What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been

Wonder of wonders the 49ers have gone from laughing stock last place team to being the 6th seed in the NFC playoff chase. The 2-4 bottom-feeders have gone on a 4-1 run to push their way past NINE teams to get into the playoff hunt. No mean feat seeing as the Rams and Vikings were 2 of the 4 wins.

Yesterday’s game was a grab-bag of great and terrible play. Well, except for Elijah Mitchell and his 133 yards rushing, and 35 through the air. Jimmy G threw an ugly early pick. Which thankfully brought about a dressing-down by head coach Kyle Shanahan to pull his head out of his ass and look around before throwing. He hit some nice throws, mainly to Brandon Aiyuk, seeing that Deebo is now:

a) a running back, and
b) hurt

Jauan Jennings also had a solid game, getting his 1st TD and a couple tough catches in traffic. Kittle was quiet, as he is now the blocking back for the run game. Which dominated Minnesota with 204 yards. Since Kittle is now a full-time blocker, this leaves Juice as the defacto TE. He had a huge catch late to seal the game. Well, it would have sealed the game if Robbie (tarnished) Gould had not missed a 42 yard FG late. But, again, the offense controlled the clock, holding the ball for 37 of the 60 minutes.

The defense was a hot mess as consistent pressure is not happening amid Ryans’ refusal to blitz at any time. But the defense as a whole played very well in limiting the Vikes to 323 yards. Dalvin Cook had only 39 on the ground, and Cousins was picked and only threw for 238 with 2 TDs.

Azeez Al-Shaair had his 1st pick in the flat and rumbled near the goal line to give the 49ers a 28-14 lead in the 3rd quarter. Kevin Givens forced a fumble late in the 3rd that ended in a bank-shot off the right upright for what should have given the 49ers a nice cushion at 34-20 going into the 4th quarter had the not-so-special teams not promptly given up a 105 yard kickoff return, but all in all, the defense played solid against a high-powered offense.

Again, though, the special teams had a very forgettable game as Gould missed a field goal, and the kickoff coverage (with Wishnowski kicking) could very well have cost the team the game. I noticed that after the KO return, Gould was once again handling kickoff duties.

So, with the Rams and their shiny new toys stumbling to their 3rd straight loss against the Hydroxychloroquine Packers, we are one game behind LA and the 5th spot in the playoff standings.

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Game Day – Playoffs?!? Yes, Playoffs

I guess. But hey, we are in the 7 hole as of now. Final playoff spot. And we pretty much control our destiny with upcoming games vs the Rams and Vikings among the last 7 games. The Rams have a very tough roadie in Green Bay tomorrow, so in a perfect world the Rams lose, the Niners win to take the 6th spot, and we are only one game behind the 5th seed Rams.

Good news is Dre Greenlaw is off the IR and could play. Dee (found on road dead) Ford unfortunately has at least one more week on the IR according to Shanahan. Elijah Mitchell is questionable, and I’d love to have him back as Sermon doesn’t appear to be much of anything, and Hasty seemingly has passed him up, but Wilson looked OK, and I hope he looks better because I want Deebo running routes, not running up the middle. He has been a great disruptor as a running back, but still and all, he’s more disruptive as a wideout.

I’d really like to think that the AZ game was a real eye-opener for everyone on the team and in the front office that this game isn’t won on accolades and twitter posts. It isn’t won by press clippings and pre-season predictions. It is won in the trenches. It is won by not turning the ball over. It is won by not committing stupid penalties. It is won by playing 60 minutes of football, not 30, 45, or 59 minutes.

The 49ers have done that for 2 games this season. The Rams game and the Jags game. The good news is those are our last 2 games. The bad news? Well, it is consistency. Jimmy G has played well the last couple games, we haven[‘t turned the ball over, and last week especially, we only had one penalty.

Keep this up and we should be fine. And we are winners in 3 of our last 4 games.. But that one was a huge steaming turd of a game. Like to think we can win this going away like 30-20. The Vikings defense doesn’t leap off the page with anything they do well. The issue will be with our defense stopping the Kirk Cousins led offense. As usual, the play in the trenches will be a big factor.

