Straight Out of the Rabbit’s Hole: Quick reactions to a BIZARRE game

Diego Del Barco
Oct 12, 2015 at 12:44 AM

Yes, BIZARRE. Count me as someone who wasn't expecting the San Francisco 49ers to be competitive tonight on Sunday Night Football against the New York Giants based on:

  1. Getting SHELLACKED in their first two road games this season in Pittsburgh and Arizona.
  2. Colin Kaepernick looking absolutely lost in the last two games at Arizona and vs Green Bay.
  3. Having very little faith that the defense would be able to repeat their performance against the Packers last weekend because of their lack of consistency (actually a team-wide problem).

I could go on and on but instead let's do a recap of tonight.

  • The 49ers won the coin toss and didn't defer. If you know when it was the last time they did that please let me know in the comments section. That first drive was nice, including back-to-back quick screens to Bruce Ellington which gained 30 and nine yards respectively. The 49ers ended up settling for a 43-yard field goal attempt which Phil Dawson nailed.
  • Eli Manning finished this game with career highs in pass attempts (41) and pass completions (54) and led the Giants to six scoring drives. He played a hell of a game with his only blemish probably being his lone interception.
  • Speaking of Manning's interception, I can't give Tramaine Brock more than 50% credit for what was a clearly a poor decision by Manning but it was a very timely takeaway that allowed the 49ers to remain within one score of the home team.
  • I mentioned in our last video podcast (shameless plug) that the Giants boasted the worst passing defense in the league (giving up 316 yards/game going into this week, most in the NFL). The 49ers noticed too and called more pass plays than run plays, including calling a pass play in all 11 snaps of their last drive of the first half in which Kaepernick completed five passes for 56 yards, took a deep shot to Torrey Smith that resulted in a holding penalty against the Giants, and scrambled for 15 yards (in which he fumbled but also recovered the ball).
  • The 49ers scored not one, not two, but THREE touchdowns in New York after coming into this game averaging 1.25 TDs/game. They scored a TD for the first time since the 2nd quarter of the game at Arizona and a meaningful TD since Carlos Hyde's 17-yard run in the fourth quarter of the Minnesota game to seal that win
  • Kaepernick played his best game of the season so far (although in fairness he had set that bar pretty low), including his best throw by far this season.

  • Before ultimately coming up short, the 49ers defense came up with a BIG play down the stretch. With 11:49 left in the game the Giants embarked on a 14-play drive that burned 7:20 off the clock. However, they failed to score a touchdown thanks to a risky proposition by Eric Mangini who on 3rd&7 from the SF 11-yard line decided to bring NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite off the field for Jaquiski Tartt and Keith Reaser. Eli Manning seemed to play the odds and opted to hand the ball off to Shane Vereen who was only able to gain 6 yards thanks to a key tackle by Jimmie Ward. The Giants had to settle for a field goal and 23-20 lead with 4:29 left, leaving plenty of time for the 49ers to put together a touchdown drive.
  • The 49ers actually put together a game-winning touchdown drive, it will just statistically not be called that because the Giants responded with one of their own.

First of all, defeat aside, this game was a huge step forward for Jim Tomsula's squad. He's the first one to point out there are no moral victories but the reality is there are a lot of good things for the 49ers to take away from this game.

Unfortunately my feelings on whether the defense would be able to repeat last week's performance against Aaron Rodgers proved right as they gave up 30 points tonight, a third of those in the 4th quarter including a game-losing touchdown with 21 seconds left. I now feel like if Rodgers had had to put up more numbers last week he would have, but Kap and the offense were so mediocre he didn't have to. That being said it wasn't like the defense reverted to the kind of performances they had at Pittsburgh and at Arizona so there are definitely positives to take from this game, most notably that Aaron Lynch was a pest for the Giants' offensive line all night long as his five QB hits reflect.

NaVorro Bowman amassed a team-high 16 tackles, 13 solo, yet it's becoming more obvious as the season goes that he isn't the same guy he was in 2013. That All-Pro ability just isn't there anymore and you wonder if he'll be able to get back anywhere close to that kind of form this season (ever?). He seems to still be a dynamic run defender but just isn't as effective in pass coverage (see, Vereen TD).

On the offensive side of the ball the coaching staff was ready and eager to show it (see, NOT deferring after winning the coin toss). Props to them. Many might have expected them to try to shelter Kaepernick and not ask him to do too much after the last two weeks but they were showed their faith in their QB and had a game plan to slowly but surely get him into a rhythm. Huge props too to Kaepernick, obviously, who as I mentioned earlier played this best game this season. Pass-catchers were nearly flawless in this game as well and I don't seem to recall any specific blatant drops.

Of course I'm not forgetting the offensive line, which may have played their second best game of the season after the opener in Minnesota. Marcus Martin remains the weak link and I can't wait until Daniel Kilgore comes back. In more exciting news, Andrew Tiller made his season debut in this game on what was a pre-determined plan by the coaching staff and, at least until I review the game, he seemed to outplay the guy he replaced (Jordan Devey).

