Christmas is a time for miracles. Too bad we didn’t get one. I thought if I wished hard enough, and wanted it more than anything, my 49ers would win the division and compete in the playoffs. It was a lot to ask for, I know. The Arizona Cardinals had to lose two of three games, two of those games being against the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions. Although I didn’t expect the Lions to put up much of a fight, they did a fine job trying to play spoiler. It didn’t really matter in the end as the 49ers failed in what they had to do.
Despite being knocked out of the playoffs, all is not lost. San Francisco still has a chance to finish 8-8, which would be their best record since their last playoff appearance. That would mean a great deal. If they win the last two games, which on paper they should, then they would finish 5-1 within the division. There’s a lot to look forward to. Every team that doesn’t win, attempts to bounce back by saying, “We’ll get ‘em next year!” In this case, I believe every word.
I’m not sugar-coating the situation to make myself feel better. Sure the 49ers should have had a better record, and the close losses were heart-breaking, but it is not too soon to look forward. What makes me so optimistic about the future is how young this team is. All of the key components are peaking and have proven they can compete in this league. With every game that passes, they become more experienced. Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, and Dashon Goldson, these are a few of the center-pieces that figure to be around for years. 2009 may not have been the year for this young club, but think about 2010 and beyond. If the 49ers close out those tight games, something experience will bring, winning the division will be no problem. The 2-6 record in games decided by seven or fewer points speaks volumes about the youth. As does their 1-6 record on the road.
This Sunday the 49ers take on the Lions and one of their three quarterbacks. It is still undecided who will play. Whoever does though, should not fare well against one of the top defenses in the NFL, and easily the best in the NFC West. It does not matter whether it is Matthew Stafford, Daunte Culpepper, or Drew Stanton, either way I foresee a defensive touchdown. On the other side of the ball, Alex Smith looks to rebound from a terrible game and play the mistake free football he enjoyed versus the Seahawks and Jaguars. The Lions’ worst rated pass defense should be a fantastic cure for what ails him. If Frank Gore receives more than eight carries, he should also benefit from playing Detroit.
These final games will test the heart of the 49ers. In my eyes, they are not allowed to lose their final two games against arguably the two worst teams in the league. With no playoff chances left, will they pack it in, or will they finish strong? Should they decide the latter, let me be the first to say, San Francisco 49ers, NFC West champs in 2010.
(Sorry for the lack of articles these past few weeks. Like everybody else, December has been really busy. I would like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday, and continue to support our 49ers and cheer for an 8-8 finish.)
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