Pressure Cousins, and he becomes average to poor. Give him time and he will hit a big play or 3. Van;t understate how big this game is Let’s hope these guys don’t come out flat and disinterested like that AZ game.

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Minnehaha Time

But here we are on a bit of a roll. Win this game with Minnesota and we are at worst in the 7th spot, or possibly even the 6th spot. N’Awlins is also 5-5 so we could jump them. Then there’s the interesting scenario where the Rams lose to the Packers, and we are suddenly one game back of them.

Speaking of haha, the 49ers/Seattle game on December 5th wa flexed out by the league and the network wonks in favor of the Chargers/Bengals tilt. Kinda sucks but it is more an indictment of Seattle’s 3-7 record, not really a reflection on us. Although being 5-5 isn’t anything to write home about either. FWIW the Chargers and Bengals are 7-4 and 6-4 respectively.

But let’s not get too giddy. Suffice it to say, when the run game is clicking, the team does much better. As witness by the huge time-of-possession discrepancies these last 2 games. Both the Jax and Ram games saw a TOP of 2:1, nearly 40/20 minutes. And I really have to give Shanahan kudos for kicking the FG on that 13 minute drive to open the game. Come out of that with no points, and you give the Jags a huge boost. The adage always was take the points on the road. Especially that early in the game.

Anyhow, Minnesota is 27th against the run, so they may try to overload the running lanes. We should be able to use our 4 headed rushing attack, with the newly-minted swiss army knife, Deebo Samuel providing a different wrinkle. The Minn defense isn’t very scary, but their offense has been pretty solid what with Kirk Cousins leading the way, and Dalvin Cook providing the rushing attack.

Or offense? As noted, get the run game going, and Jimmy G can do enough to put points on the board. Avoid turnovers, create a couple, and there you go. It has worked the last couple weeks anyway.

On the injury front, Dre Greenlaw and Dee F(ound) O(n) R(oad) D(ead) are cleared to practice and could play. I cannot understate how bad the team has missed Greenlaw. His speed and tackling are off the charts and his coverage area is huge. Ford? Shit, if he was a full-time player, we would be unstoppable. As it is, well, 15 plays a game would be a start.

Ths playoff push starts now.

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Well, That Was Fun – .500 With a Bullet

Huh. Another well-played game that saw the 49ers easily beat the hapless Jaguars 30-10. We looked like the Jags 2 short weeks ago against the Cardinals, but here we are at .500. Kyle continued with his putting Deebo in the backfield, and for some reason, it keeps working. It’s a bit scary to me, but then again, most of his runs are to the outside, and he’s doing that kind of running on the bubble screens anyway.

Kudos again for his seemingly more better play calling. The defense has also improved since that debacle of a game against the Cards. the 49ers held the Trevor Lawrence Jags to 10 points 6 days after holding the high-powered Rams to 10 points.

The offense once again held a huge time-of-possession advantage at 39 minutes to 21 as the Niners used nearly all the 1st quarter to kick a field goal. and, once more, kudos to Shanahan for getting the points. A fail there on 4th and 1 changes the game entirely, and the axiom for 95 years, before the analytics wonks decided 4th down was OK to fuck up, was to take the points on the road early. And Shanny did.

The D stopped the Jags on their 1st possession, and the rout was on. They also forced 2 fumbles (well, one was a muffed punt) and the pass pressure was decent if not a little lax. Nick Bosa continues to be a one-man wrecking crew, but we are still not getting enough consistent pressure. Many many standout players, as the defensive backfield is getting healthier with the return of Jaquiski Tartt, and the penalties by that unit are way down. The run game with Wilson and Deebo was solid enough to keep the Jag offense off the field, and it was a relatively low stress victory.

Unfortunately for the Jags, they were riddled by injurieds during the game.

