It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, in the case of the San Fracisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. Let’s take a look at a couple of football games from yesterday. The 49ers/Bucs game (of course), and the Dallas/GB game. Both featured teams that were expected to do very well and reach the playoffs with ease. Well, in both cases, each team has run into some roadblocks along the way. But as of yesterday, both had their fate in their own hands.
The Niners faced a tough road game against a team that, while 4-9, was on a roll, having won 4 of their last 5.The Niners of course have gone through their share of ugly losses, and a recent huge victory over the Seahawks. Dallas on the other hand, has yoyoed themselves through wins over the also-rans, and Philly before they got hot, and took a couple big losses in the shootout with Denver (51-48), and Chicago (45-28).
So, come yesterday, both teams had build up leads at the half. The Niners however, screwed the pup by going prevent late in the 2nd quarter to allow TB to march down the field and score a TD. Dalls, had build a seemingly insurmoutable 265-3 lead on the back of some strong DeMarco Murray running, and some big pass plays from Romo to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Throw in 4 field goals, and there’s your 23 point lead.
While the 49ers had dominated their half, they were only up by 10, and that lead quickly shrunk to 6 points after the Niners drove for a 43 yard FG, and Tampa swithced things up by going no-huddle, and scoring very easily to mae the score 20-14. Dallas meanwhile, started their 2nd half by instantly giving GB life by giving up a 60 yard run to Edddie Lacy, and letting GB score in less than 2 minutes after the kickoff. Still, Dallas was able to drive down the field and answer with a FG of their own on a 6+ minute drive, mixing runs and passes fairly well. GB then marches down the field 80 yards in 12 plays, making the score 29-17. Closer, but no need to panic yet.
Here’s where the coaching comes in to play. Both games were now entering the 4th quarter, and both teams faced momentum shifts that had gone the other way. The Niners were only up by 6, but at this point they started pounding the ball on runs. They engineered an 18 play (10 of which were runs), 75 yard drive that burned 10 minutes of the 4th quarter. That it only resulted in a FG is of little import as the Niners had a 2-score lead, and there was little time. Dallas, who had run the ball very well all game, suddenly and inexplicably gave up on the run. So their momentum-defining drive was 2 dropped passes, and a sack. Burning less than 1 minute of clock. So they were punting from their 2. A decent punt return, and boom. 29-24, and panic starts to creep in.
The Niners were then able to salt the game away on a very high risk reverse on the ensuing kickoff, thus allowing Kendall Hunter an easy touchdown on the blown excxhange. Dallas on the other hand, was in pass-only mode. To stem the fact that Their defense was turning very sieve-like, Dallas didn’t run. They did manage a tpouchdown midway through the 4th quarter, thus extending their lead to 36-24. Certainly a big enough lead, even though their derfense was starting to gag.
Sure enough, Dallas’ defense gives up a TD-scoring drive as GB marches 80 yards in 3 minutes. 36-31 Dallas. So, instead of trying to give their defense a rest, and take time off the clock, Dallas keeps passing. Incomplete pass, sack, then the killer INT. GB by this point is doing anything they want offensively. The Dallas defense is gassed and tiring, and they give up yet another scoring drive. 50 yards in 1:30. GB up 37-36 (2 pt conversion failed). At this point it still isn’t desperation time, but it’s close. Still and all, they just need to get into FG range to kick the game-winning FG. Unfortunately (hah!!), Romo throws yet another pick to ice the game for GB.
What do we gain from this? Well, as much crap as I’ve given Greg Roman over the course of this season, he called a masterful game yesterday. He did NOT go away from the run as he had in some earlier games when the momentum was slipping away. Namely, Seattle and Indy. He stuck with the run, and was rewarded with some tough Gore runs up the middle, and some surprisingly effective sweeps from Hunter. Kaepernick had, to me, one of his best games ever, as he effectively bought time and made some huge throws under big pressure, into some very tight windows. He also ran with reckless (and effective) abandon that kept drives alive.
Dallas on the other hand, is once again looking at a statistaical marvel of a game that sdomehow slipped away amid the HC blaming his QB for calling into the pick, and the prima donna WR walking off the field with 1:30 left in the game. In other words, just another day in Pleasant Valley.