Monday, October 1, 2012

The Storming

Prior to Sunday, I had never actually had an opportunity to see the 49ers play in person. I've never actually been to San Francisco, and the 49ers don't play in New York very often. But this season, they were, coming to visit the Jets on Sunday, and when the opportunity to go to the game and see my team for the 1st time dropped into my lap, I jumped at it. The result was much to my approval.

It's rare that I've walked into a stadium rooting outright for the visiting team. Most of my excursions to Yankee Stadium have involved this circumstance. Sunday, I decked myself out in 49ers gear and headed out to the Meadowlands. I wasn't sure what to expect. But when I saw a group of 49ers fans in Penn Station looking for the New Jersey Transit area, I realized I wouldn't be alone. At the stadium, 49ers fans were out en masse. I was really surprised at how many red shirts and jerseys I was seeing. Huge pockets of red were present throughout the stadium. I wasn't sure if it was because the 49ers fans travel well, or there's more 49ers fans in New York than I realize, or the Jets fans just have no faith in their team. It's probably a combination of all three.The Jets fans that were there seemed to have an attitude of defeatism before the game even started. The 49ers fans were up and loud throughout the game. Most of them seemed to be pretty confident. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous; I wouldn't have wanted to come out there with all my San Francisco stuff on only to have them lose and get brutalized by hordes of Jets fans.

However, the Jets put up a mostly noncompetitive effort in getting shut out by the 49ers, 34-0. That doesn't mean that the 49ers necessarily played a perfect game, though. For most of the first half, neither offense was able to get anything going. The Jets put forth their best drive at the beginning, moving the ball well before their drive stalled. The 49ers offense kind of just slogged along, not doing anything exciting. I began to worry about a hangover from last week's game, because things seemed to be starting out in similar fashion. But the 49ers did something this week that they hadn't done at all over their first three games. They started running backup Quarterback Colin Kaepernick out there in wildcat formations, many of which seemed to work. Kaepernick burst for a 17-yard run in the 1st quarter, and ultimately scored the 49ers first Touchdown on a similar play early in the 2nd quarter. This personnel change, something the Jets have tried, with little success, with Tim Tebow, appeared to keep the Jets mostly off balance.

With the lead, the 49ers defense began to dig in and control the tempo of the game, something that has generally led to a winning effort. Well, that's exactly what happened. The 49ers defense, clearly playing angry after last week's loss, forced a punt and a pair of fumbles out of the Jets on their next three possessions. But given the turnovers and ensuing good field position, the 49ers weren't getting any points on the board. A pair of sacks on Alex Smith, who was little more than effective, led to a long missed Field Goal from David Akers, and with under a minute and 2 time outs, the 49ers opted to run down the clock instead of try for a score, and Akers Field Goal to close the half made the score 10-0. I wasn't particularly pleased, since 10 points is nothing in the NFL, and the 49ers offense just hadn't clicked at all. However, the upshot of this was that the Jets offense was just putrid, and the 49ers defense was exploiting this to the point of embarrassment.

The 2nd half is where things really got out of control. The first Jets possession of the half ended when a bad screen pass from Mark Sanchez ended up intercepted by Patrick Willis. But David Akers missed yet another Field Goal, keeping the score at 10-0. Still, the 49ers Defense didn't allow the Jets an inch. Sanchez was flinging passes aimlessly, and the restless Jets fans began chanting for Tebow. Or was it the 49ers fans chanting for Tebow? It could have been both. Either way, the Jets looked completely lifeless, and it clearly wouldn't take much more points-wise for the 49ers to put the game out of reach.

The 49ers didn't score another Touchdown until Frank Gore punched one in on a 4th down play with just over 2 minutes to go in the 3rd Quarter. That's when the Jets fans started to give up. The Jets hadn't been able to move the ball past the 49ers 25 yard line, and not at all in the 2nd half until the end of the 3rd Quarter. But on the first play of the 4th Quarter, the game was put away when Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes on a little out route. But Holmes injured his foot on the play and ended up flipping the ball aside before actually being tackled. Carlos Rogers then picked it up and returned the fumble for another Touchdown, making the score 24-0, and sending a majority of the Jets fans to the exits. And with the Jets fans departing, the 49ers fans started getting loud. The stadium was still about 1/3 full, but it was now all people in red, cheering on the 49ers. It was great. The players even noticed it too. Anthony Dixon, for one, started pointing and waving at all the fans in red when he came out for the ensuing kickoff.

There was still a quarter left to be played, but it appeared the Jets had given up completely. Instead of trying to pass and get a garbage time score, they played like a team that just wanted to get the hell out of there. But they couldn't run the ball well enough to run down the clock, and ultimately, they ended up getting a punt blocked on a 1-man rush because nobody bothered to block Larry Grant. Grant's punt block set up the 49ers final score by Kendall Hunter, making the score 34-0, much to the delight of everyone remaining at the game.

the 49ers didn't have any particular outstanding performances in this game. The winning effort was accomplished as a team, above all. It helps, I suppose, that the Jets' performance was so putrid that even the worst of teams could have handled them on this day. But you still need to make plays, and the 49ers did that. Though nobody clearly dominated, they gained 245 rushing yards as a team. On defense, though no singular player dominated, they forced 4 turnovers and kept the Jets off the board completely. I still don't think the 49ers are playing at the level they're truly capable of. But, much like their win over Detroit, when they make the plays they have to make, they're going to win, more often than not. And, for once, I can say I'm glad I was there to see it!

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