The next game all of a sudden becomes gigantic. The 49ers better get a home win streak going as they face their once and distant past quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams are 5-5, and the winner gets a jump on a wild card playoff spot. Minnesota is coming off an improbable win vs the Green Bay Packers.

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Game Day – She’s Got the Jax

Back to reality. This will be interesting in the fact that this is one of those ‘should win’ games we’ve coughed up recently. Shanny seems to have a spell over the Rams, but this flim-flammery does not extend to any other teams in the NFL. The thing about games like this is these are the games where Teflon Mike Nolan and Aluminum Mike Singletary woud puke on their shoes. Even Snappy Khaki tripped over his dick in games like this near the end of his tenure.

Any loss at this stage would be a death-knell for our playoff aspirations as there are a ton of teams fighting for that 7th spot. But no game is easy in the NFL, as so many teams (like Buffalo) have found out recently. The Bills were flummoxed by them and lost 9-6, so anything is possible.

What is encouraging to me is the coaching staff has found a bit of a comfort zone with Jimmy G. One that has precluded Jimmy from using play action as it takes time away from his reading of the defense in front of him. But defenses will now understand this and be able to key on run or pass faster.

Don’t know too much about the Jags other than Trevor Lawrence and Myles Jack, but they do have The Beater as their backup QB and our RB from the past, Carlos Hyde. And they have a win over the Bills.

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Commence Parade Rain

Hey, that was a great win, and whatever spell or mojo that Shanny has on Sean McVay, well, it continues. Truth be told, if any one of the 3 plays that sealed this game went differently, the entire game shifts. Both he interceptions were caused by the Rams lack of execution and focus, not on anything the defense did. Well, maybe except for Jimmie Ward playing deep safety. Same with the 3rd down drops. Also, if the 4th down play to Samuel fails, the Rams are on their own 40 only down 21-7. Scary territory for anyone that knows Shanny’s close-out ability, or lack thereof.

I’m happy it worked out, and I’m VERY happy that Shanny stuck with the run as he has a tendency to give up on it too early. But the issues remain with this defense regarding our pass rush. Anyone not named Bosa is doing little to get to the quarterback consistently. I’m frankly amazed that McVay didn’t challenge us deep more, but we were dropping Ward deep a lot. And funny thing is, Stafford’s accuracy helps our defense as we usually trip over our dicks on underthrown balls, and Stafford didn’t do that. But the fact remains, Ryans has shown little more than the base defense through most of these games as the defense gets slowly picked apart. Particularly appalling in the Green Bay game.

Running is the only way this offense can get any type of rhythm going. Get the run game just churning out 4-5 yards a rush, and Jimmy G can make his 8-12 yard throws to Kittle and Samuel and hope they snap off 20 more yards. It was a super conservative game plan, and the running negated a lot of LA’s vaunted pass rush. And it also kept the Rams offense on the sidelines. The themselves helped immensely with the two crucial 3rd down drops deep in their territory, but there you have it. A win that could have turned out very differently but for a few plays.

Then again, most games are like this. A bad call here (ask the Bears in their Pittsburgh game), a bumbled reception for a pick 6, an inopportune fumble changes everything.

I do have to give Shanahan props for putting Deebo in the backfield and using him there as it really confused the Ram defense. Scheming ways to get the ball into Deebo’s hands is always a good thing, and it worked out in spades. As noted, he stuck with the run even after the Rams closed the game to 14-7 in the 2nd quarter. The best way to keep Jimmy G safe from fumbles/stupid picks, is to do just that. Keep the defense honest on the run and they can pass.

Another thing I found intriguing is that we did not run ONE play-action pass. Never did Jimmy turn his back to the defense when throwing the ball. A conscious decision I’m sure. If it keeps Jimmy from tossing picks and more time to read the defense, hey I’m all in.

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The Spell Lives On – Kyle > Sean

5-0 the last 5 Niner-Ram games. A full 60 minutes. Finally. Huzzah!

