Joe-Pinions: Sports

20 Sept 2010 – NFL Pick ’em, Week 2 Results

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 21/09/2010

Here are my results from Week 2:

Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions:  I got this game WRONG.  I made the mistake of either 1) underestimating Michael Vick’s capability as a passer, or 2) I overestimated Detroit’s ability to bounce back from their Week 1 loss (when a rules technicality robbed them of a road victory against the Bears).

Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys:  While I’m superbly happy the hated Dallas Cowboys lost, that also means that I got this game WRONG as well.  Chicago made more plays, and Dallas made more mistakes.  That’s a sure-fire equation for a win in the NFL.

St. Louis Rams @ Oakland Raiders:  The Rams are another much-hated team, so I was very happy that I picked them to lose on the road against the perpetually-inept Raiders.  I got this game RIGHT.  I guess the week 2 “Stinkerbowl” had to have one team be just a little bit worse than the other, and for this week it was the Rams.

New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49ers:  I picked my beloved 49ers to win, so I got this WRONG.  Far too many turnovers meant that, despite a truly superb game otherwise in which they made the Saints look very vulnerable and mortal until Drew Brees led the final drive for enough yardage for the game-clinching field goal, the home team was doomed to be on the unhappy side of the win-loss column.

So, after two weeks out of seventeen, I’ve got a 3-5 score.

I need to do better next weekend!

NFL

The Monday Night Football game may have been a loss for the 49ers, but in my opinion it was as beautiful a game as a defeat can ever be.  For one thing, I thought that the team played hard from start to finish.  That isn’t just an empty platitude; some people tend to pack it up and dial the effort level down when things look bad and a win looks too difficult to get, but this young 49er squad really fought very hard against the reigning champs.  Moreover, I thought that their high effort level demonstrated that, despite their youth, they were not over-awed by playing against the defending champions.

Another positive aspect to the loss was that, despite coming up just short, the 49ers really played a great game in terms of strategy and game planning.  The defensive side of the ball is definitely this team’s strength, and to hold the Saints to 25pts (with 2pts coming from a safety, caused when backup center David Baas messed up the shotgun snap – this type of mistake, by the way, is probably why Bill Walsh NEVER used the shotgun except for a couple of snaps during his entire 49ers career) was quite an accomplishment.  Drew Brees never looked comfortable, and I thought Greg Manusky made a key adjustment in the 2nd half when the Saints never had the chance to use their bread-and-butter play, the screen pass, on high-pressure downs (3rd and long, 2nd and long).  Brees, though, made the key plays down the stretch and found his receivers, and to their credit, the Saints receivers made the key catches in the endgame despite very good coverage by the 49ers.  (It’s that kind of execution that makes you a great football team.

But besides the defense, I thought the offense was also largely worthy of praise.  Frank Gore is still this team’s key offensive player, but it was hugely gratifying to see Alex Smith finally play like a 49er quarterback.  For most of the game, he looked in complete command of the offense like Joe Montana.  When he had adequate protection, which he had for good stretches of the game, you could see him go through his progressions like any good NFL quarterback does.  His passing was accurate, perhaps not to a Steve Young-like level, but most of his throws were right on the button.  He did throw two interceptions, but I think only one was Smith’s fault.  In the first quarter, he threw a pass to Frank Gore (his outlet receiver) in the left flat which was slightly off.  Gore had to stretch to get to the ball, only got one hand on it, and made the ball bounce up into the air, ripe for the Saints to pick it off.  If Smith’s pass was more precise, Gore would have made the easy catch and probably gained a good chunk of yards.  Smith’s second interception was the result of a superb play by Saints ROLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar.  Dunbar disengaged from Joe Staley’s block and tipped Smith’s pass with 13:31 left in the game.  The way I saw it, Dunbar simply made an amazing play to tip Alex Smith’s pass.  Smith did nothing wrong on that play:  He went through his progressions, found WR Michael Crabtree in the left hook zone ready to catch, had a passing lane, and made the throw.  Dunbar just did a better job on that one play by releasing from LT Staley’s block and tipped the pass.  Finally, Alex Smith showed off his excellent athleticism and ran for positive yards much like Jeff Garcia on a scramble.  He displayed good instincts, slid away from pressure, and took what the defense gave him.  I cannot tell you how happy I felt to see a 49er quarterback play the way a 49er quarterback SHOULD play.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, tonight’s game is still a loss, which makes their quest for a playoff berth a little bit more challenging.  To be honest, though, I think the team has every chance to succeed in its quest.  I think the keys to success lie in the coaching staff’s ability to teach the team how to execute, how to play with proper technique, how to finish drives in the end zone, and how to maintain their concentration level from start to finish.  The very best teams always look so precise when they play; the 49ers had stretches during this game when they had this kind of precision (they out-gained the Saints 417-287 yards gained in the game), but they made too many mistakes and turned the ball over four times.  If there’s an undeniable truism in football, it’s that turnovers KILL.  The 49ers demonstrated that quite effectively.

It’s a little strange, too, that the 49ers seemed to make many of their key mistakes when they were in the red zone.  TE Delanie Walker lost a fumble late at the Saints’ 8yd line in the 1st half during a long drive which looked sure to finish in some points for the Niners, and Smith threw his second interception deep in Saints territory as well.

I saw enough in this game to make me believe the 49ers’ season isn’t lost yet despite the 0-2 start.  The pieces for a good season are there; I think it’s a matter of just putting the puzzle together.

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