The Niners Offense Is Back To Having Fun
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When a player hurdles an opponent, time seems to slow down as his legs rotate and the dumbfounded defender stares upwards. For a split second the hurdler is completely vulnerable to getting undercut and flipped, or mashing his groin on the opponents’ helmet. When Vernon Davis leaped over Rodney McLeod in the first half, I half expected the (of late) injury-prone Davis to come down with some malady. You can imagine my relief (and that of all Niners fans) when he nailed the landing like a gymnast and kept sprinting down the sideline. It isn’t hard to imagine, then, the free fall my stomach took when I saw Davis writhing in pain on the sideline in the third quarter, which quickly dissipated into an awkward sense of relief when I realized he was just grabbing his groin.
While Davis was clearly in pain at the time, the incident didn’t seem to leave any motherly concern over the family jewels, as he leaped over another defender — this time the unassuming Janoris Jenkins — and into the end zone for his team-leading 10th touchdown catch of the year, and his second spectacular hurdle. After weeks of offensive frustration, Davis’s hurdling performance indicated that the Niners were finally having fun again.
A huge reason the Niners offense looked Super Bowl-caliber was the return of Wideout Michael Crabtree, making his season-debut after recovering from a torn Achilles. Although Crabtree only accounted for two catches, his presence was enough to prevent the Rams defense from focusing solely on Davis (4 receptions, 82 yards) and Anquan Boldin (9 receptions, 98 yards). Crabtree’s biggest play from scrimmage came on a 60 yard catch after a stop-and-go move freed him up down the sideline, and it was a play that drew a lot of quips from the rest of the Niners after he failed to take it to the house.
“We give him a break on that one,” said Boldin. “It was Thanksgiving this week.”
The second half was all smiles, as there were numerous shots of Kap, Davis, Crabtree, and Jim Harbaugh grinning from ear-to-ear. And for good reason. After Kap took over for Alex Smith last year, there were strings of quarters where the Niners offense simply looked unstoppable. Many, including myself, expected the offensive prowess to progress nicely with a more experienced Kaepernick at the helm. Unfortunately that vision had been derailed thus far, primarily by Crabtree’s Achilles, but it looks as though the Niners are hitting their stride at the right time.
Yet we must bestow our praise with some hesitance. A week from now we could be singing a different tune after Seattle, and their number two ranked pass defense, comes into town. After Kap and the Niners torched the Packers in Week 1, we thought that our passing game was going to be bullet-proof, only to see it wither against Seattle’s stout corners. If the Niners can take advantage of a thin defensive back situation in Seattle (Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner, their top two corners, are suspended), they could put themselves back in the thick of the NFC West title race.
Assuming Seattle loses tonight against New Orleans and the Niners take care of business next week, then the Niners would need to win out and have Seattle lose to either Arizona or St. Louis in their last two games — thus giving the Niners the edge in divisional record. This scenario seems unlikely as of now, but with the way the Niners are playing, and Seattle’s tendency to have a little too much “fun” of their own, the playoff picture a month from now could look a whole lot different.