Joe-Pinions: Sports

10 Jan 2011 – A Renaissance in San Francisco

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 10/01/2012

The San Francisco 49ers are enjoying a long-awaited renaissance during the still-ongoing 2011-2012 NFL season.  For the first time since 2002, the Niners are in the NFL playoffs.  Where for most of the past decade the 49ers and their fans were ready to shut the door on a just-ended season full of misery and despair, this season’s story has yet to reach a conclusion.

The team’s most ardent fans, myself included, are hoping this story’s ending doesn’t come this upcoming weekend, when the good guys dressed in red and gold face off against the baddies in black and white.  The New Orleans Saints are visiting, and they intend to use their high-powered offense, the very best the NFL has to offer, to put the 49ers’ fairy tale to bed.  The 49ers, meanwhile, have perhaps the NFL’s most complete team:  The defensive unit is championship-caliber, the special teams are superb, and the offense is effective enough insofar as operating within its own limits.

Here are some keys for the 49ers to win this game:

  • Contain the Saints’ air attack.  The fewer explosive passing plays the Saints get, the fewer points they score.
  • Establish an effective ground attack.  The 49ers must get the running game going.  This will move the chains, chew up yards, and, most importantly, keep Drew Brees off the field.  The Niners must win the time of possession battle, and do so convincingly.
  • Do not fall behind by more than six points.  The Niners’ offense lacks explosiveness; they don’t score points in bunches.  If they are forced to abandon a ball control strategy, that plays into New Orleans’ strengths on defense.
  • No mistakes.  The 49ers will get their fair share of big defensive plays and turnovers; they cannot allow big chunk plays (runs or pass plays that gain 20 or more yards each) on defense, and they must not give the Saints extra possessions via lost fumbles or interceptions.
  • Field position is key.  The 49ers are the home team, and the Saints are not as good out in the elements.  Controlling the field position battle through great special teams play will play a big part towards helping the 49ers to a victory.

It promises to be a great showdown.

49ers

Though it has been almost a full decade since the 49ers last competed in the NFL playoffs, there’s something familiar about this season.  Long-time 49ers fans, especially those with a knowledge of the team’s history, can undoubtedly see points in the narrative where the past met the present; the only thing left to see is whether or not the story ultimately ends the same way, with a Super Bowl championship.

The synopsis of the tale goes something like this:  The Niners suffer through a long period of malaise and mismanagement; a “new” owner takes over, cleans house, and plucks his new head coach from nearby Stanford University; the new head coach succeeds in making the team gradually respectable, and, eventually, winners; the 49ers complete their rebirth by winning the Super Bowl.

This story has already come to pass before:  In 1979, after spending a near-decade of futility and mediocrity, the 49ers’ newish owner, Eddie deBartolo, Jr, decided he had had enough and fired his team’s old coach and general manager.  He needed a new front man for his team’s football operations and hired Bill Walsh to be his head coach and chef d’equipe for the 49ers.  It took Walsh three years, but he gradually built his team’s roster and taught what was then a radical new system of football (not just offense, mind you; Walsh re-engineered the entire organization from top to bottom to facilitate high performance on the football field) to his team.  Walsh’s efforts were rewarded with a victory in Super Bowl XVI.

In 2011, the story repeated itself almost verbatim:  After almost a full decade of futility and mediocrity, the 49ers’ newish owner, Jed York (nephew of Eddie deBartolo, Jr), decided he had had enough.  He installed a new head coach, Jim Harbaugh, whom he plucked from Stanford, and hired Trent Baalke as the GM.  Where Walsh took three years (since the team’s talent cupboard was pathetically bare in 1979) to turn the team’s fortunes, Harbaugh and Baalke accomplished essentially the same thing in one year by virtue of simply adding on to the team’s already talented core and returning to many of Walsh’s organizational, operational and football strategy concepts.

Now the only question that remains is:  Will Jim Harbaugh’s repetition of history ultimately end as Walsh’s original story did?  Can Coach Harbaugh lead the 49ers to the team’s sixth Super Bowl championship?

I’ll take the liberty of speaking for all San Francisco 49ers fans and say, “I sure hope so.”

 

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3 Responses

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  1. Tim said, on 11/01/2012 at 10:27

    I agree.

    A lot rests on Alex Smith’s shoulders. He does not need to match Brees throw for throw, but he needs to keep the chains moving and he must convert red-zone possessions into touchdowns, especially in the first half which is where the Niners have really struggled in recent weeks.

    If the Niners can keep it within 7 at half-time, I think we will win. But, even with that fantastic defense, I think we will need at least one TD in the first half and 24+ points in total. But I don’t see the Saints extending their NFL record with a 5th consecutive game with 42 or more points. A combination of natural grass and great defense should see them score much less than that. (So, 52-45 it is, then!)

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that history can repeat itself. I’m sure that somewhere on high, Coach Walsh is watching and nodding in approval at the masterful turnaround achieved by Harbaugh and his staff. No matter what the result this weekend, they have had one hell of a season.

    • txtmstrjoe said, on 11/01/2012 at 11:25

      I’ll risk being daft and call the game right now:

      Niners win a close one. I can’t prognosticate the score, but I think Alex Smith will throw for 2 TDs on Saturday.

      Maybe even a game-winning play…

  2. […]  This season has paralleled events from thirty years ago in so many ways, it’s eerie.  I’ve touched on how this year’s current course is so much like history repeating itself …, with only the final outcome yet to be […]


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