Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kevin And The Gang

Sunday was another of those weird anomaly days (which have pleasantly occurred a few times this season) where the 49ers game ended up being on in New York. Even more pleasant was the fact that our good friend Kevin Burkhart was announcing the game on Fox. Burkhart's really blown up these past few months, after years toiling away for SNY and, prior to that, WFAN. It started with a few spots on Fox's Saturday game of the week, but now he's really hit the big time as an NFL announcer. He's done quite well, in spite of being relegated to mostly lesser games (though he seems to be garnering more important games than the horrible Chris Myers). Sunday's 49ers/Rams matchup wasn't exactly game-of-the-week material, but given how competitive the NFC West has been this season it certainly wasn't a dud.

So, Kevin and his crew were on hand for this one, and while it was a hotly contested game between two teams that don't like each other very much, the 49ers laid down the hammer behind a stifling defensive effort and the hurdling abilities of Vernon Davis to come away with a 23-13 victory and a season sweep of the Rams. The game started out with things being a little chippy as the 49ers purposefully held a team huddle in the middle of the field prior to the game, and penalty flags were thrown aplenty throughout the afternoon. After having such difficulty with the Rams last season, the 49ers probably couldn't have been blamed for really wanting to stick it to them this year, and they successfully did so in both meetings.

The Defense has ruled the day most of the season for the 49ers, and they certainly set the tone on Sunday. Ray McDonald sacked Kellen Clemens on the 2nd play of the game and things kind of continued on from there. The Rams ended up with 312 yards of offense, a majority of it accomplished late in the 4th Quarter when the game was well out of reach. Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman also sacked Clemens, Carlos Rogers intercepted a pass in the 4th Quarter and Anthony Dixon snuffed out an ill-timed and ill-advised fake punt, but in general, the 49ers defense just didn't allow the Rams offense any sort of headway for a majority of the game.

Offensively, Colin Kaepernick had one of his better days, which was probably because for the first time all season, he had his full complement of receivers at his disposal. Most welcome was the sight of Michael Crabtree making his season debut. Crabtree only made two receptions, one in his signature over-the-middle in-traffic fashion, and the second a breakaway go route that saw him run for close to 60 yards (and which he likely would have scored on had he been 100%), but the fact that he was back and in uniform was simply enough to generate good vibes. It may be a few weeks before he starts to make an impact again, given the severity of his Achilles injury, but having him back in the lineup is huge, particularly for Kaepernick.

Vernon Davis also had a standout game. His 4 receptions for 82 yards didn't lead the team in either count (that honor went to, who else, Anquan Boldin), but he did it in style. His second reception featured him catching an out route from Kaepernick and then proceeded to hurdle over defender Rodney McLeod en route to a much larger gain that set up a Field Goal. In the 4th Quarter, one play after the Rams botched their fake punt, Davis made them pay by catching a short pass from Kaepernick and again hurdling over defenders into the End Zone for the game-clinching TD. He also got tackled by the potatoes in the 3rd Quarter in a scene that should never be watched. Fortunately, he recovered from that unscathed, although as Burkhart said, "He may be singing Soprano for a while..."

So, after the panic button was about to be pressed, the 49ers recovered and have now won 2 games in a row, putting them at 8-4 and fairly solidly in control of a Wildcard spot. The Defense has been heroic all season and really paved the way for the 49ers 5-game winning streak earlier in the season and, for that matter, really didn't play badly in their 2 recent losses. The offense has been inconsistent, but with Crabtree now back in the fold, they may finally start to get some consistency. These things are important to note because, of course, next Sunday, the Seahawks, now 11-1, come to town to renew the NFL's most underrated rivalry. The Seahawks beat the 49ers back in Week 2 in Seattle and really embarrassed them in the process. It may not be a revenge game, but the 49ers can certainly make a statement and really bring some order to their playoff chances with a victory. And with both teams making the playoffs, it certainly seems possible that a third meeting could occur in January, with the stakes much higher.

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