Thanksgiving did not exactly end the way I had hoped, but the San Francisco 49ers (9-2) still stand tall as one of the elite teams in the NFL; this loss doesn't change that. Considering the circumstances, winning 9 out of 11 games is still impressive for a team that won only 6 games all of last year. What has really stood out to me about the two losses was that Alex Smith wasn't at fault.
vs. Cowboys:This loss even seemed like Smith's coming out party, with a perfect touchdown throw to Kyle Williams in the end zone giving the 49ers a 14-0 lead. And after the Cowboys had tied it up at 14, Alex Smith comes through and delivers again on a touchdown to Delanie Walker to recapture the lead.
Smith found the mismatch, exploited it and came through for the team. Unfortunately, the defense couldn't hold up against the Cowboys passing attack, no matter who was behind center. Smith finished the game with a 66.7 completion % and a 99.1 quarterback rating.
vs. Ravens:Even though Smith finished with his second worst passer rating this season (61.1), the Ted Ginn Jr. touchdown that was called back changes that number drastically. Like Jim Harbaugh said, the luck just wasn't with them that night. The referees made some questionable calls but San Francisco couldn't do enough to overcome them.
When Smith was upright, which was rarely, he managed to have a 62.5 completion %, which isn't as horrible one who witnessed Thursday's game would have thought. I was also not ready to blame Smith because some of the play calling threw me for a loop. It was sort of a surprise to me that Harbaugh and Greg Roman didn't have a creative screen to a tight end in their back pocket.
I would have loved to have seen a tight end throwback screen or an attempt to get Kendall Hunter out in space. I believe Smith did what he could with what he had at the time but the game remained close, the whole time -- the 49ers were always just one gamebreaking play away from taking over. It just never came.
Also, the fact the Smith was brought down 9 times by Ravens defenders and never lost a fumble is stunning. He took a punishment, but never coughed up the football. And his interception was justified given the game situation; Smith wanted to take a shot downfield and give his big receiver a chance to reel one in before halftime.
It appears that win or lose, Smith will keep his team in the ball game. Against Dallas, the problem seemed to be the secondary and against Baltimore, it was mostly injury and the offensive line. I believe if Adam Snyder and Bruce Miller were healthy and starting, it would have been a different game.
The week after the loss to Dallas, the San Francisco 49ers went on an 8-game win streak. I think it's fair to assume Harbaugh will find a way to turn this most recent loss into a positive for the 49ers going forward. With 5 more regular season games left, the 49ers will look to finish strong and it starts next week against the St. Louis Rams.
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