Divisional Round

Defense trumped offense in the NFC Divisional round, while offense stomped defense in the AFC.

It’s a strange year. The Jaguars were known for their defense during the season, but gave up 44 points to the 49ers in the next to last game of the regular season, then coughed up 42 to the Steelers on Sunday. This is not how I remember great defenses performing.

We’re going to have either Case Keenum or Nick Foles playing QB in the Super Bowl. Could the Football Gods have possibly handed the Patriots an easier path to another Lombardi? Depressing.

It was enjoyable watching the Steelers trip over their own arrogance yet again. The failed 4th and inches play call has got to be one of the dumbest plays in history. You’ve got a 6 foot 4 inch, 240 pound QB who could gain six inches on a sneak just about anytime he tried, but you call a pitch to the RB instead. Everyone in the world was conceding the sneak at that moment, but the Steelers have demonstrated all year a disturbing disconnect, as though nobody is in charge when it really matters. Maybe it’s time Mike Tomlin stepped aside.

The only advice I can give to the four remaining teams is: If you have a guy named Williams on your team, make sure he’s not on the field in the fourth quarter. The Saints’ Marcus Williams joined the 49ers’ Kyle Williams as big time playoff goats Sunday. Making Monday morning the worst day either one of them will ever experience waking up and not being able to make themselves go away.

Kyle Williams, BTW, went on to get a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos after the 2015 season. At the time of the victory, he was recuperating from a torn Achilles tendon and did not play in the game. Hidden moments of history.

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Posted in Vacant Observations

Wild Card Weak End

The first wave of pretenders were tossed aside over the weekend. The Rams, Chiefs, Bills, and Panthers all swung and missed. And see you next year.

Of the four losers, only the Panthers had a realistic hope of getting to the Super Bowl. The rest were just playoff fodder.

The 49ers played four of the wild card teams during the season, losing to the Rams and Panthers, and winning against the Jaguars, Titans, and Rams in the year end rematch that the Rams failed to attend. Both losses, of course, occurred during the pre-Garoppoloan era, when anybody who could field 22 guys could beat the Niners.

The Jax/Bills game was a true QB clinic. Tyrod Taylor: 17/37 for 134 yards and Blake Bortles: 12/23 for 87 yards. Bortles had more yards rushing (88) than passing. He demonstrated every conceivable way to throw an inconceivably ugly pass. His receivers were working overtime to not display a WTF!! face as they watched balls wind up everywhere but anywhere near them.

The Falcons were the final team to qualify in the NFC, but probably have the easiest path to the Title game. First they got the not-ready-for-prime-time Rams and next week they get the crippled Eagles. New Orleans had to beat the Panthers and next week travel to Minnesota.

The AFC has virtually no drama until the Title game weekend. The only thing the Steelers and Patriots have to worry about in their games next weekend is injuries to star players. Not to be a cretin, but if the Titan defense could manage to break one of Brady’s legs next Sunday, I would gladly tolerate listening all week to the whining and wailing coming out of Foxboro, MA. After all, who doesn’t want to see Brian Hoyer leading his team to the Super Bowl?

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Posted in Around the League

49ers 34, Rams 13

The Rams laid down like dogs, to quote possibly the only memorable thing Phil Simms ever said. With 17 substitutions to their starting lineup, they were no match for the rejuvenated 49ers, who easily swamped the B squad from L.A. to close out the season on a five game winning streak.

Unless this late season surge turns out to be a mirage, or Jed York does something unspeakably stupid this offseason, it looks like 2017 will be the year power in the NFC West turned upside down. The Seahawks and Cardinals have owned the division the past four years, but neither made the playoffs this year and both look to be trending downward, while the Rams and 49ers are trending upward. Next year, we might see the natural order restored, with the Rams and Niners battling for division supremacy like they did for most of their 20th century rivalry.

The AFC playoffs look like a drab affair that will come down to the Patriots and Steelers yet again, while the other teams thrash around harmlessly in the background. The NFC is much more competitive. Five of the six entrants won at least 11 games this year, with Atlanta winning 10. And any one of them could end up in the Super Bowl.

The 49er offense finally crawled out of the sewer this year, finishing 20th in points and 12th in yardage. The defensive improvement was much more modest, finishing 25th in points allowed and 24th in yardage.

For the first time in four years, the 49ers will not be firing their head coach at season’s end. So far, not yet one day into 2018, the Lions, Colts, and Raiders have all handed out pink slips. Before the week is out, there will undoubtedly be more.

Stability has returned to Centennial Blvd. How long will it last this time around?

