A good friend invited me to watch the game at a local sports bar, and I'm so happy to have taken him up on the offer. I need a stiff drink - stat.
Though they probably made the task much harder than it needed to be, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night by a score of 13-6. With this win, the 49ers claim sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
"Just really pleased," said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. "The way they covered kicks all night, the way we played defense, the way we played offense, the way we moved people up front...that second half was the most physical I've ever seen our football team play, really proud of them for that."
Quarterback Alex Smith had a shaky showing - he overthrew receivers on a few occasions and tossed an inopportune red zone interception - but for Smith, one statistic takes precedence.
"All I care about is coming out with the ‘W,' " said quarterback Alex Smith. "[It was a] short week...a division game. [There is a] lot of history between these two teams. [We did] anything to get it done, whatever it took."
Fortunately for the 49ers, their ever-reliable running back Frank Gore was able to compensate for a flailing passing attack. Gore torched the Seahawks defense for 131 yards on the ground and 51 more through the air. Statistically, it was Gore's best game so far this season.
"I just got in that rhythm," said Gore. "And once I get in that rhythm, I feel I can't be stopped."
San Francisco's defense played up to their reputation by holding Seattle to just two field goals. The 49ers certainly benefitted from a couple dropped passes by Seahawks receivers, but according to linebacker Aldon Smith, the key was preventing plays for big yardage.
"We knew that if we could limit their big plays, we'd be alright," said Smith.
Smith, who sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on Seattle's last offensive drive, claims the victory is a testament to the 49ers' fortitude.
"In a game like this, you got to dig deep. We just had a game on Sunday and for us to come back and play Thursday just tests our physical and our mental. We were able to combine both and come out with a win. That speaks volumes for this team."
-- RB Frank Gore - 131 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards
CAPTION: SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 18: Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball for a thirty seven yard gain breaking the tackle of earl Thomas #29 of the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Candlestick Park on October 18, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won the game 13-6. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Frank, quite literally, carried the 49ers to victory.
What's more remarkable than his 131 rushing yards? The fact that he recorded it with just 16 carries. That's an average of 8.2 (!) yards per carry. Consider the 51 receiving yards on top of that and Frank ‘the Tank' was, by far, the 49ers' most productive player on the field Thursday night.
Here's some fun Frank facts for you:
- After Thursday night, Frank has a career average of 93.1 rushing yards per game against the Seattle Seahawks, far and away the highest average against any NFC West team.
- Additionally, Seattle is the only team that Frank has rushed for over 1,000 yards against - 1,210 total rushing yards to be precise.
- Frank needs just 4 more rushing touchdowns - making a total of 51 in his career - to pass both Roger Craig and Joe Perry as the 49ers' all-time rushing touchdown leader (Note: the NFL does not recognize AAFC statistics as a part of their official records. As such, Perry has 50 rushing touchdowns not including the 18 he recorded from 1948-49).
The 49ers offense was absolutely abysmal against the Giants last week. This was due, in large part, to the coaches abandoning the running game; Frank carried the ball just 8 times the entire game. It's no coincidence that the 49ers experience more offensive success when Frank gets touches. Matter of fact, since Jim Harbaugh became head coach, the 49ers are 17-0 in games with 25 or more carries.
If it wasn't obvious before, then it has to be now: Feed. Frank. The. Ball.
THE HOT SEAT
-- QB Alex Smith - 14/23, 140 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 74.5 QB Rating
CAPTION: SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 18: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass under preasure from Chris Clemons #91 of the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter of an NFL football game at Candlestick Park on October 18, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
I'm not so sure this was the kind of rebound Alex was hoping for.
On the 49ers' first drive of the game, Alex overthrew Kyle Williams twice. By a lot. Both could have been substantial gains had the ball been on target, and the second incompletion forced the 49ers to punt the ball away.
Early in the fourth quarter, the 49ers, leading by just 10-6, were at the Seahawks' 7-yard line. They had a great opportunity to extend the lead by a comfortable margin with a touchdown. Instead, flushed out of the pocket and desperate to make something out of nothing, Alex forces a terrible pass that is intercepted by Brandon Browner in the end zone.
I still get the impression that Alex is trying to do too much. He's looking for plays that aren't there, and as a result, he's making some pretty costly mistakes. Alex sat on ‘The Hot Seat' after last Sunday's game against the Giants, and he's taking the seat again this week for the same reasons.
THE WATER COOLER
"The Curious Case of Alexander Smith"
"Alex Smith" was trending worldwide on Twitter long after the game was over on Thursday night. For the Twitterverse, it almost turned into a game of ‘what's the most circuitously creative way to say Alex Smith sucks?' I laughed heartily at some and not so much at others - ‘twas all in good virtual fun.
But how much fact is in the funny? Let's be real - when thousands of people across the world are making relatively the same observation, it kind of has to be at least marginally true, doesn't it?
I recognize the polarizing divide in the 49ers fan base: there are Alex Smith's most ardent "haters" and his most sympathetic "supporters"...whatever, I don't care. It means as much to me as the holy war between Twilight fan girls warring over Team Edward and Team Jacob.
The point is that I'm not here to crap on Alex Smith; I'm just calling it the way I see it. And way I see it, he simply has not been very good lately. Alex played some spectacular games this season that blew me away and had me convinced he was the team's long-term answer at quarterback. Over the last two games, however, Alex shattered my hopes and broke my heart.
What is it, Alex? Can you please tell me? Can you please just write in to me, and let me know what's going on? You're forcing throws, making these errant, erratic passes, overthrowing receivers...Is the sprained finger still bothering you? Did you draft yourself in fantasy football? I feel like I don't even know you anymore. I just need to know what's happening, because I can't figure you out.
Write back soon.
"Bowl in the Bay"
On Tuesday, San Francisco and South Florida were announced as the two official finalists to host Super Bowl L which will be played in 2016. NFL team owners will get together next May to determine the winner by vote.
If San Francisco can edge out South Florida, the city will play host to various pregame festivities and special events in the week and a half leading up to Super Bowl L. However, the actual game itself will be played at the 49ers' new state-of-the-art stadium in Santa Clara about an hour-drive south. The legendary Candlestick Park will be long gone by that time.
If you're a little hazy on your roman numerals, this will be the 50th Super Bowl for the National Football League, a milestone. Consider the historical relevance of the 49ers to the NFL. How fitting would it be for San Francisco to host such a significant Super Bowl? What better way to honor the NFL than to honor the city of one of its greatest franchises? What makes it even more exciting is that, should San Francisco be awarded with Super Bowl L, it'll be the first Super Bowl in the Bay Area since 1985.
For information on how you can help the campaign, check out www.SFsuperbowl.com.
The 49ers receive ten days to prepare before they continue their tour of the NFC West. The team will travel to Glendale, Arizona where the Cardinals will no doubt be looking to stake a claim for the crown. The revolution will be televised as the 49ers and Cardinals fight for divisional dominance on the national stage of Monday Night Football.
Follow Anthony Ly on Twitter: @TheBellamores