Out of frustration I had actually typed the words: "THIS is how you give away a football game." Thankfully I did not have my own Dewey Defeats Truman moment! That game went from an ugly and painful 49ers loss to spectacular and thrilling 49ers win in a matter of 3 minutes. Alex Smith went from goat to hero, Patrick Willis had a nice little coming out party and in the end it was the always unassuming Arnaz Battle who won this game for us.
With all week to analyze this performance, I'm not going to discuss the ineptness of the offense for 57 minutes and just discuss their final 3 minutes. Considering how poorly he had performed up until the final drive, it was easy to get down on Alex Smith. And yet, as he did against Seattle and Denver last season, Smith showed the moxie that makes me slightly more confident now that he can guide this team to the Promised Land. Smith shook off the cobwebs and led the 49ers on a brilliant closing drive thanks in part to a seriously ballsy 25 yard rush on 4th and 1. The play calling was not pretty at times, but Smith made things happen as he showed confidence in his passes. The primary difference I noticed was that at the end of the game, Smith was stepping up into the pocket and firing off passes. The rest of the game he would drop back and then scramble to the left and right and backwards, thus negating his arm strength.
Rather than give a single MVP award out, I figure we'll do like the team does and give out some game balls.
Arizona 4th quarter defense - I'm only half-kidding, but as the Mikes said, the only thing a prevent defense prevents is a win. I have no problem with a prevent defense when you're up 2 or 3 scores, but NOT when it's a single possession game.
Bryant Young - We'll get to the young linebacker in a second, but every play it seemed like BY was getting pressure on the quarterback or stuffing a run in the backfield. BY just keeps on ticking and will be a key leader of this defense. Who will he be providing leadership too? Oh you know who I'm talking about...
Patrick Willis - The youngster certainly acquitted himself quite well in his regular season debut. He had 9 total tackles and a forced fumble, but that does not even begin to measure his performance. Willis was all over the field flashing his world-class speed and making plays, even when he wasn't making the tackle. The crowd seemed to get quite excited when he popped Leinart after a pass.
Arnaz Battle - I had a piece up about Battle a month or two ago and he has done nothing to diminish my respect for his abilities. He had 5 receptions for 60 yards which is certainly well and good. More importantly:
A. Battle 1 1 1 1
Combine that with the awesome block he sprung on the Alex Smith 25-yard rush and he was as important as ANYBODY in winning this game.
Alex Smith's last 3 minutes - Considering how brutal he was up till then, I'll just give the game ball to his final 3 minutes! The 49ers need a little more consistency, but I'll take the W's for now. He may not be putting up Peyton Manning performances, but I think he's proven he's got the balls to lead this team. He is clearly not afraid of stepping up when the moment calls for it. He's got a lot of work to do, but I think it's safe to say he's got the mental makeup to be successful in this league.
There were plenty of stand out performers at different points in the game, so feel free to throw out your game balls. I'll definitely have plenty to say later about the special teams coverage and the defense. For now though, I'm happy to leave the game balls as they are.
As I said in the comments, I certainly don't think I can handle another 15 games like this. I'm drained, exhausted and am just now winding down. And I'd still take it every week if it meant wins. It was hard to get excited during the preseason but that is most definitely not the case tonight.
The 49ers may not have deserved a win, but a win is a win is a win is a win. Just repeat that mantra and I guarantee you'll at least feel a little better! It's a short week before the 49ers head to St. Louis, but I think it's safe to enjoy this one for at least a day.