Learning On The Fly?
The APB that was put out on the San Francisco 49ers offense in September 2005 can at last be called off. Staring a fourth straight season of abysmal production in the face, it came roaring to life in the form of a 33-30 overtime victory in Seattle on Sunday.
A victory that no one dreamed was an actual possibility when this campaign began last week and the same offense played a significant part in a five turnover loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Where was the innovative Mike Martz play calling some asked? What about the new receiving corps who was going to instill life and confidence in a once defunct offensive unit?
Those questions and a few more can be laid to rest because after a JT O’Sullivan led win over the Seahawks, in Seattle of all places, the supposed moribund 49ers have shown that they intend to play this season.
This is not to say that team as a whole played a complete or even great game, in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. What this team did show last Sunday however is that they are a young team who is learning how to win, no matter how many losses they have suffered in the past. In fact it could very well be the losing that has brought them to this point in a young 2008 season.
One of the most difficult things for a team as green as the 49ers to accomplish is to learn how to win games. On Sunday the 49ers, in the face of O’Sullivan being sacked eight times by an always aggressive Seattle defense, showed poise and tenacity not seen in these parts for, I can’t even remember how long.
Some might point to a game in the same stadium back in 2006 as a contest in which the team showed similar attributes however some would also be remiss to do so as a result of that team failing to continue it’s evolution in that games aftermath. This ultimately led to the subsequent demotion of its starting quarterback and the hiring of a new offensive coordinator for this season.
There are many differences between the game in Seattle in which Alex Smith led a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Seahawks 24-14 at a rain drenched Qwest Field two seasons ago and the one that transpired this past weekend.
Even with the mistakes that were made in the latter contest such as the inordinate amount of sacks allowed. The inability to get Vernon Davis involved in the game, (that’s another story entirely) and the defense’s helplessness at the hand’s of Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his merry band of practice squad receivers, there is a sincere sense around the team that this was the kind of win they needed.
Said center Eric Heitman; “I haven’t been on a team that’s been as composed as we were last night. A lot of that has to do with the character, focus and drive that this team has. It’s exciting to see and it’s exciting to know that we’re capable of something like that going into the season. A win like that surely helps build confidence.”
Coming away with a victory, regardless of the adverse circumstances they were presented with is the sign of a team on the rise and perhaps one who might string together consecutive wins for only the fourth time since 2005.
I have always been a “the glass is half full” kind of guy, one who attempts to see the bright side of every situation and this NFL season is no different. I see a great deal of potential with this 49ers group, more in fact then at any point in the Erickson-Nolan regimes.
National pundits have not and are not blinking an eye at what took place in Seattle, even though the Seahawks were a combined 37-8 at home since Qwest Field was opened in 2003 before Sunday. They point to the fact that Mike Holmgren’s squad was banged up, missing numerous receivers and their starting running back to injury.
They make no mention of the Seattle defense which still boasts a great line-backing corps and stellar front line. They overlook the fact that the Seahawks are a battle tested team who has gone deep into the playoffs on more then a few occasions and even made the Super Bowl in 2005. They also fail to see that the offense no matter how depleted was still led by a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback and an impressive line which is adept at pass protection and run blocking.
No matter, the 49ers went into hostile territory and did what many thought they wouldn’t and what most assumed they simply couldn’t… they learned how to win.