By Jerrell Richardson
It was far from pretty, and a game that saw the 49ers make countless mistakes, but a win is a win. While the offense and special teams made their contributions, this win was due solely to the outstanding play of the defense. If either the special teams or offense could have played better this one would have been over early, but it wasn’t. In fact it took a final stand by the defense to seal a 16-10 49er road victory.READ MORE: Significant Storms Coming To Drought-Parched Northern California; Fire Season May Be Ending
How the 49er offense only scored 16 points is baffling. They averaged 4 yards per rush, and the passing game accounted for 10 first downs. They racked up 333 total yards, but yet gave the ball back to New York with a chance to steal a win late in the game. Colin Kaepernick had a modest day, completing 15 of 29 attempts for 193 yards and a touchdown. He was only sacked once and didn’t throw an interception, but he failed to make some throws and could have played better. However, it was the running game that was the early focus, and again late when the team was trying to milk the clock, so part of Kaepernick’s numbers are explainable. It’s also hard to knock a guy for winning a game and protecting the ball.
Michael Crabtree had his most impactful game in a while, catching 3 balls, but one was a 48-yard touchdown catch in the second half that proved to be the difference. Anquan Boldin led the team with 5 catches for 53 yards, but he too was relatively quiet, at least for his standards. Kaepernick spread the ball to 7 different receivers though and targeted 9 different players.
Frank Gore had 19 carries for 95 yards, Carlos Hyde added 9 carries, and as a team, the 49er rushed the ball 37 times. This is a good sign for a team that in prior weeks had relied strictly on the pass, and it’s far more effective with these types of numbers. Gore did have a fumble on the team’s first drive that cost them points, but he made up for it after. While it might not have translated to points, as a team, the 49ers averaged 4 yards per rush meaning that when asked to run they got the job done. The biggest problem for the offense was settling for field goals as 16 points won’t get it done most weeks, but the production was there.
The defense set the offense up time and time again with their 5 interceptions, and were constantly in the face of Eli Manning, despite only sacking him twice. The Giants quarterback had a day to forget, completing less than half of his 45 attempts and his only touchdown came on his team’s opening drive. He did throw for 280 yards, with the majority of his targets going to Rueben Randle and Odell Beckhman Jr., both who had big days, but turnovers played a large role in keeping New York off the scoreboard.
It was Chris Borland who gets the game ball again. He lead the team in tackles (13), passes defended (3) and interceptions (2). The rookie, filling in for Patrick Willis along with another backup, Michael Wilhoite were all over the field, making plays in both the running and passing game. The two, combined with the rest of the defense bottled up Rashad Jennings who had just 59 yards on 18 carries. It was the inability of New York to run that set up the interception party thrown by Eli. Eric Reid, Chris Culliver and Wilhoite all got in on the action, and each one proved to be big when considering the final scoreREAD MORE: COVID: Low Turnout For Booster Shots Has Santa Clara County Officials Concerned
Special Teams: B-
There was a lot that the special teams did that were crucial in this game. Phil Dawson hit all 3 of his field goal attempts, and was the team’s lone source of points outside of Michael Crabtree’s second half touchdown. Andy Lee averaged 46.8 yards per punt and saved his best for last, booming a 56-yarder to pin the Giants deep in their own territory to attempt their final gasp.
But there was a botched field goal attempt, a failed onside recovery, and the kick return team was gashed by Preston Parker who totaled 129 return yards on just 5 kickoff returns. While none proved costly, another 3 points would have completely changed this game, and Preston’s returns in such a close game continued to put undue pressure on the defense.
Shouldn’t Have Even Been Close
The question isn’t how the 49ers won this game, it was how it was so close. Give the Giants credit. They hung in there and made some plays, but in the end it was the 49er defense that was by far the best unit on the field, and ultimately won this game for San Francisco. The offense needs to figure out their scoring woes, but the fact that they are running the ball, and Kaepernick is not only throwing the ball to Boldin is only a good thing. Aldon Smith looked good in his return, and the defense only figures to get better as he gets back into the mix. Up next is Washington, another team that the 49ers have no business losing too, but will need a complete team efforts to avoid another nail biter.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.