The 49ers defense gave up 458 yards Sunday to one of the worst offenses in the league. Shameful. They deserved to lose and were lucky to get a tie.
This is the fourth time in nine games that the defensive front seven has been pushed around. It happened at Minnesota, and three times at home against the Giants, Seattle, and now the Rams. It’s the same bunch of guys that was impenetrable last year, so you have to wonder if they are aging or just not playing with the same fire. I suppose we’ll get a partial answer when the Bears come to town next Monday night.
Some rust from the long layoff was to be expected, or feared, and the team did indeed sleep walk through the first quarter. The defense gave up fourteen points and the offense didn’t get into sync until the third possession. That drive ended with another Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree touchdown, and it looked like the team was regaining control. But that would be the last contribution either player made in the game. Smith came out with a concussion and Crabtree never caught another pass from backup QB Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick looked lost for a quarter and a half, but found some rhythm in the fourth quarter and the team managed to score two quick TDs to suddenly take the lead, only to watch the defense then allow the Rams to march the length of the field and regain it, aided by the second successful fake punt the Rams used on the day. After a 49er FG to tie the game, the two teams then played an entire quarter of overtime with neither of them scoring a point.
I suppose it could be viewed as a gritty effort to fight back and gain a tie, but the Rams had not scored more than 20 points all year and the Niner defense gave them 24 and, but for some killer penalties, it could have been more.
Last year’s 49er team played with spunk all year, fighting hard for each precious victory. They are the hunted this year, though, a team respected enough for other teams to get fired up to play them. The 2012 Niners are getting out-fired up and, in three instances, out-coached. They were out-coached and out-tricked Sunday by a Rams coach who was not afraid to try anything to win, including a fake punt from his own end zone.
Perhaps fitting in what seems to be a strange NFL season, the inglorious effort by the 49ers Sunday actually gained them a half point in the playoff seeding race. All three of the teams ahead of them lost — the Giants, Falcons, and Bears. But the reality is that this should have been a no-brainer win and it didn’t happen.
With road games ahead against the Patriots, Rams, Seahawks, and Saints, the playoff seeding issue could degenerate into a desperately trying to make the playoffs at all issue. It will be a nervous week around Niner HQ waiting to find out the severity of Smith’s concussion. To his credit, Kaepernick played well under pressure, but if teams take away his runs, the 49er offense is going to grind to a halt. And if the 49er defense can’t stop the run anymore, the season will grind to a halt, also.