins with A.S. and Kap. The sky didn't fall when Kap took over as many insisted it would. I would say T.B. has presented better evidence to support his viewpoint. After all thats all we have is limited information, to support our viewpoint. I think they should use Dixon early to pound the line and turn Gore loose in the second half. On a worn-out hawks D. I think Dixon has talent or what is he doing on the roster?
    Dec 21, 2012 at 3:58 PM
  • Terry B.
    Ceadderman, no one forces you to post here. If you don't want to discuss these things, don't post. But you can't comment on other people's opinions and then declare yours off limits. Von Miller is having the better season, hands down. As I said, "Smith leads Miller in sacks by 3.5, but Von is ahead in tackles for loss, by a wider 25-17 margin; PFF has Miller down for 82 pressures and an overall grade of 77.9, which both dwarf Smith's impressive 65 pressures and 19.8 grade." And Miller is a more complete player and is asked to do far more. He would lead in sacks, too, if he rushed the passer as often as Smith. These points are indisputable, and you haven't provided anything in response. But if only Miller had faced off against some good QBs, instead of scrubs like Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Cam Newton. What if, instead, he had faced off against powerhouses like John Skelton, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford, and Christian Ponder? There is a reason that DPOY will come down to Miller and Watt. They're both better players than Smith, and they're both having better seasons. Smith is outstanding, but he clearly trails those two. And everyone knows it. All I'm asking is that you support your opinions with something more than "my eyes". And I'm still waiting for an explanation of how PFF's grading system is flawed and unworthy of consideration. And why is it trolling to say that Colin Kaepernick is better than Alex Smith and Von Miller is better than Aldon Smith? Someone is not trolling simply because they disagree with you.
    Dec 21, 2012 at 8:07 AM
  • Ceadderman
    Both Von Miller and Aldon Smith are good players. Von's ranking was an OFF SEASON ranking based on last Season. ... It is ridiculous to use that as the be all end all to the comparison. Who is having the better Season? Both were playing at a high level this season thus far but who is having the better season? Who played against more of the premier Tightends in the League? Who played against more of the premier Running Backs and QBs? Not Von Miller. I don't need an article to tell me this. I have eyes. I have knowledge and I apply that knowledge impartially. Stop Trolling Terry. I'm trying my best not to respond to you. You need to be an adult about this and stop Trolling for my reply. We're done. Do NOT use my name again, please. You have immediate access here and I have to wait for my comments to be moderated and put up due to my status as a member of the Webzone which is banned. Banned because I let people like you get me worked up. Didn't name call but then the collective comprehension level on the Zone is pretty low. I guess asking someone if they're ignorant is the same as saying someone is. So please just let it go. You have your opinion and I have mine. Leave it at that.
    Dec 20, 2012 at 1:08 PM
  • louie
    Don't forget the O-line. To make the throws that Kaepernick made requires time. To open holes for the run game when the opposing defense knows it's coming takes talent and power. In the New England game they deserved their reputation as an excellent O-line. Not always the case.
    Dec 20, 2012 at 11:46 AM
  • Terry B.
    Hey, look, Ceadderman, yet another article comparing Von Miller and Aldon Smith and concluding that Miller is the better player. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000113925/article/von-miller-vs-aldon-smith-which-linebacker-is-superior Isn't it interesting how every one of these analyses comes to the same conclusion? And if my reliance on PFF is insane, please enlighten me as to why. What is it about their methodology, grading, and ranking that you disagree with? And please be specific. What should they be doing differently? Are they just supposed to say that someone who plays for the 49ers is best becaue Ceadderman says so and wants to beat up in a pub anyone who disagrees with him? Miller was the better player last year, and he's the better player this year. The DPOY race is a two-horse race between JJ Watt and Miller, with Aldon Smith a distant third. You fail to consider that Miller is asked to drop back into coverage far more than Smith. What do you think Miller's sack numbers would be if he simply got to rush the passer on every play? Or, what do you think would happen if Miller were to be placed on the 49ers and asked to rush the passer on every play, and Aldon Smith were placed on the Broncos and asked to do everything that Miller is asked to do? And I can't believe that the person who focuses only on sack totals is accusing me of being myopic. Smith leads Miller in sacks by 3.5, but Von is ahead in tackles for loss, by a wider 25-17 margin; PFF has Miller down for 82 pressures and an overall grade of 77.9, which both dwarf Smith's impressive 65 pressures and 19.8 grade. Miller is simply a more complete player and everyone who has ever seriously analyzed the issue has come to the same conclusion. Also, 5.5 of Smith's sacks came against the pathetic Bears offensive line, and Miller did not get to face them this year. And, really, Kaepernick isn't playing better than Smith? O.K., you just keep believing that while the rest of us are enjoying the run to the Super Bowl.
