Came to work Monday morning, post-Ravens, fully expecting howls of agony at 808-KNBR and a text line aflame with rage questioning Kyle Shanahan’s close game nerves and Jimmy Garoppolo’s ball security.
Instead, I found, for the most part, a legion of 49ers fans, skipping through the meadow, picking daisies and whistling happy tunes.
What happened to you guys?
Truth told, I found it refreshing.
In an era where we tweet outrage over things like —shoot, I don’t know, a tamale with a side salad? —many 49ers fans instead found perspective and good vibes, took the end result of the 20-17 loss in Baltimore and said, essentially:
Great game. Well-played. Tough outcome. Let’s do it again in the Super Bowl!
At least that’s how I read most of you.
And I think that’s …. A very reasonable response.
This isn’t to accept losing. Or to make excuses. Or to “settle” for a close game. Certainly, the loss has big impact in the 49ers’ bid for an NFC West title. We all find ourselves wearing Vikings purple tonight, rooting for Minnesota against those dastardly Seahawks in Seattle on Monday Night Football. And if the Vikings can’t get it done, we find ourselves Rams fans next Sunday night when L.A. takes on the Seahawks.
But I do think there were a few factors involved in “accepting” the loss:
— The 49ers defense proved its mettle, and did not get run out of the gym by Lamar (Fast Break) Jackson.
This is big. Jackson is on one of late. The Ravens entered the game *not having punted* in their previous 21 drives. Let me repeat: The Ravens entered the game not having punted in their previous 21 drives. The 49ers forced a punt on Baltimore’s first possession.
The Ravens and Lamar, entering the 49ers game, had scored 30 at Seattle, 37 vs. Bill Belichick’s Patriots, 49 vs. the woeful Bengals, 41 vs. a good Texans team and 45 vs. Aaron Donald and the Rams. Heck, Lamar had taken to sitting out fourth quarters in some of those games to rest on victorious laurels, as I was just reminiscing with my good friend, Steph Curry. What, too soon?
The 49ers held Baltimore to 20, their lowest output of the season, and only 3 points in the crucial second half. And one of Baltimore’s only two TD drives was a mere 23 yards, after a big Jimmy G fumble.
Yes, Lamar was a headache. Yes, he rushed for 101 yards. But truthfully, given game film to study and the possibility of a rematch in Miami, the 49ers defense can take many positives.
— Baltimore is not an NFC foe, and the loss does not directly impact tie-breaking procedures.
Many of you said this Sunday’s game in New Orleans is more important, and sought balm in that. I buy that. If the 49ers can pull out a win in the Big Easy, they will have gone 2-1 in the ‘Stretch of Death’ and have wins over the Saints and Packers on their NFC ledger. Those are key swings if the 49ers want to snag that No. 1 seed which is very much in play.
There is an asterisk, though. If somehow the 49ers end up tied with Seattle atop the NFC West after winning in Seattle, the first tie-breaker is head-to-head. The 49ers and Seahawks, in that scenario, would have split. Next is divisional record. Right now, the 49ers have one NFC West loss, and in this scenario, so would Seattle. Next up is common opponents, and a win over the Ravens would have helped the 49ers, since Baltimore beat Seattle in the Northwest.
Sigh. Gotta let it go and move on.
— 49ers fans, for the most part, are beginning to grasp the Big Picture, and are excited.
After the agonizing Monday Night loss to Seattle, and then the liberating joy of the Sunday Night whipping of Green Bay, and now the rainy slugfest in Baltimore, I think 49ers fans are understanding that it is December, the team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and things are getting exciting and fun.
Even though going 1-2 so far vs. Seattle/Green Bay/Baltimore is about two losses more than a true Super Bowl contender should accept, a 10-2 mark is no joke and worthy of your adrenaline. You guys can feel it. I can feel you all feeling it. As Irene Cara once sang: What a feeling.
And to think, I was going to originally Jock Blog about Kyle Shanahan’s missteps in close and late games. See how the holiday season has everyone in a good mood? On to New Orleans.