The Brad Seely era got off to an astounding start in San Francisco Sunday, as token HC Jim Harbaugh managed to keep the game close and allow Assistant HC Seely’s special teams units to dominate the game against the Seattle Seahawks, bringing home a narrow 33-17 victory.
The ghost of Mike Singletary must still be haunting Candlestick, because this game looked a whole lot like the games we saw the past two years. With QBs all over the league dropping back to pass 40 or so times a game, Alex Smith did so a mere 20 times. This was a run first, conservative game plan all the way. And like the Singletary years, it almost got us beat.
The defense dominated the Seahawks in the first half, but began to tire in the second half and midway through the fourth quarter a 16-0 halftime lead was suddenly a mere 19-17 two point nail-biter. Visions of a quick three and out by the 49er offense, followed by an efficient little Seattle field goal drive against our fading defense, and a bitter 20-19 loss was staring us in the face.
Game hero and oft maligned Ted Ginn then turned into Superman and put 14 points on the board in less than one minute. A 102 yard kickoff return, followed by a 55 yard punt return. Wow. Thank you, Teddy. Can you do that every game? We might need it.
It’s a win, though. Something we didn’t experience until game six in 2010. Send some flowers to the schedule makers for getting Seattle at home this year, instead of on the road like last year. Does anybody doubt we would have lost this game if it had been in Seattle? And maybe lost it big?
While the running game was going nowhere, the pass protection held up surprisingly well. It’s a puzzlement why we didn’t throw more often. We’ll certainly need to air it out next week, when the Cowboys come to town. They torched the vaunted Jets pass defense pretty good Sunday night, until Tony Romo decided to self-destruct in the 4th quarter. The Niners’ pass defense is not usually mentioned in the same breath as the Jets pass defense, so it is not hard to wince when envisioning what might happen next week at Candlestick.
It’s a new feeling, though, being somewhat disappointed with a win. With Singletary, any win was cause for rejoicement. Chalk this up to the offseason blather about Harbaugh’s magical hidden offense. Yesterday, Harbaugh just played trench ball, looking for a win and nothing more. Perhaps it was first date jitters. Bringing his act to the doorsteps of the NFL and not trying any moves in the backseat, or going for a good-night grope. Just showing his respect to the Big Time arena with a polite, buttoned-down effort.
In fairness, Seattle may not have much of an offense, but their defense is rock solid. Our own defense looked good Sunday, but a truer test will be next week’s Cowboy’s game, a team that actually has an NFL offense. That game looks to be the litmus test for how competitive the 2011 49ers are likely to be.
The team is going to get better as the year goes along, but if that betterment is described next Monday with the words “light years” or “a whole heaping bunch,” it will not bode well for our division title hopes. On the other hand, perhaps we’ll only be saying “slightly” or “reasonably.” In that case, I’ll probably be more excited by a close loss than I am this week with a close win.
Unless, of course, we beat the Cowboys. In which case, I will not be the only one going, “WTF!!”