    Dec 20, 2012 at 8:08 AM
  • Nick S.
    The Greg Roman hate is outta control.
    Dec 19, 2012 at 6:32 PM
  • onemoretime
    Kap is wise beyond his yrs and showed great leadership by stating that the O-line needs to get most of the credit for his performance. If Davis extends a bit its 5 t.d.s. J.H. got it right. I know a lot of A.S. non-haters were sure that J.H. gave away this years S.B. by not letting A.S., the shoo-in to win the S.B., play. But Kap plays and shows up like a real leader. Showing modesty and praise where praise is richly deserved is refreshing. J.H. and I are often on the same page. Unfortunately he gets to hang around the facility and makes more money than I do.
    Dec 19, 2012 at 5:03 PM
  • Ceadderman
    I addressed your insane rant about ProFootballFocus. Who is playing better right now, Smith or Von? I'm in your head so badly that you have to instigate a conversation after Diego EXPRESSLY asked us not to use these blogs to debate. I could care less about you. Your black and white opinions are without logic. Just stop talking to me. I don't know what your issue is but you consistently drop my name and misrepresent not only my opinion but AJ and Diego's. I'd love to see you in a pub. I enjoy your ridiculously myopic opinions. You base all your Alex Smith arguments on PreHarbaugh era fail. We are done. Stop dropping my name and misrepresenting my opinions because you don't have the Comprehension level to get that while I like Kappy, Smith was playing better over the first 6 games and why Kappy hasn't been playing at the ridiculously high level you expected of Smith. Hypocrite.
    Dec 19, 2012 at 3:40 PM
  • Terry B.
    Ceadderman, looks like your vow never to speak to me again didn't last 24 hours. Where to start? Von Miller was NOT Defensive Rookie of the Year? Um, actually he was. You can look it up. He didn't even finish the season? He played in 14 games and the playoffs. You want to dock him the award for missing two games? Even though that just makes his accomplishments MORE impressive? ProFootballFocus is one of the most respected football sites around, so I can understand why you have such disdain for it. After all, what is a site based on rigorous film study and analysis compared to the average armchair fan in his basement? And, unlike you, they back up their arguments. And are you really going to argue that Smith was the DROY based on what MIGHT have happened had he played more? That's not the way these awards work. It's an award for what you actually did. Hell, why not give the ROY award to Kaepernick last year based on what might have happened had he played? Smith has more sacks this year, but Miller leads the league in combined sacks, hits, and hurries. Miller is by a wide margin the more complete player. He sets the edge better against the run, and he's much better in coverage. He also has a pick this year and has forced six fumbles, and is just the third player since 1994 with at least 15 sacks (16.0), 20 tackles for loss (24), and five forced fumbles (six). And you're willing to concede that Miller is a "solid" player? Wow, that's generous considering that he's frequently described as a once-in-a-decade player. Smith may finish with more sacks this year, but he'll never be the all-around player Miller is. Smith is an outstanding pass-rusher, and your love for him makes more sense than your love for the other Smith, but he's just not the all-around player that Von Miller is.
