Candlestick Blowout

December 20

In the wake of two power outages at Candlestick Park last night, the 49ers released a statement saying “there are more questions than answers.” That’s for darn sure.

Like, can the 49ers ever play at that dump again ?

It was a great night for the football team, a 20-3 smothering of the Steelers, but an embarrassing night for somebody: the franchise, the city, Pacific Gas and Electric, ESPN — maybe all of them. After the second outage, the NFL was actually discussing contingencies in case another outage hit and public safety was compromised, such as playing the game Tuesday during daylight hours or finishing the game across the bay at the Coliseum.

Thankfully that never happened. However, you can’t say there is a great level of trust right now. THe 49ers had better hope their playoff game is in the daytime.

They and the NFL will need to have assurances that what happened Monday will never happen again. Those might be hard to come by. Of course, they would have those assurances if they play elsewhere.

Obviously, they would have to find a way out of their lease, but I would think power problems would be a pretty good escape clause. And while it might seem onerous to 49er fans to play at another, smaller stadium such as A T & T or Stanford Stadium — or across the bay at O.Co — the lights worked quite well at those stadiums the last time I checked.

As the banks of lights slowly came on before kickoff, all sorts of conspiracy theories abounded. Some said the outage made the convenient point that it’s time for the 49ers to leave the crumbling stadium. Others, including Steve Young, joked that the city was pulling the plug out of spite because the team is leaving.

Still others thought suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison might have blown up the transformer. Harrison piled on, tweeting that if he couldn’t play, “can’t nobody play. Lights out !” There were jokes all around, because what happened last night WAS a joke.

On a more serious note, it’s been a bad year for the old monstrosity. In preseason there was a parking lot shooting not far from where the transformer blew. Certainly that incident crossed the minds of some fans as the lights went out last night, but at last report the only arrests on Monday were for selling bogus tickets.

It looks like the 49ers are playing in a bogus stadium. An interim home might be in order down the road, even before the shovels are turned in Santa Clara. At any rate, what happened last night might be the clincher in getting the NFL to kick in money for a new stadium.

Oh, by the way, Santa Clara has its own utility.

***

Another question that will be asked many times: why did Mike Tomlin start a clearly hobbled Ben Roethlisberger, and why did he leave him in late in the game, down 20-3 ? While it was an important game for the Steelers, there are bigger games down the road. The main thing is they’re going to the playoffs and have to let Roethlisberger try to heal.

It was a difficult call for Tomlin, but with a quick turnaround Saturday against the Rams, he might have been better served saving Big Ben ’til then. As it was, he threw for 330 yards Monday, but he was clearly affected by the inability to push off his left ankle and tossed three interceptions. He also fumbled on a sack.

So they lost the game and were one tackle away from losing their quarterback. What of their playoff hopes then ? Pffft.

***

Aside from the two outages, there were other records set last night:

Aldon Smith with 2 1/2 sacks to give him 13 for the season, passing Charles Haley for the 49ers rookie record.

With two more field goals and two extra points, David Akers set the franchise’s single season scoring record, breaking Jerry Rice’s mark of 138 points back in 1987. A sign of Lee’s success, and the offense’s inability to convert in the red zone.

The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to not allow a rushing touchdown in the first 14 games of a season.

Thanks in part of Akers’ kickoffs and the tremendous punting of Andy Lee, the Steelers’ average drive-start was at the 15 yard line, the worst field position for any NFL team since 2005.

Jim Harbaugh tied his brother John for second most wins by a rookie coach, two behind Jim Caldwell.

Two more wins, and the 49ers will get a badly-needed bye week. That’s the good news. The bad news ? They’ll have a home playoff game. I didn’t think that was bad news until last night.

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