Kyle Shanahan shook off the black clouds swirling around Levi’s stadium, and his oversized head, and played a full game off smash-mouth football. 44 runs? Damn. There were no huge run plays but there were enough 6-10 yard runs to keep the Rams vaunted pass rush of Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and newly acquired Von Miller at bay. Jimmy G did his best Alex Smith impersonation, going 15-19 for 182 with 2 touchdowns. 8-8 for 89 and 1 TD in the 1st half.

The much-maligned defense made a stand early with Jimmie Ward picking off a misguided throw to the newly acquired Ol’ Dirty Beckham. He paid dividends for us by giving up on the deep route that Jimmie picked off. That led to our 18 play, 11 minute, 93 yard TD drive. Jimmie was then handed a pick by Tyler Higbee and the rout was on. The Rams helped immensely with two crucial 3rd down drops by Higbee and Kupp, and sloppy play in general by the Rams.

The Rams looked very similar to the 49ers last week. They came in with their splashy trade deadline acquisitions expecting us to cower at their greatness. Instead we stuffed the ball down their throats, shit on their lawn, controlled the line, and took it to them all night.

Biggest play of the game, and likely the season, came early in the 4th quarter with the Niners up 24-7 and facing a 4th and 5 on the Rams 40. The game was still in doubt, and a turnover on downs could have changed the outcome. Instead, Kyle strapped in on and went for it. Daniel Brunskill took on and held offf Aaron Donald one-on-one as Jimmy G hit resident stud Deebo Samuel on a shallow cross that resulted in a 40 yard strike. 31-7 sealed the game at that point. The rest was gravy.

Got to hope that the team understands that they CAN play this way. They ARE a talented team, and CAN make a playoff push. We play the two teams in front of us for the 7th spot. Carolina and Minnesota, so we have a bit of control over our situation.

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Game Day – The Slow Deflation – Armageddon It

Ahhhhh fuck. Getting harder to find the will to even try and figure out the latest clusterfuck the 49ers find themselves in. The sweet transition to the heir apparent, Trey Lance, has fallen into a sinkhole the size of New Jersey as the once and future Super Bowl contenders find themselves mired in mediocrity as the offense has no flow and the defense just shit the bed in the worst way possible.

Our latest flock of draft picks are either hurt or not good enough to get on the field, the usual cast of injured draft picks and signings are hurt, our happy-go-lucky band of fun-loving players is now dodging bullets from the front office and coaching staff as they go through the motions and trip over their collective dicks over and over as they discover new and interesting ways to lose games, and this coaching staff has yet to figure out how to close out games.

The Rams? They seemed to have righted their ship pretty quickly after trading the moon for Jared Goff and getting mediocre results from him. The Rams fleeced the perpetually Ford-fucked Lions by prying Matthew Staf-Ford away from that sad-sack organization in exchange for the rusty Buick that is Goff. The Rams tossed away picks for Stafford with little concern as they traded for Von Miller and signed ODB. Both of whom will play tonight.

The 49ers? Well, a win by the Rams puts them in a tie with AZ at the top of the West and tied with GB, AZ, and Tenn for the best record in the NFL, and would put us in the West cellar. A place that seems to be a pretty cozy spot for this team during the Shanahan/Lynch regime. 32-40 is not good. Sure, the team was an absolute mess when these guys got here in 2017, and they got good quickly, but game-management issues and the blowing of a big lead in the Super Bowl seems to have ended the run. 5 years into this system, and we are suddenly nowhere NEAR competitive and we are going backward. A loss tonight would pretty much guarantee that the coaching staff will be jettisoned by year’s end. Huzzah.

The 49ers DID make a move, trading for pass rushing DE Charles Omenihu, who of course didn’t play last week. And that is an overarching issue with this team. They trade up for guys that don’t play. They make moves and sit on their thumbs. They act like they are a great team but put in minimal effort. They seem to think the game is played on a spreadsheet, not on the field. They are 1-11 in their last 12 home games. The defense is bland and terrible under DeMeco Ryans. If this game is a blowout, the call for change will be deafening.

