Criminy, no football around these parts for ages it seems. The one game coming up is Monday night, so it won’t even be here this weekend. Thank God the Giants are giving me something to watch. The Niners could learn a lot from the Giants as they coalesced late in the year to become a team in the true sense of the word. Subsuming personal greatness for the common good. Something the Niners already do pretty well, but the Niners have looked a bit less than the dominating team that started the season by whipping on GB (a contender) and Deetroit (apparently back to being pretenders).
The NY Giants game was a debacle in EVERY phase of the game, and the Seattle game was an offensive struggle. The run game was there for the most part as they gained 170 yard on the ground. Something Seattle isn’t used to giving up. Defensively they played well enough, and were assisted by five dropped passes by the Hawks. Special teams looked more like their special selves than in recent memory.
Which brings us to Alex Smith. Like the Minnesota and Giants games, the WRs in the Seattle game couldn’t seem to shake free of the coverage. Manningham was hurt in the Giants game, and missed the Seahawk game, so you have to hope Manningham would have done a little better than Crabtree did in getting open. Smith just seemed fairly tentative out there. The best game of his life (Buffalo) was followed by his worst (NYG), and the Seattle game featured a potentially devastating pick in the end zone by Seattle. Plus there were a few too many plays left on the field that Smith missed. VD was neutralized in these games. And this is something the additional WRs were supposed to address. Mainly Moss. When Moss comes in, he usually gets a CB and a safety over the top, so his presence should open someone else up. However, Smith struggled finding guys open. Like Moss in the back of the end zone on the INT. There were other plays were it seemed Smith wouldn’t pull the trigger even though someone was open. On the rollouts, he gives up half the field. and the defense simply flows to the guys on the righ half of the field. This was evident in the Giants game, when Smith was often throwing into traffic.
Granted, Seattle has very physical corners, and no one seems to pass very well against them, but as this team works its way to the playoffs, they are going to face strong defenses like Seattle and the Giants, and especially Minnesota, a likely firswt round playoff foe. And I also know that this passing offense is still a work in progress. The Buff and Jet games were tests to see how the deep passing game would work. Well, it worked great against a couple of lesser defenses. Good ones? Not so much. They still have work to do, and Smith has to work on getting the ball out quicker. He’s take some unwarranted sacks, but the flipside being better a sack than a pick. The problem there is Smith has already equalled his pick total from last year as he’s being asked to be more aggressive. Still and all, the game-awareness is lacking at times. He’s taking sacks when he should simply throw the ball away, and he’s missing open guys at times. Nitpicking a 5-2 team? Sure. Maybe. But I AM concerned about how well this team can do in the playoffs if they can’t get VD out from double coverage, and can’t get the ball to anyone else. The run game is a plus, but if the Niners can’t cionsistenl;y hit pass plays, the 8-in-the-box scenario we grew to hate in the Singletary days will come back as a defense we regularly face.
So, as long as the Niners can get through AZ on their way to the halfway mark, and the bye, they will be in excellent shape to lock up the NFC West. a 2-0 record in the division and a 2 game lead over AZ, and possibly Seattle as they have a tough game on the road vs Deetroit. If Seattle has shown anything, it’s that they are much better at home, going 3-0 at home, and 1-3 on the road. A loss by Sea would give the Niners the tiebreaker plus a 2 game lead over both.