(By Daisy Barringer)
There are a couple of ways to win and lose football games. The other team can get a big lead and give you time to resign yourself to the loss. Or you can blow the other team out and start to feel complacent and distracted. On the flip side, the game can be so close that you feel you’re on the verge of a heart attack the entire time, in which case, if your team loses, your entire world collapses and you find yourself side-eyeing the window, even though you only live on the fourth floor.
But the best way to win a football game? If we’re honest, it’s when the game is so close you feel sick to your stomach, start making weird noises or go silent altogether, feel like you’re likely going to have a stroke and then win just as time expires.
And that, my friends, is exactly the type of football game the 49ers gave us on Sunday when they beat the Green Bay Packers 23-20 to win the Wild Card matchup.
Going in, I hoped for a blowout. Or to at least go up by a few scores. At first, this seemed like a possibility. The Niners out-gained the Packers 118-6 in the first quarter, but both drives resulted in field goals. Then Kaepernick threw an interception when he tried to float a pass to Vernon Davis and CB Tramon Williams broke off of his coverage of Anquan Boldin to snag the pass. Green Bay, who’d been unable to make anything happen on offense, then had the momentum and Aaron Rodgers threw a TD pass to Jordy Nelson (my new favorite nemesis) to take the lead.
And though a blowout would gone down nicely, not shaved years off of my life, nor exhausted me so thoroughly that I’d fall asleep (sober) on the couch at 8 p.m. and totally miss the premiere of Downton Abbey, it also wouldn’t have been as thrilling.
Truthfully, it should have been more of a lopsided game than it was, but the refs refused to call holding, even in incredibly obvious instances. In my opinion, Crabtree was held in the end zone on two separate drives (both which resulted in field goals). But the most egregious non-call was the hold on Ray McDonald that allowed Aaron Rodgers to escape a sack and find Randall Cobb on 4th-and-2 for a 26-yard completion to set up the go-ahead touchdown. I mean, I’m all for letting them play, but rules are rules.
Regardless, the 49ers were able to pull out the victory thanks to a team effort that allowed a few players to shine.
Colin Kaepernick. Yes, he had the interception, but other than that, he had a great game. He completed 16 of 30 for 227 yards and a touchdown, but he also ran seven times for 98 yards. It’s always fun to watch Kap run, but it was the 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 with 1:13 left in the game that set Dawson up for the game winning field goal that had me jumping out of my seat.
Michael Crabtree. He’s back. In the first quarter, Crab had four catches for 70 yards and he finished with eight catches for 125 yards. After the game, Harbaugh called him “the greatest catcher of all time” which might be a slight exaggeration because of, you know: JERRY RICE, but still: Crab looked great and having him back makes the entire 49ers receiving corps a huge threat. Who are you going to double team? Boldin? Crabtree? Davis? Exactly
Phil Dawson. Dude is clutch. So glad we signed him because, I’m sorry, but Akers would have somehow managed to miss one of those field goals. But Dawson, sweet, humble Dawson you’ve gotta love him. Yes, the field goal was almost blocked—it sailed directly through the arms of Davon House, BUT House was offsides, so had it been blocked, Dawson would have been able to kick again. And I know he would have made it because that’s just the kind of guy he is.
Defense. Everyone knows I love a sack. But back-to-back sacks? I die. Oh, the joy it gave me to see Aaron Rodgers get taken down by Aldon Smith and then right after by Ahmad Brooks. I thought the entire D-Line played well and the pass rush looked good—especially in the beginning.
Of course, not everything was perfect. The 49ers once again struggled with clock management, wasting two timeouts early in each half. Though now a bit of a joke, teams lose games because they don’t have a timeout left and no one will be laughing then. (The timeout at the very beginning of the second half was because Kap forgot his wrist play sheet. Is there seriously no one on the staff who is paid to make sure that doesn’t happen?)
The play calling seemed troubling at times. On the first scoring drive, the Niners passed the ball three times for three incompletions. My friend texted me to ask if I was having Vietnam-like flashbacks of the Super Bowl. I mean, seriously: FRANK GORE, people. FRANK GORE. Luckily, Greg Roman remembered that Frank Gore was on the team at some points and Gore ended up with 20 carries for 66 yards and a TD. He also threw up huge blocks for Kap. Ultimately though 49ers? Just GIVE THE BALL TO GORE.
But regardless of some struggles here and there, the 49ers managed to pull out the W. Sometimes it just comes down to who has the ball last and in this instance, I fully believe that was the case. Had the 49ers not been able to run the clock down, well let’s just be happy they did.
And with the victory, the 49ers are headed to Carolina to face the Panthers in the divisional round. I’ll be honest. This game makes me nervous; the Panthers D is tough and their offense isn’t half bad either. But I’d much rather be facing the Panthers at home than the Seahawks in Seattle. I’ll leave the latter to the Saints who I hope can take them out. That’s right; don’t blow up Candlestick Park quite yet. There still may be another game there.
For today, folks, let’s just enjoy the Niners huge win over the Packers. It feels so good to have their number after all of the Brett Favre years. So very, very good.