A funny thing happened on the 49ers journey toward the number one pick in the 2016 draft. They screwed up and won a game against the fading Atlanta Falcons. Little did they know that their much maligned backup QB Blaine Gabbert would step in and play like a normal type NFL QB. We hadn’t seen any decent QBing in these parts for quite some time.
With Gabbert getting the ball out quickly and decisively, strangely enough, he was not sacked even once. The rest of the team, coincidentally or infectiously, played with an enthusiasm not seen since the opening game against Minnesota.
Each team in the league gets what is affectionately called an “Any Given Sunday” game on its schedule. For good teams, this is the egg layer game. For bad teams, this is the WTF We Won game. It’s the only explanation available for the Niners winning Sunday. They were starting two CBs hauled up from the Practice Squad and Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan should have eaten them alive. Especially with the deep passing attack. Instead, Ryan dinkity-dunked at them all day and came away with only sixteen points. Go figure.
The Niners also held the league’s leading rusher Devonta Freeman to 10 yards on 10 carries, and the Falcon team to a gaspingly teensy 17 total rushing yards in the game. They also sacked Ryan twice and applied pressure on him the whole game. Who are these guys?
For a shocking change, the offense stepped up in this game, too. All it took to revive the worst offense in the league was having all its running backs get hurt and signing two guys off the street and one up from the practice squad. These no-names managed 133 yards for the game, more than any game this year except the initial Vikings game. Appropriately, RB coach Tom Rathman was given a Game Ball afterwards. They should have given one to Atlanta HC Dan Quinn, too. He punted twice in 49er territory and chickened out on winning the game on 4th and goal from the two at the end. This was the sort of timid effort that got the previous coach, Mike Smith, ushered out of town.
But it was Gabbert’s inspirational play that lit the fuse for this bedraggled group. He spread fifteen completions around to six different receivers, threw two pin-point TDs, stood strong in the pocket, and managed the game like a seasoned veteran instead of a league cast off.
So the Niners enter their BYE week with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, but it might be worth noting that they did not score any points in the second half. And the first game after the BYE will be in Seattle, where the entire mirage is likely to come crashing back to earth.
More importantly for the future, this game will feed owner Jed York‘s whisper campaign that the season has been a failure because of Colin Kaepernick. GM Trent Baalke will also be pushing this agenda, since it distracts from the awful job he’s done this past year. There might not be any 49er game this coming week, but there will no doubt be a heightened roar of whispers to feed the PR monkey.