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Posted in Post Game Spread

49ers 44, Jaguars 33

The 49ers ran their late season winning streak to four games Sunday, beating the Jaguars and improving their record to 5-10.

Before the game started, the Rams beat the Titans, which clinched the AFC South for Jacksonville and the NFC West for Los Angeles, thus ensuring the Niners would finish the season with two games against teams with nothing to play for.

The Jaguars spent the first quarter looking like a team that wanted to be popping champagne, not popping shoulder pads with a lesser species. When the score hit 16-0, Jacksonville appeared to regain their dignity and promptly ran off 19 unanswered points to take a three point lead.

Then QB Blake Bortles turned into qb blake bortles, the old model of Bortledom, who couldn’t play a lick. Two more interceptions to go with the first half pick six and suddenly the Niners were up 37-19 in the fourth quarter. The Jags rallied a bit, but it was too little too late.

Still, before Jimmy Garoppolo came along, the 49ers could lose to anybody who threw 22 guys out on the field to play them. But if you don’t bring your A game at them now, you’re going to get beat. Just ask Jacksonville. When they’re done celebrating their first trip to the postseason since 2003.

The rest of the league has not had to pay much attention to the new Niners, but that will not be the case next year.

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49ers 25, Titans 23

It appears the 49ers have finally located a QB.

In three games as the starter, Jimmy Garoppolo has been virtually unstoppable. He’s had two 300+ yard passing games, an almost extinct achievement this century. Two 4th quarter game winning drives with less than two minutes to play. Three straight victories.

The only thing slowing him down so far is the opponents’ twenty yard line. In seven trips there on Sunday, only once did the Niners reach the end zone. Yet somehow, the kicker who missed a chip shot game winning FG two years ago for Chicago, Robbie Gould, has transformed himself into Adam Vinatieri, hitting 15 straight FGs and two game winners in the past three victories. Yesterday, Gould hit six three pointers.

Also emerging from sustained obscurity is TE Garrett Celek. He has labored for six years as the 49er also ran TE, used mainly for blocking, while the team tried to turn Vance McDonald into a big time player. But since Garoppolo took the helm, Celek has looked almost Gronk-like, catching big pass after big pass.

Marquise Goodwin caught 10 passes for 116 yards Sunday, but just about any guy they throw out there as a receiver has made plays. Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor — none of these fellows is a household name even to themselves. But they’ve all made an impact in the past three games.

With four wins, the team has doubled its total from last season. The first upward movement in almost four years. If they add any more in the final two games, it will be at the expense of the 10-4 Jaguars and/or the 10-4 Rams. Each of those teams absolutely destroyed their opponents Sunday, with the Rams beating the 49er nemesis Seahawks 42-7 in Seattle and the Jaguars stomping Houston 45-7. Garoppolo beat Houston 26-16 last Sunday, but has yet to face the Seahawks.

Anyway you look at it, the NFC West is undergoing a seismic shift in talent this year. The Seahawks and Cardinals are falling, and the Rams and 49ers are rising. Actually, the Rams have already risen. The 49ers will have to wait until next year to see how much of a contender they will be.

At the moment, however, they are definitely trending upward.

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Posted in Post Game Spread
2017 Schedule
Sept. 10: vs Carolina: L 3-23
Sept. 17: at Seattle: 9-12
Sept. 21: vs. L.A. Rams: L 39-41
Oct. 1: at Arizona: L 15-18
Oct. 8: at Indianapolis: L 23-26
Oct. 15: at Washington: L 24-26
Oct. 22: vs. Dallas: L 10-40
Oct. 29: at Philadelphia: L 10-33
Nov. 5: vs. Arizona: L 10-20
Nov. 12: vs. N.Y. Giants: W 31-21
Week 11 — Bye
Nov. 26: vs. Seattle: L 13-24
Dec. 3: at Chicago: W 15-14
Dec. 10: at Houston: W 26-16
Dec. 17: vs. Tennessee: W 25-23
Dec. 24: vs. Jacksonville: W 44-33
Dec. 31: at L.A. Rams: W 34-13
2017 Draft Class
1. DE Solomon Thomas
1. ILB Reuben Foster
3. CB Ahkello Witherspoon
3. QB C.J. Beathard
4. RB Joe Williams
5. TE George Kittle
5. WR Trent Taylor
6. DT D.J. Jones
6. LB Pita Taumoepenu
7. CB Adrian Colbert
2017 Prognostications
NJ49er: 6-10
Skeebers: 6-10
Bullit: 5-11
Mr Fletch: 5-11
RTFirefly: 5-11
Chuck: 9-7
Grumpy: 4-12
Rob: 9-7
Winder: 4-12