The other day, as I am wont to do, I watched the last drive in the 49ers-Saints playoff game. And what a great drive it was. We all saw it. There's no point in attempting to elucidate the emotional responses we all shared. To a degree, we will never be able to relive them again.
This is why, when watching it for the umpteenth time, I started to notice new things. This makes sense, right? When you see a movie like Memento twice, for example, you just see everything. Same goes for the final drive. And this time I realized something odd.
The most pivotal play in the drive may not have even been successful. I'm talking about the "over"-throw to Brett Swain (/cough, slow as molasses, cough). If Brett Swain makes that catch, the game may not have ended in our favor, as the next play (the epic throw to Vernon Davis) was so much more than what Swain's catch would have been.
Well, maybe. In hypothetical land, much could have gone differently. If Swain was a step faster, maybe he takes it to the house. That would give the ball back to the Saints with about 40 seconds left on the clock. With how they were scoring on the last few drives, that could have been deadly. Or maybe not.
More than likely, though, because Swain was draped by Jabari Greer (can I get a flag, anybody?), he would have been tackled immediately. This would have put the 49ers at the 35 yard line, off by about 15 yards from where Davis reached on his catch. That extra fifteen yards would fundamentally alter the game. That awesome TD catch? Wouldn't happen. Or, at least, in the way that it did.
What does the 15 yards do? Maybe we have to go for the field goal. Time was running out, after all, and we only had the one timeout to set up the field goal. I don't want to ever doubt the sacred leg of Mr. Akers, but it is conceivable that he misses and we lose. Or, if he does make it, the game goes into overtime.
I'm not saying that Brett Swain assured us the victory. Nor am I saying that we shouldn't upgrade the position enough that he no longer has a spot on the team (because we should and have). I'm just saying that hindsight in sports demonstrates how unpredictable and chaotic Football is. And, that's what makes it awesome.