It would be ironic if the 49ers won the two hard games of this closing three game playoff push and then lost the easy game. And there are words a bit stronger and more pithy than “ironic” that could come into play should such a result occur.
Kansas City over Green Bay. Colts over Titans. Rams over Saints. The only sure thing in sports is Lucy over Charlie Brown.
But it is the final weekend of the 2011 regular season, and the chances of the team stumbling over this exclamation point to an awesome year seems remote. I would expect the 49ers to be fired up to finish strong and earn a week off before the fateful first playoff game in San Francisco since the epic 39-38 victory over the Giants in 2002.
There were three 12-4 teams in the NFC that year, with Green Bay having to settle for the Wild Card round, like we hope the Saints will have to do this year with a gaudy 13-3 record. Similar results would be okay, too. Green Bay was destroyed at home by a 9-6-1 Atlanta team led by Michael Vick. It was the first time Green Bay had ever lost a home playoff game and the first time Brett Farve had ever lost a game when the temperature was below 35 degrees.
Good old sports. It keeps track of and quantifies failure and success like nothing else on the planet this side of NASA. But NASA is closed to the public. Sports is not.
There’s been some speculation about whether Alex Smith is good enough to win a playoff game. It’s kind of a silly postulation. Of course he is and of course he can. Far worse QBs than Alex have won playoff games and far better QBs have lost them. Can he win one all by himself if his team is not the best one on the field? No. And neither can Tom Brady, who has lost his last two playoff games at home. Johnny Unitas was beaten in the Championship game by Frank Ryan. Unitas put up zero points that game. Joe Montana lost seven times in the playoffs.
It’s easier to have a great team if you have a great quarterback. But building such a team is mostly sheer luck — luck of the draft, or in Arizona’s recent case, luck of signing a supposedly washed up QB and being forced to play him because your supposed Franchise QB got injured. Most teams have to win championships the old fashioned way — by having a superior team. Especially on defense. Big time offensive teams with poor defenses almost never win championships.
A year ago, Green Bay barely qualified for the post season, having to win on the final day to get in. This year, either the Giants or the Cowboys will barely get in with a last game win. Of those two, the Giants are the most dangerous threat to Green Bay. They have the ability to rush the passer and shut down the one dimensional Green Bay offense.
The other dangerous team for Green Bay is our very own 49ers. They have the best defense in the league and they can run the ball. Green Bay’s defense is much better defending against the pass than they are defending the run. They assume they will be ahead, forcing the other team to pass. When they are behind, as they were in Kansas City, they are vulnerable. The 49er safeties are vulnerable, too, and it will take a strong pass rush to protect them.
But first there is the Rams game and the Wild Card weekend. If things go as expected, we’ll have a bye week and two weeks to prepare for the Saints at Candlestick in the Divisional Round. The eight year playoff drought is over!