What started out looking like a beat-down of a demoralized Cowboys team, and Tony Romo in particluar, turned out instead to be a gutty victory by Romo and the dreaded Cowboys. the game hinged on a couple plays. As the 1ast half was winding down, Dallas faced a 3rd and 9. romo missed on a deep ball, and apparently forced a punt. However, Brooks was lined up in the neutral zone for a penalty. On the subsequent 3rd and 4, Romo hit Austin on a short slant that Whitner just flat missed. So, after outplaying Dallas through the first 28:10 of the 1st half, the Niners caved in at the wrong time, and gave Dallas 7 to close the half. To make matters worse, the Niners got the ball with 1:48, but had no timeouts. Thus, the clock ran out on them.
The 2nd half seemed to devolve into a field possession battle for Harbaugh. After Kitna killed a Dallas drive by throwing a pick into the end zone, Smith returned the favor, and Kitna then drove Dallas downfield for the tying TD. The niners inexplicably then left DeMarcus Ware unblocked for a 7 yard sack on the ensuing possession. Punt. Kitna was again picked off on a tipped pass that Brock caught. Smith made a great read on singl;e coverage on Walker split out to the right, and hit him for a 30 yard score. The Niner D stiffened , and forced another Dallas punt on Romo’s return. After the punt and the penalty, the Niners had excellent field position. So, naturally, the Niners run up the middle a couple times, and Smith scrambled for 12. On the enuing 55 yard FG, Dallas was assessed a 15 yard penalty for leverage. Harbaugh said he trusted his defense with a 2 score lead at that point. Unfortunately, there were 11 mintues left . . .
The aggravating thing is, with the game in hand, the defense gave up a ton of short passes to Austin and Witten. The TD to Austin was a very good play, but the whole drive was pitch and catch. The pressure that was there all day evaporated. At that point, the D should have been fairly fresh, but after the subsequent 4 and out (they threw a slant!), the D was gassed. At least they kept Dallas out of the end zone.
The OT was more of the same. 7 yard run. 8 yard sack. 10 yard pass on 3rd and 11. It got overturned anyway after Harbaugh called a timeout, thus allowing the replay to happen in the 1st place. They should have just went ahead and gone for it. Dallas wasn’t going to challenge. Chalk that up to inexperience. These guys have to plan for contingencies like 4th and short, and how to get a play off quick. Same thing with the illegal formation call. Harbaugh chewed the ref’s ear off while the play clock ran down and forced a time out.
Way too much Gore. Way too much Ginn. At some point soon, Harbaugh has to trust Smith and the O line with a game that is more committed to passing. After everyone screamed for more passing than the Seattle game, the Niners threw the ball 4 more times. Not exactly the offensive juggernaut most envisioned. Yes, it’s early. Yes, they are learning on the fly. Yes, this is the safe approach. The problem with playing it safe in the NFL is that usually bites you in the ass. Just ask Miami’s defensive coordinator, or Minnesota’s linebacker coach . . .