Which is why I am completely baffled by the 3.5 point spread. Vegas is usually pretty bang-on when it comes to spreads, but this seems more like the Alabama/New Mexico State game and its 52 point spread. That the Crimson Tide covered!

I will say this, if the Niners can come out and at least play a competitive game, it will give me a little hope that this coaching staff is not as awful as they appear. The word from the locker room as of now is one of solidarity and hope. They aren’t turning on each other or the coaches. Yet. After the latest smack-talk by Lynch toward the players, the wonder is if the players will turn on the management. Maybe it serves as a wake-up call to play much harder than their last pathetic effort.

Oh boy.

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Play the Corner Kids

Hmmmmm. The baseball team here was all about “let the old guys play”. For the 49ers secondary, that has proven to be a debacle. Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Norman have been bad to awful. We’ve all seen the PI calls, missed tackles, bad angles, and multiple burns, so now that these guys are hobbled, the rookies Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Ambry finally get their shot.

Barring utter failure, they can’t be worse than Shitty and Shittier. Can they? I guess we will find out. The Niners with Shanny are 5-3 against the Rams and McVay, including winning the last 4 games. That of course comes with the caveat of Jared Goff being the Rams QB. He of the 0-8 record with the Deetroit Kittens.

What does it mean? I don’t know. But this game will tell a lot about the heart of this team. It is imperative that this team plays well and does not get blown out on the Monday night. A demoralizing loss on the national stage would likely be the death knell for this coaching staff. A hard-fought loss would at least show the team has some guts. A win would fuel the thought that Shanny has Sean’s number. Not really feeling that, but last week’s plethora of upsets showed anything is possible. Jax beat Buffalo. Giants beat the Raiders. Falcons beat the Saints.

Up to and including Miami’s upset over the Ravens. What I loved about Miami is they dared the Ravens to run by putting 7 to 9 guys in the box. Every play. The Ravens couldn’t run or pass against that defense. It took away the short passes, QB runs, and any other runs. Granted, this demands decent CB play, but Miami was getting pressure every pass play, so they never got burned too badly.

Our defense is just to vanilla as to be terrible as we get no pressure from anyone but Bosa. And he’s routinely double-teamed. Ryans has to come up with something other than the base 4-3 and no blitzing. Miami;s 30th ranked defense handled the best rushing team in the league by being ballsy. This defense needs to grow a pair.

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Silence of the Rams (Opponent?) – Yapping of the Front Office

This team is in swirly mode. Shanny remarked about Fred Warner:

“Everyone knows we gave Fred a new contract and he’s learned every single bit of it. I think Fred can play at a higher level. I think he agrees with that also. Everyone on our defense can and everyone on our offense can. Everyone sees our record, what it is. We need coaches, players, everybody to play to the best of their ability.” 

John Lynch went out of his way to criticize Fred Warner’s play in the AZ game, and to say Warner is:

“. . . not having the season so far that he expects or we expect. You know, sometimes, I think you get a big contract and you have a lot going on in your mind. You probably try and do a little too much. He probably needs to try and zero in and just focus on his job.”

Ouch. If it is this bad to the media and fans, what are they saying INSIDE the building? Bad as it was, this is on the whole defense. The front office for drafting guys like Jalen Hurd, and Joe Williams, and Reuben Foster, and Solly Thomas, and countless other 1-3 round flops. Lynch needs to answer to his own failings before throwing his players under the bus.

Shanahan at least mentioned himself and his inept play calling. Not to mention his lousy clock management skills, and his complete whiff on the red flag issue. Shades of Teflon Mike Nolan. Warner can’t be everywhere all the time, and as I’ve said a thousand times, missing Greenlaw is REALLY hurting this defense, but we are what we are. A sub-.500 team that can’t finish a game to save our season. Finishing games is on the coaching staff. They are not putting the players in a position to succeed.

And yay, we get a pass rusher Charles Omenihu from the Texans at the trade deadline. And he sits. Why did we get him? To push Armstead into playing better? To keep the bench warm?

Gee, I wonder if ODB plays for the Rams on Monday night. Or Von Miller. Fuck me sideways.

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