For Once, Niners Unable To Give It Away

Oct 19, 2010 at 6:19 AM

Of course, it wasn't for lack of trying.

The Raiders' first two drives consumed 25 plays, 163 yards, and nearly a quarter of the game. The Niners' first two drives? 8 plays, 29 yards, 4 minutes or so. Indeed, the Niners' first FIVE drives: with Alex Smith 2 of 11 for 21 yards--punt, punt, punt, punt, punt.

So much for those hot starts.

But if any team was due for some luck, it was us, and the Raiders were glad to oblige. I'm not sure what happened to Jason Campbell, who torched our D in a preseason game, but at last, our opponents' backup was worse than our starter. He couldn't finish those opening drives, and the rest of the day he did nothing at all: finishing an ungodly 8 of 21, with 69 net yards, 2 picks, and a rating just short of 11. Our D was good, but it wasn't THAT good.

And so for the Niners it came down to this. It'd been five weeks. Five weeks of cartoonish buffoonery. But the Raiders simply were BEGGING to lose.

Just this once, for CRISSAKES, could we just stay out of our own way?

Just barely, we did.

It started, unsurprisingly, with the spread. With his career hanging again in the balance, Smith got the ball on his own 16, with two minutes left in the opening half. Running every play from the 'gun, Smith completed 6 of 8 for all 77 yards on the drive that started to turn it around.

You might've heard me say this before, and I just can't help but say it again. If our two-minute O were our primary O, I wonder just how good we'd have been.

Then, on the second drive of the second half, Smith outdid the Raiders with his own massive march, taking 8 minutes and 13 plays to go 101 yards, the last 32 on a beautiful pass. From there, Frank Gore and the defense put it away, and just like that we had us a win, our first in forever.

So what does it mean?

Naturally, it doesn't mean we played well. Sure, at last, we went a whole game without turning it over, but all we did was trade turnovers for penalties. We were flagged an amazing 13 times (2 were declined) for a whopping 143 yards; for perspective, note that Gore rushed for 149. From Shawntae Spencer's 46-yard mugging on the game's first play, to Joe Staley's two holds (one negating a first down, the other a touchdown), to Dashon Goldson's PF, to the four flags on special teams (one for sending out 12 men, though we weren't flagged for sending out 9), to Smith's two groundings: the refs dropped laundry all over the field.

Yeah, yeah, that second grounding was dicey. Smith at the time wasn't under much pressure, and a receiver was in the same zip-code at least. But sympathize with the refs, won't you? After all, heaving the ball high out of bounds is one of this offense's signature plays. Why WOULDN'T the refs think we did it on purpose?

The point is, don't look at the absence of turnovers and infer some kind of professional discipline. Six games in, we've still got none. (I'll let you guess whose fault that is.)

More ominous, though, is this: out of the blue, the NFC West doesn't look so bad, does it?

The only thing that stood between Jed's promise and complete insanity was the assumption--repeated ad nauseam--that the division stinks. After all, the Bills too were oh-and-five, and you didn't hear THEM making any such promise. But the Cards, 'Hawks, and Rams aren't the Jets, Pats, and 'Fins, and that's where there was ANY cause for hope, however small.

Well, take a look. The NFC West has 10 wins, as many as the NFC North, and more than the AFC West. No one expected the Cards to beat the Saints, the 'Hawks to beat the Bears, or the Rams to beat the Chargers. Yet ALL of 'em did, and now they're all .500 or better.

On the other hand, we're one-and-five. We've beaten only the dreadful Raiders, and we looked pretty spotty in doing it.

That's nothing new, of course. The most basic thing a good team does is win a game and look good doing it. Think up a solid plan, and then go out and execute for 60 solid minutes. When's the last time the Niners, with all their talent, were able to do that? It's gotta be Arizona, game 13 of last year. Got the math? NINE GAMES. It's been more than half a season since the Niners did the most basic thing a good team does. (Again, I'll let you guess whose fault that is.)

Still, to some, beating the Raiders was like winning the Super Bowl. "We did an awesome, tremendous job and I take my hat off to all my teammates on all three sides of the ball, and also the coaching staff," Isaac Sopoaga said. "It's an awesome, great feeling."

Easy, big fella. Seriously, this team just kills me. You KNOW you're losers when a sloppy win over an awful opponent is worthy of flowery excess like THAT.

Leave it to Mike Singletary, seeming ever more aware of his fate, to offer the harsher reality. "I think it's important with all our players to understand," he said, "we are fighting for our lives right now."

Ah, THERE'S the answer. That was true before Oakland, and it's just as true after, with almost nothing gained in between.

So what does it mean?

Sadly, not much.
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.


  • Terry B.
    I hate Mike Singletary.
    Oct 22, 2010 at 7:46 AM
  • riq roq
    haters suck.
    Oct 21, 2010 at 7:44 AM
  • Marco
    Jeff, it was even worse than you make it out to be. The 49ers are the WORST coached team in the NFL. 11 penalties for 143 yards against the Raiders. Timeouts continue to be burned early. 9 and 12 men on the field, is this an NFL team or a Pop Warner team? This team will be out-coached in EVERY remaining game, so the idea that this team could go 8-2 is insane. That leaves 49er fans with the York motto, "Wait till next year!". The 49ers have the WORST organizational structure in the NFL, so as long as the Yorks are in control, another 10 lean years are in the offing.
    Oct 20, 2010 at 6:50 AM
  • charles
    Oct 20, 2010 at 6:16 AM
  • Ginger
    Even the refs can't stand Mike Singletary. They did everything they could to try to push us to 0-6. They reversed two touchdowns, and my favorite call QB grounding. Please York replace Sing, everybody hates this guy.
    Oct 19, 2010 at 12:41 PM
  • Bill
    Kaplan's right. Lay off the man, Dan. The team played fairly horrible football against the Raiders -- yet we still managed to win. When nine or 13 players run out onto the field for special teams play -- that's a bad sign. The first week of the season -- perhaps not so much. But in Week 6? That should not be happening. Yet it is. We are still blowing timeouts thanks to botched playcalling -- which is a direct reflection of incompetency at its highest form. While this team might beat a floundering Carolina squad -- I don't give it a lot of hope against Denver. The season will be over sooner rather than later.
    Oct 19, 2010 at 10:58 AM
  • Dan
    What're you talking about? That was a GREAT game. Why you gotta be so hard on Soap? My favorite part is when we started to play them 9 on 11. It's so nice to see the team playing like a unit, not making mistakes, executing plays flawlessly, and Alex Smith not overthrowing his targets. I can't believe there was not one interception. Usually we try to tip the ball to the defense so they can catch it easier, but this time they just let it bounce. I guess the Raiders just didn't want to win that one. Every other team we've played so far took advantage of every mistake we made and looked like champions doing it. I guess you have to at least consider they were on their 2nd string QB and RB. Anyway Jeff, nice job not taking any, ok maybe a couple, cheap shots at the coach. I saw the coaching mistakes too, it must've been tough to keep from ranting all over the place. A win's a win though, and we have to accept reality and treat it like a good thing.
    Oct 19, 2010 at 8:36 AM

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