It's unfair to pin this loss on any specific player or unit in particular but even after a vastly improved performance I come away from this game a bit salty towards the 49ers offense. On their last touchdown drive, after the two minute warning, the staff (coaches/players) should have abandoned the passing game completely. This would had allowed for more time to come off the clock during the drive which perhaps wouldn't have left enough time for the Giants to finish their game-winning drive. Instead, right after the two-minute warning the 49ers called back-to-back passing plays - one to Smith which resulted in another holding penalty against the Giants and one to Garrett Celek that was nearly intercepted. Another 40-plus seconds off the clock or even the Giants burning some timeouts at this time might have prevented them from their eventual game-winning touchdown. Just poor clock management.

Ultimately, with the game on the line and the 49ers needing to gain about 40 yards in 17 seconds with no timeouts to attempt a game-tying field goal, the offensive line disappointed once again, first giving up pressure on a DT-DE stunt vs Devey and Erik Pears (which Martin didn't recognize till late), then Alex Boone missing a blitz by J.T. Thomas which left the Giants' linebacker on Kaepernick's face before #7 could even make any attempt to throw.

But let me finish this on a good note because ultimately the offense deserves it. What Chryst's unit did with 4:29 left in the game down by four, driving 80 yards on seven plays in 2:44 was without question the most impressive drive of the 49ers this season. I know I just criticized their clock management at the end of that drive but they managed to get a touchdown with less than two minutes left on the road when they so direly needed it and they did so in a balanced manner: four runs and three passes.

No moral victories but a lot of good things that we will hopefully continue to see (perhaps even with more frequency?).
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.


  • Lucky Phil
    Things could be worse, at least we're not looking at Andrew Whitworth's genitals during the postgame interview. "I'd rather my husbands penis not be all over the TV" - Katherine Webb. If that doesn't say love, I don't what love is. Katherine Webb later clarified her comments, "I don't want to see my husbands penis Anywhere".
    Oct 20, 2015 at 7:36 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Whoose the big swinging dick around here? That's who I want to talk to. Who makes the decisions for this team? We should castrate that Son Of A B@#%.
    Oct 13, 2015 at 7:22 PM
  • Dork
    Oct 13, 2015 at 1:46 AM
  • Don
    The Niner offense was a little tentative/conservative the first half. They opened things up later which resulted in big plays and a revived running game. The Defense played uneven. Lots of space available for Giants receivers and Manning missed very few opportunities. On the other hand the Niner defense held 4 times in the Red Zone resulting in 3 FG's and a Niner pick. They could not hold against the TD when it counted the most in the final Giants drive. Why DC's do not pressure more on these last minute drives I will never know. They sit back get carved up an lose at a very high percentage in those scenarios. if you are going to lose you might as well go down with your guns blazing. Attack the line and QB...
    Oct 12, 2015 at 6:20 PM
  • Ron Jeremy
    How about them Niners!
    Oct 12, 2015 at 1:07 PM
  • mbniner
    The Giants had identified our weakness in our D and never wavered in their game-plan. The most obvious was our two ILBs in pass coverage, especially Wilhoite. They completed multiple short passes over the middle which were turned into 15 to 25 yard gains. Manning was able to do these using a very quick release which negated our pass rush which was our second weakness anyway, especially without Brooks. We never adjusted and it was like taking candy from a baby. I didn't think our secondary actually played that bad except for a couple of plays. The biggest problem was completions in the short middle area. I see the wisdom of trading for Hodges who is good in coverage. I expect him to start next week.
    Oct 12, 2015 at 11:54 AM
  • Tim
    As each game goes on.... it becomes clear that MLB is a position of weakness for this team. Bowman is not playing anywhere near where he was before injury and Wilhoite pretty much sucks. He is decent against the run, but is worthless in coverage. The drop off between him and even a patrick willis at 75 percent is dramatic.
    Oct 12, 2015 at 9:28 AM
  • Dennis
    Pretty good article. Objective. Sad to lose that game with the stumbling Ravens coming to town . For a minute there it was easy to visualize us climbing up 3-3. Very impressive play calling and execution in the second half when Kaepernick drove the team the length of the field 4 times. Defense is very suspect. Eli Manning looked unstoppable. Lynch had a great game, other teams will have to account for him going forward. Bowman is a liability in pass coverage but plays with the heart of a warrior. Vernon Davis could learn a few things from him.
    Oct 12, 2015 at 9:22 AM
  • Ladale
    Man, that 9ers secondary is getting torched all day long even with pressure from the DLine. Worst zone schemes ever.
    Oct 12, 2015 at 7:29 AM
  • Edd
    The game was "competitive" only with respect to half the Giants starters were out or limping, and the Giants pass defense one of the worst in the NFL. In that context, I guess you can say the 49ers were competitive.
    Oct 12, 2015 at 6:43 AM
  • Craig
    "Eli Manning finished this game with career highs in pass attempts (41) and pass completions (54) " The way the D is playing it sure feels like opposing offenses complete more passes than they attempt. Either way, good commentary, thanks.
    Oct 12, 2015 at 3:54 AM

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