49ers: Victory Just Wasn't In The Cards
(originally written 10/3/17)
(It took five days to finish this piece...true. The next game is just hours away...true. But I'm not going to do a half-assed rush job on an article until convinced I at least know 75% of what I'm talking about. Hope you understand.)
It was another touchdown-free loss for San Francisco this past Sunday, at least officially. You see, they did have a TD on the board for a minute or so, until the officials told us that WR Trent Taylor set up Matt Breida's grab by illegally screening his defender.
You know those dreams where you're visited by someone who's passed away, and you want to believe it's real, but you just know it isn't and can't enjoy the moment because you know it's going to be taken away?
That's what I felt when Breida pranced untouched through that end zone. It was too easy, too organic, to have come from the 2017 49ers. (I made several unappealing noises throughout this game: the primal shriek on this play, the pained scream on George Kittle's 3rd-quarter drop, and least masculine of all, the worried yelp when QB Brian Hoyer's head grazed the knee of enemy LB Chandler Jones as he was knocked to the ground.)
AGAIN, HOYER'S NO MOYER
Remember late in the game where Taylor sprung free in the back of the end zone, so open that it would have been criminal to not feed him the touchdown pass?
Lock Hoyer up. He overthrew the kid. Class B felony. That was painful on a Jason Biggs-premature-climax level. Of course, to throw Taylor a strike would go against everything the 2017 49ers stand for.
Which is not to knock our embattled signal-caller. A lot of people want his starting status to change, and based on the team's overall record and lack of TD production...it's not hard to understand why.
But last Sunday's loss wasn't all on Hoyer. The team has not yet been cured of The Dropsies plaguing every 49er this year (except one. Hey, team? Watch what your coach, who's at least 14 years out of practice, did as the 4th quarter wound down.) Hoyer's final line was decidedly uninspiring (24-49, 234 yards), but remember—his receivers dropped five easily-catchable balls, irresolute NFL catch rules wiped out a grab by Logan Paulsen...and, of course, the aforementioned penalty.
2 PLUS 19 = PRACTICALLY ZERO
Am I saying Hoyer played well? Not exactly. The overthrow to Taylor was, well, awful. And in the second half his strange determination to hook up with Aldrick Robinson at all costs killed more than one drive (although Robinson's bungled routes and butterfingers share some blame.)
Yeah, star Cardinals CB Patrick Patterson was on the other side of the field shadowing #1 WR Pierre Garcon. Yeah, WR Marquise Goodwin was concussed. But 12 targets to an aging journeyman with fewer lifetime catches than Garcon averages is not winning football.
The good quarterbacks simply wouldn't allow their team to go three-and-out on the final five drives as we (disgustedly) saw Sunday. I'm just saying Hoyer had help not being good.
MORE FROM THE ROBINSON "BROTHERS"
Aldrick wasn't the only Robinson to find the ball coming his way time and again—Carson Palmer and Arizona habitually picked on second-year man Rashard Robinson with one of the Browns. No, not the Cleveland football team; turns out Arizona has two WR's named Brown (John and Jaron) and I won't pretend I knew two Browns were running through the Niners secondary until the near-fateful overtime play. Hey, if you can't beat most teams conventionally, make 'em think they're seein' double, huh?
Rashard Robinson did make a nice play early on a deep pass to one of the Browns, who knows which one, but overall had a tough day and should have given up a late-1st quarter TD—except Arizona RB Andre Ellington's catch was inexplicably overturned. (And NaVorro Bowman, like other Niners defenders before him, proved the Dropsies are contagious by haplessly letting a gift Palmer pass carom off his chest midway through the second.)
Oh, well, Aldrick and Rashard struggled, but I hear Ted Robinson performed well at the mike.
BACK TO THE FUTURE?
Examining 'Zona's roster warped time to Jim Harbaugh's final days—OL Alex Boone and Mike Iupati, K Phil Dawson, P Andy Lee and DB Antoine Bethea all traded in their red and gold for red and...uh...more red in recent years. Not only that, but Ellington is the cousin of Bruce Ellington, who spent the past two years with the 49ers.
(I want to joke about Andre's own two drops resulting from his 49ers ties, shaky as they may be—but I won't. Unless I just did.)
THE NINERS SACK UP
The defense bent more than once but—thanks in part to the Ellington call—didn't break until overtime. Excluding the Rams game, San Francisco has allowed 54 points in three games to three pretty good QB's (Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer). Anytime you hold a team to four field goals in four quarters, you've done more than your part to win a football game.
The stats will show Palmer was sacked six times and hurried a bunch more, but if you saw the game—especially the first half—you're aware Palmer seemed to bounce between having no time to throw the ball or enough time to throw a damn party. Whatever adjustments the coaching staff made at the half were obvious; even when San Francisco only brought four, Palmer didn't go more than a couple of plays without feeling the heat. Only one of San Francisco's six sacks came before halftime.
CAN THE HORSES BE MOUNTED?
In short, no. Not unless former Colt Garcon is being fed secret information from staffers who don't know he left the team five years ago.
Indianapolis's defense so far has not played well, so while the 49ers should reach the end zone once or twice, their usual trifecta of turnovers, drops and penalties—possibly all on the same play—will prevent them from capitalizing on Colts QB Andrew Luck's absence. Colts 21, Niners 13.
That's a prediction, not a wish, and I certainly hope I'm dead wrong.
With that in mind...Go, Niners!