    Dec 19, 2012 at 1:17 PM
  • AL
    Lot of good insight here on this thread. What happened against the Pats is no different than what happened against the Dolphins and the Rams. Pattern time. The only difference was the opponent. Inability to sustain offensive drives due to our playcalling and formation management. Horribly inconsistent. Don't want to say "inept" but pretty close to it with the emphasis on throwback gimmicky formations that can stuff up to four skill positions in the backfield. As D's see this more the number of big plays coming from it will go down and down. CK is young and needs a lot of OJT to run and read pro sets. Roman is wasting time giving him snaps with these dead-end wingding formations. Get to the business of isolating the matchups you want and letting the kid place the ball to your go-to guys -- Gore, Davis, Manningham, Crabtree, James -- where you want them. Remember, no QB ever kept his job by running 50 yards for a touchdown. Roman needs to start maturing a QB winner from CK's physical talent. It doesn't matter who's under center -- Smith or CK. The problem is in the booth. At least so far. Hope Roman has a boddhisattva moment and gets enlightened about what he needs to do to bring consistency to offensive production. This D deserves a championship.
    Dec 19, 2012 at 12:18 PM
  • Ceadderman
    Von Miller was NOT the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He didn't even finish the Season. ProFootballFocus? Are we kidding or what? Ask anyone who saw Smith play and they'll tell you the ONLY reason Smith was not named DRoY was that he only played half the snaps throughout the season last year. Yet he finished first in Sacks? Get the truck out of here. If he played as much as Von Miller did what do you think his numbers would have been? Smith is leading the NFL in Sacks this season, he covers the pass very well, and he has solid instincts against the Run. He's a 3 tool Linebacker/DE. Von Miller is a solid player but like the Press you penalize Smith for something that was completely beyond his control. Denver HAD to Start Von. Smith outclasses Parys Haralson by a large margin and probably should have Started more games last year. I'm not even gonna dignify the rest of that ridiculous commentary about my Red and Gold glasses.
    Dec 19, 2012 at 12:07 PM
  • Terry B.
    Ceadderman, you're as wrong about Von Miller/Aldon Smith as you are about Kaepernick/Alex Smith. There is a reason that Miller got 39 votes to Smith's 11: he's a much more complete player. In ProFootballFocus's grading, Miller was approximately 40 points ahead of Smith. Unlike uneducated fans, they look at much more than sack totals. Please take off the red and gold tinted glasses for a minute. Here are some suggested articles for further reading: https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2011/11/30/race-for-rookie-of-the-year-miller-by-a-mile/ https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2011/12/01/stories-of-the-season-miller-much-more-than-the-roy/
    Dec 19, 2012 at 7:52 AM
  • Terry B.
    I feel like this was the week when the dark age of Nolan, Singletary, and Smith was finally put behind us for good. Kaepernick goes into Foxboro and beats the Patriots in December. What more is there to say? It's been truly odd to see the reaction of some of the homers in Niner Nation. When they should finally be reveling in all of their homer glory, all they can do is cry about Alex Smith. I just do not get it. If all we have to worry about is CK's ability to take snaps in driving rain, I think we're in good shape.
    Dec 19, 2012 at 4:34 AM
  • Ceadderman
    I agree with most everything said. Save for Kappy got tricked. Kappy no more got tricked than Von Miller was the DRoY last year. This is Kappy. He's a young QB and as such is prone to making rookie mistakes. Make no mistake it is a flaw and he's done this already this season. In an effort to make the big play he'll throw it into coverage. That's not a bad thing... except when you take your eyes off the coverage you're throwing into. Remember the fumble where he recovered it and promptly threw an Interception? Well this time we didn't have a heartstopping fumble. Instead he took the snap, rolled out to his right, turning his back to the coverage, and when he turned around he immediately threw it and didn't even stop to question what he was seeing until it was too late. This is what happens when you press a young player into duty when you don't have to. Yeah Smith doesn't push the ball as much as Kappy, but he doesn't take stupid chances with the ball after gaining the experience that having bad Coaches, Bad protection, Bad Receivers, and a revolving door at the OC position brings about. I'm not bad-mouthing Kappy here. Just trying to keep the proper perspective here.
