(By Daisy Barringer)
The hard part about being a girl, if I may, is that some people don't take you seriously. Like, when you get to the bar four hours early to request a certain game on a certain TV and then the bartender puts on the mostly meaningless Patriots game instead... after a couple of dudes walk in later and request it. Or how about when you politely ask the man standing right in front of if he wouldn't mind "scooching over a little bit," and throw his hands in your face and scream at you until he brings you to tears. That, right there, is crap. No matter. All of these things failed to dim the moment when the 49ers squeaks out a 23-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals, securing a spot in the playoffs and a visit to the 8-7-1 Packers in the NFC Wild Card game.
It was another nail biter, but this time for good reason. The Cardinals are a good team who’d won seven of their last eight games. Though a Cardinals win would have been meaningless since the Saints beat the Bucs, they had to play as though they had a shot at the playoffs. And they did.
The Niners came out hot and jumped to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. For whatever reason, the Cardinals put their best cornerback on Crabtree, giving Kaepernick the perfect opportunity to connect with Anquan Boldin. And they did. Boldin had 106 yards and a TD in the first fifteen minutes of the game. But then
Nothing. Phil Dawson ended his field goal streak when he missed an easy 24-yard field goal and Arizona rallied to tie the game with 3:20 left in the first. At this point, I more or less had a minor heart attack and seriously considered punching the aforementioned guy, the one who made me cry, in the face just because. Just because. But I didn't.
Luckily, Phil—I think we’re on a first name basis now, right?—shook off his missed field goal and kicked a 56-yarder to put the Niners up by three.
But then the Cardinals decided to take thirteen years off of my life by tying the game again with 34 seconds left.
I was going to have to stay in this bar of purgatory for overtime.
But clearly Phil felt my pain because, with the help of LaMichael James’ 45-yard kick off return and a phenomenal catch by rookie Quinton Patton, Dawson was able to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired. And I got to pay my tab and get the hell out of this Lake Tahoe dive.
The good thing is that the Niners were able to win a game with solid defense and a pretty good passing offense. We knew going in that Arizona’s run defense was sick, but even I didn’t expect Frank Gore to be held to 14 yards on 13 attempts. Luckily, the receivers handled it, including a 14 yard catch by Joe Staley who tried to act like it was no big deal even though it was only his second career reception. It was a big deal, Joe. Everyone loved it and so did you.
There are concerns, of course: Arizona QB Carson Palmer managed to throw for 407 yards and two TDs. That’s pretty terrifying to think about as we prepare to go to Green Bay and face Aaron Rodgers, who, you know, is kind of good at his job. Even worse, Carlos Rogers injured his hamstring at the end of the game, but seems to think he’ll be okay to play next week.
The Niners are also still struggling a bit with getting the play calls in. And don’t even get me started on Harbaugh’s challenges. The Niners are 2 for 8 this season. Just stop throwing the flag, Jim. You’re awful at it. I don’t know who is giving you the go-ahead to pull that thing out of your pocket, but I think you should just leave it at home next week. Heaven forbid we actually need those time outs you keep giving away.
But, for the most part, I think things are looking pretty good. I mean, NaVorro Bowman are you kidding me? Interception, forced fumble, the only sack of the game, and a ten tackles? Yes, please!
The key to winning in Green Bay is just that: the Niners need to play all four quarters of football. Also, I don’t know what the problem is with running the ball in short yardage situations, but if we could fix that by next Sunday, that’d be great. And the secondary needs to seriously step it up.
But hey - we’re going to the playoffs! We just need to win three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl. It all depends on which version of this team who is not quite as impressive as they were last year shows up, but I know in my heart we are more than capable of doing this.
But first Green Bay. More about that in a few days.