Given the events of the last 24 hours, it is especially appropriate to be discussing Mike Singletary's Formula for Success. As the newly minted head coach heading into 2009, this is the philosophy that will hopefully carry the 49ers into the playoffs next season. It was an entertaining finish to the season that required the team hit on all six aspects of the formula.
1. Total Ball Security
3. Dominate the trenches
4. Create great field position
Total Ball Security
The 49ers made it a habit this season of coughing up the ball left and right but sometimes managing to recover most of them. Yesterday was no different. Frank Gore, Shaun Hill and Vernon Davis all had fumbles that were recovered. Hill also had an interception that resulted in a Redskins field goal. The good news in the turnover department was Takeo Spikes recovering a Clinton Portis fumble early in the third quarter. The 49ers turned it into seven points and saw the momentum swing completely in their favor. I'd have to give them a B+. Security issues in the first half were overcome quite nicely with the huge Portis fumble in the second half.
The team was touch and go on offense in what seemed a little bit like a repeat of the Rams game. They started out strong but then stunk before coming back strong, this time in the entire second half, instead of just the fourth quarter. In spite of what Ron Pitts and Tony Boselli were saying, Shaun Hill did not seem to be completely off his game. He had some errant passes and struggled at times, but for the most part seemed to take care of business. Considering the fact that the Redskins hadn't given up 25 points this season, I'd say the offense did what it needed to eventually. I'll give them a B+. I think last week I over-graded them and while there were some issues at times this week, they were solid.
The defense kept the offense in the game, but they struggled in giving up some impressive Redskins drives. Statistically they contained the Redskins but I'd keep it at a B considering the big drives the Redskins created. The 49ers have had several games this year where the results and the stats seem at odds. Jason Campbell only had 156 passing yards and they averaged 3.7 yards per rush. That doesn't seem too spectacular, but clearly the overwhelming number of single digit yardage drives made up for it.
Special teams was up and down, but thankfully they were up when it mattered. Brian Jennings had a rare poor snap that led to a Nedney miss. Of course, they bounced back sufficiently to allow Nedney to drill the game-winner. Andy Lee continued to star with a 49.7 gross and Allen Rossum had some big returns again. In spite of the field goal miss, I think the special teams earned themselves an A at the end of the day.
Dominate the Trenches
The 49ers put together a very solid performance in the trenches when it mattered most. On offense, the rushing attack averaged 4.7 yards per rush and Hill was only sacked once. In spite of what Pitts said (I sense a running theme), even when Hill was throwing incomplete passes, he had enough time to step up in the pocket. I think the offensive line has shown as much improvement as anybody over the course of the season.
On defense, the line only managed one sack, but it came at an opportune time in the third quarter. Campbell still needs to improve his game, but he showed signs of what he can do yesterday. While the defensive line didn't get a ton of pressure, when they did, Campbell showed impressive scrambling ability in getting out of the way. Tony Boselli analogized Campbell to Steve McNair and given his mobility, size and arm, I can see that. Given the performance of the offensive line, I'd go with a B performance in the trenches.
Create Great Field Position
The Portis fumble was key in setting the 49ers up in great field position. Of course fumbles are often a product of luck so it's not like that's a huge factor in field position. Allen Rossum, though, showed why he was really quite valuable to the 49ers this season. Maybe he's not the most valuable guy on the team, but an argument can be made for his value. A 35-yard punt return set the 49ers up in position to eventually get a field goal. He's not going to break one every punt return, but when healthy, he seems to be good for one quality return a game. I'll go with a B for creating field position. The fumble recovery was huge, but luck was certainly a factor.
I think it's safe to say the team finished strong. Prior to the game-winning field goal, the three touchdowns showed this team can punch the ball into the end zone on occasion. And finishing the game the way they did was impressive. The 49ers had 1:02 left and managed to move quickly into field goal position to win it. If they can keep doing that in the future, I'll be a happy camper. I give them an A for finishing off another tight one.
The team seemed to somewhat replicate last week's win at St. Louis. They went through the first half looking like zombies, before turning it on in the second half. Given all the distractions surrounding Mike Singletary's status and the potential firing of Mike Martz, the team gutted out a solid win to carry momentum into the offseason. It's hard to grade heart so I think going forward I'll just discuss the issue without a firm grade analysis. Rather, I think they continued to show heart (I think that's generic enough).