Monday, December 19, 2011

The End Of The Fun Part

Alex totally aced that Wonderlic test back in the day. Which means he's super smart.
Which is good, because you need to know how to do Calculus to keep track of how often
he's been sacked in the last three games. Looks like that's what he's doing.

Man it's been great to see the 49ers surge back into the land of the relevant this season. Figuring out how comically easy they could (and almost did) clinch a division title and guarantee the first home playoff game in virtually a decade was downright fun. Watching a bad team turn quickly into a good team always is. Especially when it's yours.


Quickly, though, everything switches. They've done so well (for the most part) and won so many games in a row that it becomes harder to accept losses when they finally come. Doubly so now, because losses are more significant. Being back amongst the pretty good teams means playoffs, and being a playoff team means no longer being able to end the year on a high note, as 8-8 teams winning their home finale get to do. Being a good team means there's an 11/12 chance you will end the year screaming impotently at your TV, beseeching your God of choice, and wondering aloud why the hell didn't they keep the ball on the ground and run that clock down another minute before punting. Or why did they waste that beautiful play action pass that deked even the cameraman by throwing to the third string tight end instead of the main wide receiver. And dreaming of what might have been. And hoping the other team's QB gets caught with a dead hooker and is arrested before their next game so that fan base feels the same anguish you now do. Fuck them.

This is the time of the season where it ceases to be about how far a bad team has come to become good, but instead about where a good team falls short of being a great team, with one exception. Unless the 49ers are good enough to win the Super Bowl -- and they're most likely not -- the end of their season is going to piss me off. The funny thing about a season where "getting back into the playoffs" is good enough to be a successful season is that along the way it becomes not good enough anymore. Around March or so I'll be able to look back and be happy that they've gotten back to this point, but right now, no. They have a chance at the #2 Seed. They could actually win a playoff game, not just be in one.

A chance, by the way, that got a lot slimmer last week. I've been seeing the end of the fun part of this season coming since Thanksgiving, when a short week meant my personal nemesis, Chilo Rachal, was back out their playing guard, and not only did the Offensive Line go back to stinking as is predictable with him out there, but he also was part of a chop block that wiped out an early big bomb TD that would've totally changed the tone of that game and, yes, might have meant that the 49ers could've won that one. Not that anyone who doesn't follow the 49ers knows who the hell Chilo Rachal is or why he makes that much a negative difference. It was their first nationally televised game of the season, and they lost, so the talking point becomes "were the 49ers exposed?" No, of course they weren't. Short week, Ravens are really good, injury, Nobody Wins Every Game, etc.

Except maybe they were, because the offensive line has kinda stunk in the two following games, too. Maybe the offense is trying to get too cute with play selection in the Red Zone, too, but here's the bottom line, and I'm going to start a new paragraph with it just so it stands out that little be more, because it needs to:

The 49ers have had a drive START at the other team's 5 yard line and end in a field goal. TWO WEEKS IN A ROW. AGAINST TEAMS IN THEIR OWN SHITTY-ASS DIVISION.

That's abysmal. Especially for what is ostensibly a smash mouth power running team that hitches its wagon to Frank Gore and spends 1/4th of the game in a jumbo package with Defensive Linemen coming out of the woodwork to report eligible and play H-Back. They got away with it against the Giants and Rams. It finally caught up to them against Arizona (against which they had a second drive start in their red zone and end in a field goal. Why yes they lost by two points and either one of those drives being a TD would've meant a win instead). It sure as shit will catch up with them tonight and again in the playoffs. The OL has not been good enough, and I can't just pin it all on Chilo Rachal anymore.

Losing to the Cardinals because they're the f'n Cardinals is problematic enough as it is. What's really concerning is the Cardinals, due to the roots of their coaching staff, basically run a junior version of the Dick LeBeau Blitzburgh defense that is in town tonight. Which is to say they now have to deal with the Big Nasty Grown Up version of the defensive scheme that's already shown it can push them around.

So here we are, the end of the fun part. Another national televised game against one of the Real Teams. And from a playoff positioning standpoint, the Steelers need this game as bad as the 49ers do. Win out and they get home field advantage. Lose this and they're a wild card team and play all their games on the road. The 49ers have their division sewn up, but they need to win out to keep the #2 seed, so a loss here means a long road. Or a short road, more likely, because it will begin and end in New Orleans, probably by halftime. I have to laugh at all this Ben Roethlisberger "game time decision" nonsense fake drama NFL talking heads are trying to create. There is no fucking way the Steelers can afford to rest him. Unless his leg has fallen off or his Yinzer has gotten permanently wedged in a 19 year old girl, he's fucking playing. James Harrison suspension aside, all hands have to be on deck for Pittsburgh. They have too much to gain or lose this week. There will be no asterisk, or mercy, or cut corners. The 49ers will get to measure themselves against the Real Steelers and will have to beat them. And the whole country will see it one way or the other.

This isn't quite a playoff game in terms of eliminating the loser directly, of course. But they're playing for the same thing, in essence. The loser will be a low seed, look more like a "just IN the playoffs" team for losing tonight, and due to that lower positioning will more likely be just that. The winner gets a bye, a home game, and at minimum not have to face The End Of The Fun Part until conference championship week. It's a little more important for the 49ers, though. Pittsburgh's been here for a while, and have earned national respect by continually being here. The 49ers are newly back, and not quite nationally known. If the 49ers lose, all of the above applies plus "lol one and done" "lol exposed" and "lol just the best of a shitty division" and "lol not for real". Nationally nobody knows, or cares, that the 8 game win streak was against the rest of the league instead of the shitty division, or that Detroit was undefeated or the Giants had a commanding division lead until the 49ers knocked them off. There are no quality wins anymore, unless of course they get one tonight.

The fun part of the season has ended. There is only the relief -- not thrill -- of victory, and the potential agony of a defeat that renders most of this season's accomplishments all but moot.


Hail Sabin said...

I'm loving Aldon Smith's play tonight he probably by himself got me in the championship game in my keeper league.

You guys winning tonight will hopefully light a fire under my Packers asses against the Bears on Xmas after there terrible showing against the Chiefs.

Whiouxsie said...

I lied. Tonight ended up being FUN.

Yeah, Aldon's been a wonderful bonus this season. Hearing Gruden compare him to Charles Haley all night was interesting, partly because I see a little of it too, but also because Haley last played for the 49ers literally 20 years ago, and it really does seem like it's been that long since they've had a pass rusher this good.