The upcoming 49er game against the Oakland Raiders has taken on a gruesome spectacle aura. Are the Niners really going to lose and see their record fall to 0-6? Is Alex Smith going to finally and completely go down in flames? Is Mike Singletary going to explode/implode? Is the team going to give up on itself? Wimp out. Shrug and say, “Never mind”?
Raider fans have not yet come anywhere near having the sort of high hopes that Niner fans carried into this season. Their team is finally showing signs of credibility and that is making the Raider season a success already. Last Sunday, they broke a 13 game losing streak to the San Diego Chargers. A loss to the Niners this Sunday will hurt, but it will not be devastating.
The Niners have no such luxury of modest expectations. Indeed, this season is bringing to a head the entire rebuilding effort begun in 2005 by Mike Nolan and carried forward since mid-2008 by Singletary. An 8-8 season this year would have been viewed by most fans as a tremendous disappointment. A LOSING season will be catastrophic. Especially a losing season that is as epic as this one is so far showing itself to be.
The fan in me wants to believe that the stage is set for one of the most compelling and dramatic seasons in 49er history. That the team will stop the bleeding Sunday and go on an extended winning streak, confounding the doomsayers and vultures that are circling Centennial Blvd. in ever growing hungry numbers. Putting together a season for the ages and maybe even an NFL Films classic.
For that to happen, Alex Smith will have to go out on the field Sunday and take control not only of the team, but the entire franchise. Not many people think this is even remotely possible, but not many people believed in Eli Manning in 2007, either.
Even if it is not possible, at least it is a requirement, and that alone makes this game Sunday a turning point for the 49ers franchise. Singletary is probably already done in these parts, but Smith still has life, however feeble his pulse at this point. He will either succeed and the team will become a force or he will fail and the team will die along with him. There is no way David Carr is going to rally this team. The most he can do is help it finish out the season.
That Smith knows he is down to his last chance is what makes this moment worth watching. For him, it is the defining moment in his NFL career. The game where he either cements himself as a franchise QB or begins the long, irrelevant journey of an NFL backup QB.
My wife thinks football is pretty stupid stuff. But when I tell her all the Lifetime Movie elements that this coming Sunday presents, I’m betting she sits down and watches a 49er game for the first time in her life.
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Yesterday, there was some discussion on this blog about Eagles RB LeSean McCoy’s 29 yard TD run against the Niners last Sunday. Matt Maiocco weighed in on this play and gave Abrayo Franklin, as well as some other Niner players, a thumbs down. 29 yard TD runs always have more than one culprit involved. It’s a team game. At any rate, for those of you who like to have your own opinion, or like to measure Maiocco’s reliabilty, or just like the pretty pictures, NoFear has coughed up the visual evidence for us below.
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NoFear’s Replay of McCoy’s 29 yard TD run