The San Francisco 49ers are in the playoffs. They're in the playoffs and that's all I care about right now. A 34-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons secured them as a wildcard entrant, though securing the NFC West and the No. 1 seed is still a possibility. That doesn't matter at the moment, but if you want to know how they can do it, it's simple:
Seattle Seahawks lost to St. Louis Rams and the 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17. The former is a lot less likely to happen than the latter, but the chance is still there. Candlestick would live again.
In my previous recap, I talked about a bunch of random bullet points, and I gave you a vague idea of how the game went. Well you all are going crazy and I have to make another post to contain all of your comments, so I decided I'm going to expand on three of those points below. Because I can.
Donte Whitner should just stop tackling people
After Monday's game, Whitner has been penalized three times for helmet-to-helmet hits this season. On none of those three players did he actually connect helmet-to-helmet. In today's game, Whitner took a perfect angle and went down lower than he needed to so he could get his shoulder in the chest of the runner. There was no contact between helmets and it wasn't even remotely close to debatable.
Yet Whitner was penalized, by a referee who threw the flag simply because the hit looked viscous. This just has to stop at this point. It's pathetic, it's annoying, it's a big black mark on this game. The NFL has the best product out there, and these officials are ruining it one game at a time.
These referees cannot keep up with the speed of the game, not by a long shot. Let's face it, the NFL is a game with tons of breaks, and the controversy over those plays causes them to run long anyway. There is literally no reason that this kind of play shouldn't be able to be reviewed and overturned. Make the change, NFL.
Vance McDonald continues to struggle, Vernon Davis disappears
Rookie tight end Vance McDonald has gone under the radar this season, but he's done a few things well. He's been an able run blocker from time to time and is pretty good at getting open in space. Unfortunately, we've seen him drop multiple passes this season, or trip up and fail to even get to the ball. On top of that, his positive run blocking ability earlier in the season has been nullified with several poor games in that area.
On Sunday, McDonald dropped a pass and had another fly by him because he tripped. They were bad, bad plays and they were glaringly obvious because Davis wasn't on the field. McDonald clearly is not ready for shouldering any kind of load in which he's a big part of this offense. Fortunately, he redeemed himself a little by sealing the edge on an Anquan Boldin touchdown, making the crucial block to spring him through down the sideline.
Davis, on the other hand, has been very good for the last few years. That wasn't the case on Monday. He had a couple bad drops and though one of his three targets was probably uncatchable, he's demonstrated terrible mechanics actually catching the football. He seems to jump for no reason, he turns his body the wrong way, and he, of course, drops the ball. This was not a strong day for Davis.
NaVorro Bowman makes huge play, Tramaine Brock with the assist
How awesome was that? Tramaine Brock deserves mad props for the assist and getting a tip on the ball that caused the Bowman interception, but I think Bowman was more impressive with the way he secured that ball. He got his hands on it and adamantly refused to drop it.
That could not have been more perfect following his issues on the onside kick. I'm not sure why Bowman was the guy on that play, but he let the ball get past him and it almost cost the 49ers the win. It's only fitting that he show up big time in the end for an 80-plus yard interception return. Let's not forget how awesome it was for Brock to tip that (and how awesome he's been in general -- never been happier to be wrong about a player), but Bowman is basically my hero right now.