Monday, October 21, 2013

We're On TV!

Being a 49ers fan in New York can often be frustrating. Rarely do I get the chance to watch them play on TV, unless they play one of the New York teams or are on one of the Nationally televised prime time games. But sometimes, there are odd instances where I happily find that the game is televised here. It usually happens on a day where the Giants or Jets are either on a bye or playing one of the aforementioned Prime Time games themselves. But in most of those cases, the 49ers are bypassed in favor of a game with more "interest," usually involving the Cowboys or Eagles or Broncos or Packers (or, more appropriately, any of the NFL's most masturbatory teams). But sometimes, there are those random weeks where the schedule breaks just right, and certain teams play at certain times, and the 49ers end up being televised in New York. Sunday was one of those days. With the Jets on at 1 and the Gnats playing Monday night, and the Eagles, Cowboys and Packers playing a bit of hopscotch, the 49ers game against the Tennessee Titans ended up being Fox's lone game at 4pm, and thus was televised in New York.

I know the game wasn't televised nationally. Fox usually sends their "A" team, the great Joe Buck and his sidekick Troy Aikman, to the week's marquee matchup. This game featured Fox's "G" team, Chris Meyers and some other weird guy with a deep voice. In fact, I think Chris Meyers intentionally spoke in a voice a few octaves lower than his normal timbre just to fit in. There was also a token disproportionately hot sideline reporter, trying to pull off a pale Cybill Shepherd look. When you're the "G" team, I guess you're just sort of winging it. The broadcast certainly felt that way. Meyers seemed more interested in speaking in his bizarre deep voice, while the color guy kept calling wrong players and making bad jokes and terrible predictions.

This is kind of a long-winded way of saying that the San Francisco 49ers/Tennessee Titans matchup isn't exactly a hotly contested game. The 49ers and Titans, being in different conferences, meet once every 4 years to begin with. They didn't play at all between 1999 and 2005 thanks to realignment, and yesterday was only the 4th time the 49ers have played the Titans at all, since they were the Houston Oilers prior to 1997. The Titans seem to be kind of stuck in the middle of the NFL landscape. Not bad enough to be a punchline, but not quite good enough to be a serious threat. The 49ers, having won 3 in a row, figured to have a relatively easy time of things, and for the most part they did, breaking out to a 24-0 lead en route to a solid 31-17 victory to run their record to 5-2.

It was one of those games where the 49ers were once again slow in getting going on offense, but their defense never allowed the opponent to take advantage of it. A lengthy first drive ended in a Phil Dawson Field Goal, but pinned back at their own goal line on their next possession, the 49ers could only muster a few yards before punting. Colin Kaepernick wasn't playing poorly; in fact, he'd gotten off to a better start in this game than he'd had in several weeks. But it wasn't until the 3rd drive that the 49ers really kicked into gear. Starting at their own 20, Kaepernick spread passes around to Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, and even mixed in a little running of his own. The drive appeared headed for a disappointing end when Kaepernick was intercepted by the notorious assassin Bernard Pollard, but the pick was negated by a penalty on the Titans. Given new life, Kaepernick found himself in the End Zone for the first time this season 3 plays later on a nifty read option rush, where he picked up a block, juked a couple of defenders and raced down the left sideline virtually untouched. He then took a dramatic pause before his first "Kaepernicking" pose of the season.

The 49ers got the ball back quickly, as a Jake Locker pass on the ensuing drive was intercepted by Tramaine Brock. This time, the 49ers raced down the field mostly on the ground, with Kaepernick and Gore sharing the load before Gore punched it in from 1 yard out. This put the 49ers up 17-0 as the game moved to Halftime, with the Titans barely making a dent against the 49ers defense.

The 3rd Quarter was pretty much a continuation of the first two. Gore scored his second TD of the game on the 49ers first possession, which ate up about half the clock in the quarter. The Titans could generate nothing, as the usual suspects, Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, Justin Smith et al basically wreaked havoc all afternoon. The Titans didn't even cross the 49ers 45-yard line until Locker hit Nate Washington on a deep bomb at the end of the quarter.

To their credit, the Titans did try to make it interesting. After getting a Field Goal to make the score 24-3, the 49ers, who had moved to a run-heavy attack once they took a big lead, kind of called off the dogs on offense and had begun to put in some backups on defense. The Titans took advantage of this as Locker and Chris Johnson turned a short screen pass into a 66-yard Touchdown. The Titans had an opportunity to get even closer, forcing a punt on the 49ers next possession, however Darius Reynaud, who earlier fair-caught a punt with nobody near him, had the bright idea of not calling a fair catch with Darryl Morris bearing down on him. Reynaud muffed the punt, got his clock cleaned by Morris and the ball ended up getting kicked into the end zone where Kassim Osgood fell on it for a Touchdown. The Titans got an academic late score from old friend Delanie Walker to close out a 31-17 game that probably wasn't as close as the score might lead you to believe.

There was no particular standout performance from anyone in this game. Kaepernick broke out the read-option more, which was good to see, although I have to believe this is one of those things that the 49ers are only going to break out in certain instances. Anquan Boldin had a fine game, making multiple highlight-reel catches, including one in which he basically snatched the ball out of the air with one hand and held it cleanly all the way to the ground, which managed to confuse Chris Meyers. The Special Teams, which is always the least-appreciated unit on the team, continued their usual stellar level of play, particularly out of guys like Anthony Dixon and C.J. Spillman, who continually stifled the hotshot Reynaud from getting any sort of consequential return yardage, in addition to the Osgood TD.

The 49ers have gotten into a good groove, winning 4 consecutive games against 4 teams they should be beating, and the general panic and turmoil surrounding the team after the losses to Seattle and Indy has more or less evaporated and the 49ers have re-proven themselves among the NFL's best teams. Indianapolis has to be considered among this bunch as well, having not only beat the 49ers, but also currently sit as the only team to have beaten Seattle and Denver as well (but the NFL being what it is, they've lost to San Diego), so maybe it's not just them. Next up for the 49ers is a trip to London, where the NFL will be holding its annual Cash Grab International Game against the 0-7 Jacksonville Jaguars. I'm sure this isn't quite what the 49ers had in mind for a road trip, but they went straight from Tennessee to London and are across the pond at the time of this writing, so by time Sunday comes around, they should be well-acclimated. Chris Meyers dropped an offhanded comment at the end of the game yesterday that he'd be making the trip to London as well, so that should speak to how well-regarded these London games are. They're sending one of the league's only winless team (assuming the Gnats don't blow their lead tonight) and the low broadcast team on the totem pole. It seems to me the 49ers may be the only draw to this game, simply because they're showing up.

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