This Almost Gave Me Heart Trouble.So the 49ers sorta handled business against the St. Louis Rams, which against the Rams is more than sufficient, and became the first team to clinch their division this season, beating out the Packers by about 20 minutes (shout out to Jeff Triplette, head referee for the crew handling said Packers @ Giants game, for calling enough penalties to give himself enough face time to slow down the game enough to make sure the 49ers finished theirs way earlier. Couldn't have done it with out ya, bro!). 26-0, the game was never in doubt beyond "how lopsided will the final score line be?" and it was even more lopsided than 26-0 would indicate.
Well not quite, but it was spooky.
Well not quite, but it was spooky.
And, with a home playoff game now guaranteed and a first round bye still possible, the transition can officially be made to whining about style points, the other side to the coin that is Sizing Up Playoff Opponents.
I was interested to see how the 49ers reacted to failure, after losing for the first time in a long time on Thanksgiving to the Ravens. Unfortunately it's hard to gauge that from a game against the Rams because, well, they're an NFC West team, and as such make for a very inaccurate barometer. Every positive from this game is shackled to a massive boulder of salt, the kind of natural phenomena you go to a National Park and take pictures of yourself or your offspring climbing the fuck all over it. And it wasn't even the full strength Rams, either; it was the Rams with AJ Feely at QB. You shut them out? So what, you SHOULD shut them out.
26-0 isn't enough against the Rams. Not when Vernon Davis drops a wide open touchdown pass (cruelly fitting that it was Alex's best throw of the day, although the deep bomb redeux worked on the next possession to Michael Crabtree, who amazingly is finally getting a little better each week). Not when Adam Snyder has healed from the injuries that kept him out of the Thanksgiving game and thus Shilo Rachal has been exiled back to the far end of the bench where he belongs. Not when one drive starts at THEIR 5 yard line and leads to a field goal, because the Jumbo Package with all the bonus linemen, for as often as the 49ers use it, doesn't actually work all that well. Frank Gore can't get 1 yard with 9 guys blocking for him? Not when the offense gets called for delay of game THREE TIMES. At home. With 3 extra days of preparation. This won't be good enough when the Saints come out here in January. Field Goals won't be enough.
There's some good news, at least. Aldon Smith has turned out to be more than worth the first round draft picks. Two more sacks and a forced fumble. He's actually a good pass rush specialist. I can't remember the last time the 49ers had one. Charles Haley? That was literally 20 years ago now. Also, Kyle Williams has continued to blossom and is filling in nicely as the third down chain moving receiver I thought they'd miss sorely when Josh Morgan was lost for the year. Also, MISTER PATRICK WILLIS "only" has a grade II strain of his hamstring, which isn't quite as bad as I first feared. You knew something was up immediately because he missed the tackle on that play. WILLIS never misses tackles. He just doesn't. WILLIS' hands on you = you go down. When that didn't happen I was not so surprised that he did not get immediately back up. I was worried, though, and for several minutes my vocabulary shrunk to "shit" and "fuck" and the variants thereof. The next man up played well enough, but WILLIS is a perpetual pro bowler. He and NAVORRO BOWMAN are the best inside LB tandem in the game. Any hope of slowing down an elite offense in a playoff game enough to give the 49ers a puncher's chance of victory stems from having both them out there.
Fortunately, there is now no need to try and rush him back.