(By Daisy Barringer)
I’m going to be honest: When I woke up yesterday morning, I didn’t have any of that nervous first-day-of-football-totally-freaking-out energy that I get every single year. There were no jitters, no anxiety attacks, not knots in my tummy. I felt, well, totally normal. In fact, I felt so normal that when I was getting dressed, I wondered to myself if perhaps I’d outgrown football. If, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t my biggest passion anymore. I imagined twenty years from now trying to explain to a group of people that once upon a time I was a die-hard Niners fan who lived and breathed red and gold and having none of them actually believe me. “Is this how it happens?” I wondered. “Is it possible to fall out of love with a team?”
But then, in the game’s first minute, Dan Skuta stripped the ball from Dallas running back DeMarco Murray, and Chris Culliver returned it for a 35-yard touchdown. And it all came back. Like a slap in the face that I wanted and needed.
I jumped up. I screamed. Adrenaline shot through my veins, blood rushed into my head, and it was clear: I never stopped loving football. I COULD never stop loving football. I just pushed my passion into a little dark corner of my heart as a way to cope with the tragedy that is a long and boring offseason.
But enough about me. We’re back! The NINERS are back. And they’re going to make sure this season is just as fun and exciting as the last three. Screw the haters and the reporters and the refs and everyone else who doubts us. We’re legit. Just watch.
Some people might (and will because people are awful) argue that the Cowboys handed the 49ers their 28-3 lead in the first half. But though I was certainly shouting “Romo for President” after his three glorious interceptions, you have to give credit to the 49ers defense for putting Tony Romo in a situation where he made those horrendous passes and also for capitalizing on them. Don’t forget, it wasn’t just INTs, Romo was also sacked three times (two by the only Cowboy who had a good game: Justin Smith) and hit another four.
Our defense was already weakened without Bowman, Dorsey, and Aldon Smith, and it only got worse with several key guys from the secondary leaving the field during the game. (Culliver: concussion, Tramaine Brock: toe.) But none of that seemed to matter, especially with Perrish Cox stepping up and rookies Jimmie Ward and Dontae Johnson doing well during their first real NFL game. Romo and his offense just couldn’t get their game together (despite those b.s. garbage time TDs) and Romo finished with a 60.8 passer rating.
Of course, it wasn’t just the Niners defense that showed up. Colin Kaepernick looked legit the entire game, making good decisions and throwing those hard passes (speaking of VD: you’ve gotta catch all of them, even the ones that come rocketing towards your chest like a 98mph fast ball). Still, I can’t be too annoyed with Vernon, since he did catch two (wide open) touchdown passes. I also think this Carlos Hyde kid is going to be good (he and Gore combined for 113 yards) and that if Gore doesn’t have to make all of the big plays, the Niners running game could be explosive this year. (Oh, also let’s give Gore a quick shoutout for becoming the 29th NFL player with 10,000 career yards. NBD. LOVE YOU FRANK!)
Yes, the second half of the game was sleepy and yes, it felt like at times the refs were determined to do anything and everything they could to keep the Cowboys in the game, and yes, our special teams needs some work, and yes, it should definitely be illegal for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to call a 49ers/Cowboys football game because listening to them made me want to yank a paring knife from behind the bar and pull a Van Gogh, but today is just about appreciating the “W” and the fact that Jerryworld was a “Sea of Red” yesterday, effectively giving the Niners home field advantage at AT&T stadium. That’s gonna feel good if it happens in any stadium, but to have it happen in Jerry Jones’ stadium? The best. (Even better, Jerry was totally pissed about it, but simultaneously denied that the stadium was evenly split with Cowboys and Niners fans, though anyone with a set of eyes could tell that was very much the case.)
Definitely take today to revel and gloat and post rude things on the Facebook walls of all your Cowboys' fans friends (Although, ew, why do you have friends who are Dallas fans? Have you no dignity?). But then tomorrow, understand that we’ve got to get back to work. Yes, it was an excellent win, but we have no way of knowing what’s going to happen as the season unfolds. After all, New England got embarrassed by the Dolphins yesterday, but I don’t think anyone is counting them out. Teams have good days. And they have bad days. The Niners had a great day yesterday. Everyone played hard, there was clearly no sign of all the “distractions” the media rambled about for the past couple of weeks, and we got all of the lucky (and earned) breaks.
Still. There are 15 games left in the regular season. We have to play teams like the Seahawks, and the Broncos, and the Saints, and the Raiders. (Okay, that last one was just there to make sure you’re paying attention.) We have a lot of work ahead of us and, truthfully: I think this is our last shot for a while.
In the last three years we’ve lost the NFC Championship game (twice) and the Super Bowl. It’s so impressive to make it that far. It’s also incredibly depressing to make it that far and then lose. Teams these days aren’t good for year after year after year. Players get injured. We lose players to free agency. Suspensions. Retirement. Whatever. This particular 49ers team has something special. Our defense is one of the best. And our offense has the potential to really make some magic happen. But I think it needs to happen now. This season. Super Bowl XLIX.
Next up? The Chicago Bears at home for the first regular season game at Levi’s Stadium. I can’t wait to see the crowd light up and get loud. I can’t wait to see the Niners win.
You with me? Let’s do this.
Daisy Barringer covers the San Francisco 49ers for SFist, giving us an insider perspective on live games. You can read all her previous columns here.