Sunday, January 15, 2012


I don't know if I'll ever have the right words to describe how I felt at about 5:20 pm local time yesterday. I'm going to try.

Yes, that's Alex Smith. That's the hero of the game, Alex fucking Smith, sprinting to the end zone on a designed QB run from 30 yards out.

And that's Vernon Davis, crying his eyes out after scoring THE MOTHERFUCKIN' WINNING TOUCHDOWN.

I thought they could win this game. I hoped it but I did not dare predict it. I figured they would need close to a best case scenario which, for the first 20 minutes, they did. Turnovers flowed like Napa County Wine. Donte Whitner looked like he had become the new host body for the soul of Ronnie Lott, blasting Pierre Thomas on the 2 yard line on the Saints' opening drive, knocking the ball loose by literally knocking Thomas out with what Ronnie would call a OOOO hit (because everyone watching the game says OOOOO when they see it). Thomas did not return to the game. Dashon Goldson picked Drew Brees off. Special Teams blasted the ball loose on a kickoff. Terrell Brown grabbed an interception. 4 first half turnovers. Even when they punted, Andy Lee flipped field position as he has done all year long. The 49ers D ascribes to a bend don't break approach, enhanced by Lee forcing the other team to have to go 90 yards repeatedly to score. The odds are, in covering all that territory, the offense will eventually make a mistake. Miss a block, drop a pass, slip on the turf. The 49ers made their breaks in this game and got some others. Marquis Colston, for instance, dropped the ball on that deep post pattern he likes to run where he out leaps everyone at the goal line. Carlos Rogers stuck to him like flypaper, knocking balls down, wearing #22 and looking for all the world like Dwight Hicks (or Darell Revis, for you younger folk out there). Ahmad Brooks and The Smiths -- Aldon and Justin -- recorded sacks, and when Justin couldn't get to Brees, he bull-rushed the lineman blocking him back into Brees, then reached over and around the lineman to grab a hold of Brees, shaking him enough to make a 3rd down pass wobble harmlessly.

But the best case scenario never lasts. Turnovers must become like a squirrel's foraging; stowing acorns in bundles of 7 for the upcoming winter of bad breaks and the other team making plays.

5 total turnovers in the game, and the 49ers only scored 13 points off of them.
The Saints converted 3rd downs regularly, even a couple on the ground.
Once again, a drive started in the red zone and ended in a field goal.
Andy Lee punted 4 times in the second half.
The Saints won the time of possession battle.
An injury to center Jonathan Goodwin forced someone else to slide over, and temporarily forced the Abominable Turnstile, Chilo Rachal, into the game. Predictably, sacks followed.
Michael Crabtree started dropping balls again.

All these were things I thought would spell the 49ers' doom before the game. I thought a win would mean those things Could Not Happen. That goes double for this next one: the 49ers surrendered 30+ points for the first time all season. Anything above 21 sounded like too much; 32 would mean the offense didn't sustain long clock-eating drives (sho' nuff, they didn't). 32 points meant the bend but don't break defense finally broke under the strain of the offense kicking too many field goals. And, really, in the last few minutes of the game, the defense did at last start to fracture. 2 long catch and run TDs by the Saints as Goldson came up to make the hit, rather than the wrap, on Darren Sproles and then Jimmy Graham, who both evaded him. Even the shining light of the defense for years, the mighty MISTER PATRICK WILLIS, missed a tackle on Graham, after being unable to cover him. When PATRICK WILLIS misses a tackle, we have learned as fans that it is just not our day.

Yet they won, because the unforeseeable happened. No one could have dared dream, let alone predict, that the 49ers would win a game because Alex Smith put the whole damn team on his back in the last 4 minutes and fucking willed the team to victory like real quarterbacks do. You just can't account for shit like that in a pre-game analysis. Its like aliens landing to give an intergalactic message of peace during half time. Real Aliens, not bullshit dudes in foil jump suits pretending to be aliens like that one Super Bowl half time show in the 70s or whatever.

Alex Smith: Hero. I never thought I'd type that. Even this year, improved as he is, he's been the sort of QB derided as a Game Manager. They won because Alex Avoided The Big Fuck-Up, only throwing 5 interceptions all year (and fumbling a couple times). After not-losing 13 times, Alex had to play to win the game. And he DID.

