Two days till the 49ers open the 2011 season at home against the Seattle Seahawks. But a virtual Iron Curtain has been erected around 4949 Centennial Blvd. by new coach Jim Harbaugh and nobody has any idea what kind of offense or defense we will be seeing on Sunday.
The useless defensive secondary from last year has been entirely replaced for this opening game, with three FAs starting along with a guy who wasn’t a starter last year. We’ll also have a new starter at ILB, at LOLB, at LDE, and a position change at NT. Put another way, only three players will be occupying the same starting position on defense as last year — Patrick Willis, Parys Haralson, and Justin Smith.
Now that I’ve put it that way, it makes me nervous. We could see a lot of camera shots of two guys looking at each other after a ridiculous dent has occurred against them, shrugging and doing the old “I thought you were …”
The offense has virtually the same cast as last year, with only a new guy at center and, sooner or later, at wide receiver. But there’s another new offensive system in place and we might see the receiver going one way and the pass going the other all too often in the early games. What we will definitely not see is the kind of well oiled machine trotted out Thursday night by both the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks are not reputed to be a juggernaut offensively or defensively, so this game is winnable for our guys, even if there are some growing pains involved. It’s a bit of a GPS game for the 49ers, since it’s a home game against a division foe. A loss here would make the season look like a long brutal affair ahead. A win, especially a decisive one, would give some hope of getting to the bye week with a winning record and a shot at the division title.
This game is important for style points, too. 49er fans have a massive crush on Harbaugh going into the season. One loss is not going to completely turn off the faithful, but a loss accomplished by a non-interesting offensive show, the kind we have grown accustomed to puking over the past six years, would definitely leave some first date scars.
A loss Sunday would also expose Harbaugh to some brutal and cynical questions from the edgy beat writers who are less than pleased with the news blackout that has been installed at team HQ. These guys don’t like being Outsiders. How Harbaugh handles tough questions after a loss is always a GPS indicator for fans, but we sincerely hope not to have this critical moment occur after the very first stinking game.
When your team has been lousy for eight years, a sizeable throng of boo birds tend to collect in the stadium rafters. A loss Sunday will bring them swooping down onto the field with a vengeance. A loss that is accomplished because Alex Smith throws three interceptions and limps in with a QBR of 29.2 would make the blogarena look like a scene out of The Birds.
So it’s two more days to bask in the Wow We Signed Jim Harbaugh glow. Soak it up, guys. Come Sunday, reality arrives and there better be gold in them thar hills. Or at least a few shiny, hopeful nuggets. Go Niners!!!