The 49ers made sure of one thing Monday night; the Cardinals weren’t going to celebrate at Candlestick Park. It probably delayed the inevitable. Arizona’s next two games will be against Detroit and St. Louis.
The good news; the 49ers forced seven turnovers in a 24-9 win where they were ready at the start, and they finished. The bad news; they only scored 24 points off of those turnovers. The good news; the 49ers swept the Cardinals. The bad news; it likely won’t be enough.
While it was a great showing on national television on a Monday night, the 49ers continue to drive their fans stark raving loony. Fans see an effort like that, then see the Niners go back on the road and stub their toes against the likes of the Seahawks when it really matters. That loss in Seattle plus the last-second defeat in Minnesota, really hurt now.
So 2009 is much like 2008. A nice back-door cover. A good December showing that might ease the pain of earlier crucial losses. Is this year different in any way?
Yes, slightly. The 49ers had to make some adjustments this year, but seem to have a plan. Alex Smith wasn’t great Monday but he’s their quarterback of the future, and the defense has a chance to be very, very good. Also, while Smith and the offense weren’t as spready as before, they had more Frank Gore.
Yeah, I could be a rapper.
The combination of an improved Smith, Gore in his prime, a rapidly rising Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, and a strong defense will lead to more optimism in the off-season, and this time it might actually be well-founded. That’s the best 49ers can expect right now.
Winning the NFC West was probably a bit too much to ask for this year, but I don’t blame Singletary and company for setting that goal. Team President Jed York on KNBR called the feeling in the locker room after the game “bittersweet,” because they pounded the defending divisional and NFC champs, but know they probably let a chance at a divisional title slip away.
Fans are getting tired of “teachable moments,” they’re going to expect more, too, in 2010. York knows that. Singletary knows it. The players know it.