During and after the Steelers game, I was right in there with everybody else complaining about the referee's calls, which completely stunted the flow of the game and affected the 49ers ability to get the ball in the end zone. It's hard enough to go into Pittsburgh straight up. Have one hand tied behind your back at different times in the game and it's damn near impossible to have a chance to win.
With that in mind, I was reading about Mike Nolan's press conference yesterday and he made an excellent point about officiating and winning:
When you go on the road and face a good team like that, you can't rely on luck or officiating. You have to rely on yourself defeating that team. That's what our football team needs to understand. Excuses are for losers. They make it ok to lose, and it's not ok to lose.
Over the last couple of years, I would have said it's ok for us to throw out excuses because we were such a bad team. The 49ers were looking for wins in any way possibility without the weight of expectation. Things have changed now. The 49ers suddenly have expectations and it's too easy to fall back on the crutch of excuses when things don't go our way. We were hosed by the referees and Nolan came as close as he probably can to admitting as such, if you read between the lines:
But I did think the turning point in the game was the incomplete pass down the middle in the third quarter. Although we did get three points out of it, I did feel that some of the momentum had changed a little bit...The officials did not cost us the game...However, the NFL coaches and players are held accountable to a very high standard and level of performance. When we do not meet those standards, we are criticized by the media, fans, and general public. That criticism makes us better. So I am not criticizing anyone as far as the question goes. But I am suggesting that we hold everyone accountable to the same standards because that's what makes the NFL great. It's not a job for just anyone.
While I have certainly been one to criticize Nolan in the past over things like timeout usage and play-calling, I will never criticize him about one thing. He wants to win, he will not accept losing and he will definitely not accept players who think it is ok to lose. I think he made that point abundantly clear in year 1 when he said the goal was a division title. The team had no chance of winning the division title that year, but I see that as step one of the personality conversion process Nolan was instituting. The team had reverted to a culture of losing and it became acceptable to lose. The team was filled with bad apples and malcontents overshadowing the good guys and Nolan has spent the past three years searching for the right fit of personalities.
In the aftermath of the game there is plenty of fire and anger when things don't go your way. What I like about this site is that we have been able to express that anger and annoyance with certain situations, but still see the big picture. This is a team that needs to improve in certain areas if they want to join the Steelers of the world as Super Bowl contenders.
Normally I'd have a little more to look back on this past weekend, but considering the upcoming matchup, I think it's important to start looking ahead. The Seattle Seahawks come to town in a showdown for first place (pdf file). It's only week 4, but the winner of this game gets some early momentum in the race to win the West. The 49ers need to move past the anger from last week and rally around the proverbial flag. With The Disease in remission Niners Nation favorite, Delanie Walker will certainly see a lot more playing time. After a phenomenal preseason, maybe he can be the guy to help this offense make some more plays while Davis is out. No matter what, I hope to see the 49ers come out focused and ready to take care of their business. One of their goals should be an undefeated home schedule. This team is good enough to do that, and this Sunday provides the first real test to that goal.