    Dec 18, 2012 at 10:24 PM
  • Enzo
    We can still use Alex Smith's services instead of him standing on the sideline listening for the calls. I highly suggest to put Alex as a holder for Akers on the kicking game. Why not? Joe Montana did it earlier in his career with the 49ers. It's a good option because he's a QB who can dish the ball quickly to an open receiver if they decided to go for trick plays and he has a decent running ability to go around the edge if needed!
    Dec 18, 2012 at 7:53 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Jeff, I just wanted to make one point on your article. I rambled on in the previous comment. I have a lot of respect for Fangio, I think he's the best coach on this team, maybe the league. And even though going to the Zone D was probably JH's call, I understand the logic and with a 28-point lead approve of the decision. Going to a zone against Brady you are conceding pts and choosing to burn clock. Brady's first TD drive was over 4 min, 2nd TD drive was 3:41. (Not a lot.) However, the idea was to burn more clock on offense, but in the 2nd half we never had an offensive drive longer than 2:22. And we had the ball for Nine possessions! This was another bad coaching performance by JH/Ro not Fangio.
    Dec 18, 2012 at 7:46 PM
  • Enzo
    Wow, no Alex Smith fans bashing you Jeff. Well great article and nice read. Roman is a good coordinator but let's admit his strength is running plays which is exactly what he did in Stanford. Unfortunately we did not have David Shaw whom Harbaugh entrusted to engineer their pass plays. I remember seeing an Andrew Luck clip somewhere (foxsports I think) where he admired Shaw's innate ability to draw pass plays and mismatches. Had Shaw not gotten called as the HC for Stanford, I'm pretty sure our offensive plays would be a lot more balanced and intimidating.
    Dec 18, 2012 at 7:38 PM
  • Angry Phil
    I have a lot of comments to make after this game. And luckily for everyone you didn't hear the comments I made during the game. Lets just say, I wasn't surprised we blew this game open in the first half and then gave it away in the 2nd. This wasn't a signature win. A signature win would be winning this game by four TD's like we should have won the game by. This was a comedy of errors. We found out this weekend our QB can't handle snaps in the rain. Thank God he can still rifle the ball and hit a dime 30 yds away (regardless of the weather). Ted Ginn is a piece of garbage, how can a guy thats been returning kicks (only returning kicks) for over 8 yrs try to pick up a bouncing ball in the rain? L. James is still an overrated ballplayer. Baalke, draft Chris Thompson from Florida St. in the 6th rd. thats value. Bottom line this was another game the coaching f'ed up big time. Ro/JH stop going to the run game early when you have a lead. Everyone in the league knows you have no balls (scared your QB will throw an INT). When you elect to run on 1st, 2nd downs you are only burning a minute and a half off the clock. We have more talent than everyone in the league. Learn to control the game!
    Dec 18, 2012 at 7:27 PM
  • Paul A
    Jeff, You nailed it... I am a believer. Colin Kaepernick has 'It'. We have many years to look forward to great, exciting football!
    Dec 18, 2012 at 6:26 PM
  • T DAWG
    Jeff, You have hit that story (and fact) right on the head! We have finally assembled a great team. We have beaten very good teams and very good QB's. The change of QB in the middle of the season took Balls of Steel. But yet, who better to do that than JH. I have been a Die-hard 9er fan since they drafted this young skinny guy outta Notre Dame. But yet, there is this incredible talent that we watch, almost religiously each week, and I am in awe. The power, the confidence, the support, the athletic ability, and yes, the raw bursting talent that we see grow each week. Its a Glorious time to be a 49er Fan my friends! Prediction - I expect to see an incredibly hard-fought game Sunday Night. It could go either way. We have 2 high-powered offenses, and 2 stifling defenses, in a very inhospitable environment. Home field advantage. Wet PNW climate. Hungry teams. SNF. Playoff implications. Coaches that really don't like each other... 31-28........ 49ers.
    Dec 18, 2012 at 5:19 PM
  • Randy
    You echoed my sentiments exactly. That first half was a feeling of exhilaration, then halftime was followed by a feeling of stunned horror and finally a feeling of disoriented relief. The could have, should have, would haves in this game were endless but in the end a win is a win over the media-darling Patriots.
    Dec 18, 2012 at 4:55 PM

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