Thursday, January 16, 2014

The 2013 San Francisco Forty Niners---How Did They Get Here---“Again”

~by Rovin

In his first three consecutive years as an NFL coach, Jim Harbaugh has taken the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championships ---one for the National Football League record books.  In Harbaugh’s short tenure in the NFL, he’s boasting a 46-11-1 regular season record, a 5-1 playoffs record, and one appearance in a Superbowl.

In Harbaugh’s first game as a 49er coach, the Niners faced the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick on September 11, 2011.  Final score: Forty Niners 33, Seahawks 17.  In week 16 of that year, the Niners traveled to Seattle and defeated the Hawks again, 19-17 to go to 12-3 on the season.  In the second quarter of that game, David Akers kicked the first of his four field goals on the day---a 53 yarder---as the Niners only found the end zone one time, on a classic drive by Alex Smith in the third quarter, from the 49er’s 25 yd line, and finishing it off with a Frank Gore 4 yard run into the promised land.  The Niners finished the regular season defeating the St. Louis Rams 34-27 to end up with a 13-3 record, earning a first round bye before defeating the New Orleans Saints in a home field shootout 36-32.  The Forty Niners would fall to the 9-7 New York Giants in the Conference Championship game in over-time, 20-17, in a devastating end to Harbaugh’s first season.

The following year, (2012), the Niners would open up their first game of the season in Green Bay and defeat the Packers 30-22.  On week 16 the Niners went to Seattle and were defeated 42-13 before finishing with a win at home against the Arizona Cardinals, 27-13, to finish the regular season at 11-4-1, winning the division, (again), for a first round bye.  In the wild card weekend, the 11-5 upstart Seattle Seahawks would travel to the 10-6 Washington Redskins and defeat them 24-14, impressively shutting out the Redskins for final three quarters of the game, before falling to the Atlanta Falcons the following week 30-28.  In the divisional playoffs the Niners would defeat the Green Bay Packers in Candlestick 45-31, and go on to defeat the Falcons in the Conference Championship 28-24 in Atlanta.

First Superbowl Game in the Harbaugh Era

In Jim Harbaugh’s first Superbowl as a Forty Niner coach, he would face his own brother, John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.  It was a classic game for the ages, but, with the Niners down 34-29  the Niners failed to get the ball into the end zone, (on four consecutive plays), after Frank Gore had ripped off a 30 yard run to get the Niners to the 7 yard line.  Surprisingly, Gore never touched the ball again, as the Niners handed off to LaMichael James on first down, and then Colin Kaepernick threw three straight incompletions to the right side of the end zone, turning the ball over on downs.  Final score, Ravens 34, Forty Niners 31. (This would be the first time---in five tries---that the Niners would lose a Superbowl)

Year Number Three---Final Outcome Still to be Determined 

The Forty Niners would begin their 2013 campaign by defeating the Packers 34-28 with Colin Kaepernick’s arm, going 27/39 and putting 412 yards in the books.  Newly acquired Anquan Boldin, (who had just about single handedly defeated the Niners in the Superbowl), had 13 catches for 208 yards in the game.

The Game, (and Play), That Would Change the Forty Niners’ Season

On Week 11, the Niners, (after getting defeated the previous week by the Panthers 10-9 in a defensive slugfest at Candlestick), would travel to New Orleans, and leave with a 23-20 loss that would define the NFL’s “new” “protect the quarterback at all cost” policy.  With the Niners leading 20-17 and only 6:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Niners’ defense was rising to the occasion in one of their classic finishes, when an NFL referee, (from 10 yards behind the play), decided to change the outcome of the game: 

3rd and 2 at SF 35

(Shotgun) D. Brees sacked at SF 45 for -10 yards (A.Brooks). FUMBLES (A.Brooks), declared dead at SF 45. PENALTY on SF-A.Brooks, Personal Foul, 15 yards, enforced at SF 45. On the play, SF# 52 P. Willis recovered the ball, but on the penalty for a blow to the head and neck area of a quarterback, the 49ers were not allowed to retain possession. The penalty was marked from the point of the sack. (ESPN account of the play)