After Sproles sprinted to 24-23 and the Saints' first lead of the game with 4 minutes left, the 49ers moribund second half offense took the field behind their own 20. Then suddenly, the swing passes to Kendall Hunter were open. Crabtree remembered how to catch. And then, the 49ers encountered the Yellow Card to their Green Lantern; the red zone. 3rd and 2 quickly became 3rd and 7 when Bruce Miller joined the huddle too quickly, becoming the 12th man in it. I hoped for a field goal. I dreaded a sack and an interception. Instead, I got a fucking designed QUARTERBACK SHOTGUN SWEEP around the left side as Alex Smith loped like a gazelle for the first down. And then he kept going. And going. He balanced perfectly down the sideline. He lept over a dude.

And Ancient, Decaying Candlestick's foundations creaked their approval.
Even the ghosts of past glory shrieked in joy.

Alex has been on the team for 7 years, and this sort of thing has happened like 3 times. Bear that in mind, because this score came with just over 2 minutes left. Or in other words, after a failed 2 point conversion, the 49ers gave Drew Brees the ball back with over 2 minutes left. Now all of you are no doubt thinking what I was thinking; "that's way too much fucking time to give Drew Brees." As described above, Jimmy Graham scored again, the Saints hit their 2-pt play, and the 49ers were down by 3 with 1:39 left. 2 minutes? Brees barely needed 2 plays.

And that is the final, unpredictable irony of the upside down ending to this game. As it turns out, Drew Brees left too much time on the clock for Alex Smith.

1 time out left and the 49ers never used it. They came to the line agonizingly slowly for the hurry up offense as Gore caught short passes. The clock bled under a minute in just two plays, and just as I'm getting ready to bad mouth the offense's futility, Alex hits a bomb to Vernon Davis, who gets 40 yards and the sideline. Frank Gore explodes for the one and only time in the game, as he gets 30, and the 49ers clock it. And then, with 9 seconds left, Alex hits VD on the goal line. Davis leaps, plows over Roman Harper, left crumpled in a heap, and scores the winning touchdown.

You could almost see the phantom image of Steve Young to Terrel Owens in January of 1999, more so with it being a shorter version of the same route, the same play, into the same North End Zone of the park. And, two failed attempts by New Orleans at running the Cal Rugby Play later, the first playoff game in 9 years ended in triumph. After taking 7 years to get 2 4th quarter winning drives, Alex essentially did it twice in 1 game, which technically is a mathematical impossibility. But what sums up doing the impossible better than Alex Smith being the reason the 49ers won a playoff game?

[By the way; he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.]

There are new heroes. There will be a new generation of ghosts to sit in the faded orange plastic seats of Candlestick here in its final years. And for the moment, there even seems to be a new The Catch. How many fan bases even have one "The" play to look back on fondly? We have more than our fair share, and win or lose next week, we just got richer yesterday. Let us never forget to appreciate it.


Raven Mack said...

Congrats Whiouxsie. I thought of the potential Alex Smith/Aaron Rodgers storyline next week, and when Vernon Davis was crying I thought about him crying all the time and Singletary's "can't win with him, can't do it" soundbite. Harbaugh seems the rare coach who can actually get that same total buy-in at the pro level that you usually see at college level. Oddly enough, as much as I hate the 49ers historically as conference heavyweights the same time the Skins were good under Gibbs, I can't help but pull for this team this year. Somehow it seems like a completely different thing to me.

Neil said...

Man, that must have felt amazing. I am jealous.

Also, for as great as Brady Hoke has been for Michigan so far, when I think of how close we probably were to getting Harbaugh I have to take a cold shower.

Blue Rhonda said...

I sat down to watch the game wanting the Saints to win. But even before the game started, when Huey started singing, I knew I had to be for the Niners. I couldn't help myself. It's a learned reaction. What a great game regardless of who won. I didn't watch any of the other games. I was afraid I would make fun of Tebow and be doomed to hell forever.

p.b. said...

NOOOOBODY. Sorry I had to do it