Courtesy of wjackalope
A day later and obviously I'm still excited about the victory yesterday. The 49ers took control of the game early on and then did everything they could to give it back to the Cardinals. In the game thread, Nosetackle Supreme screamed out, "WE ARE MEANT TO WIN THIS GAME" and that seemed to be the case as overtime progressed. I'm not sure who else noticed this, but something struck about the two teams yesterday. On the one hand, the Cardinals seemed to get lucky on every play, whether it be the hail mary to end the first half, several missed calls or the pass to Bryant Johnson that set up the game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, while the 49ers certainly lucked out on the missed OT field goal, the 49ers did not rely on luck the rest of the way. Frank Gore worked his ass off making plays. Trent Dilfer had no problem stepping up in the pocket and checking down to his running backs. Patrick Willis made the literal game-saving tackle. Donald Strickland made th phenomenal play to prevent Bryant Johnson from catching the game-ending TD. The list goes on, but the 49ers busted their asses in that game.
All this points to the reason I can still come back every week to watch this team. I made it the subject of my newest post at the Nothing Finer blog I do for FSN Bay Area: These 49ers don't give up. While they may stink up the joint at times, they battle all the way to the end. When a team is in the midst of an 8-game losing streak it is very hard to see this motivation because the losses create a bitterness. Winning allows us to see this team battling, as they've done every single week. It's easy to brush away a bad loss by saying they just don't care and are just collecting a paycheck. However, if they didn't care, the defense would not continue to bust its ass every single week. Bryant Young has made his millions and cemented his legacy. And yet he continues to bust his ass week in and week out and I think that is something that has trickled down through the rest of the team.
In fact, as much as Mike Nolan is criticized, this is one area that I think he deserves kudos. As bad as things have gotten, this team has not quit. Obviously insiders would have a better handle on the situation, but from the outside, it seems like the players are not giving up on the season.
So what does this mean going forward? Arizona is obviously not a great team in this league, but they're no slouches. Going into Sunday, the Cardinals were actually ranked 13th in Defensive DVOA and had plenty to fight for as they were just a game back of Seattle. So the 49ers beat a decent team. The 49ers could very well revert to prior offensive form next week against the Panthers, but I'd like to hope not. At 4-7, the Panthers were also a preseason playoff pick, but they've seen their season spiral to the point of deciding between David Carr, Vinny Testaverde and Matt Moore (of Oregon State fame, or lack thereof). If the 49ers can replicate yesterday's game plan, this becomes a very winnable game. If they don't, we could see another 13-9 stinker. I can honestly say I have NO idea how this game will turn out. I'm planning on exchanging five questions with our Panthers blogger, and I'm thinking he might say the same thing.