Watch the video of the play, and you be the judge/referee:

Instead of the Niners recovering the football on the Niners’ 45, (with 3:18 left on the clock), Drew Brees and the Saints had a fresh set of downs---first and ten on the SF 30---and would eventually get the ball to the 24 and 42 yard game tying field goal.  With the score now 20-20, Kaepernick and the Niners go three and out, but on the 48 yard Andy Lee punt, our special teams player runs into the fair catch of Saints’ Darrin Sproles, giving the Saints the ball on their 40 yard line with 1:41 left on the clock.

A.Lee punts 48 yards to NO 25, Center-K.McDermott, fair catch by D.Sproles. PENALTY on SF-K.Osgood, Fair Catch Interference, 15 yards, enforced at NO 25. 
Five plays, (and three first downs), later, the Saints’ Garret Hartley would hit his third field goal of the game from the 13 yard line with .03 seconds left to win the game, 23-20.

This was the last game the Forty Niners would lose in the regular season, finishing with six straight wins and a 12-4 record.  Had the Niners won the game in New Orleans, (a most likely scenario without the official’s terrible call), their record of 13-3 would have been good enough to win the division over the Seahawks, who would be playing in San Francisco this coming Sunday instead of the Niners having to visit the confines of CenturyLink Field.  Conjecture?  Of course.  And since the Ahmad Brooks SACK of Drew Brees was not reviewable, (under current NFL rules), the play stands, as called.  Brooks was later fined, and described his "penalty" this way:

Brooks was fuming after the game, incredulous that he was penalized for the hit. "I didn't hit him with my hand or my helmet," Brooks told reporters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "I basically bear-hugged him. That's just how football is played. I think this s--- is bulls----. Football, the way they call stuff these days, it's watered down. It ain't real no more."
Brees told reporters Tuesday he doesn't think the hit was malicious, or even intentional, but that he believes it was a penalty.
 "I don't think what Ahmad Brooks did was intentional at all," Brees said. "I think he's a heck of a football player and a clean football player. A hard-nosed, clean football player.
And, in this writer's humble opinion, it was a "clean hit".

Moving On…………..

Not letting this one game affect a Niners’ team still on a mission, (the Quest for Six), the Forty Niners have proceeded to go on the road, defeating the Green Bay Packers, (in 9 degree temps), 23-20, and then the Carolina Panthers 23-10, shutting out the Panthers for three straight quarters.  All that’s left to complete a dream season, is to return to Seattle, defeat the Seahawks, and return to the Superbowl against either the New England Patriots or the Denver Broncos---much easier said than done.  The Las Vegas odds-makers have the Seahawks favored by 3-1/2, and the Broncos favored by 5-1/2 at this posting.

Game times: Broncos/Patriots---1pm Pacific Time on CBS ~ Niners/Hawks---3:30pm Pacific on FOX

Go Niners!

Update: NO JINX here......for reasons unknown or given, Sports Illustrated has decided to omit only one team from their front cover stories---the San Francisco Forty Niners.  I posted this at their site:

As a die-hard Forty-Niner fan, I can only see this, (SI's omission of the Niners) as a badge of honor---especially after the Niners take down the Seahawks and the AFC Champion in the Superbowl. Thanks SI for your pettiness & senility.
Some one mentioned in the comments that these are "regional" covers and SI could only pick one, since SF and the Hawks are in the same region.  I guess we should thank them for not supplying the Sports Illustrated Cover Kiss of Death.

Update #2: Ahmad Brooks wins appeal of fine for Drew Brees hit

Thanks to my dear brother Tom, for bringing this to my attention---but this just really pisses me off, and only adds to the fire that these referees have got to get the calls right!

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