by Will Reeve, Contributing Writer
In a clash of supposed NFC titans, the 49ers looked overmatched, outcoached and not prepared.
Maybe 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh shouldn’t get too worked up by innocuous comments made by the opponent’s coaching staff or players this week.
That said, his eloquently written statement refuting New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s comments was very entertaining nonetheless. This week’s focus should be entirely on coaching. Look for Harbaugh to drop the dramatics.
You have to admire that Harbaugh defends his players, but it was obvious this week that the reigning coach of the year was outclassed by New York Giants future hall of fame head coach Tom Coughlin.
I don’t think that anyone, not even Coughlin, would have predicted 149 yards on the ground against this defense. However, if you come in with the wrong plan as Harbaugh mentioned after the game, you’re going to lose soundly regardless of your talent level in this league.
This game was an exhibition (as is the entire New Orleans Saints season for that matter) of the importance of head coaching in the NFL.
Harbaugh is the ultimate competitor and look for him and his 49ers team to come in ready Thursday against the 4-2 Seattle Seahawks. This game opens up divisional play for the 49ers this season in what is shaping up to be a very tough NFC West. Arizona and Seattle are currently tied atop of the standings with San Francisco at 4-2, and the last place St. Louis Rams are only one game back at 3-3.
This team needs to get back to its normal ball control style of offense and limit Smith’s throws downfield against a very staunch Seahawks secondary if they plan on getting back to their winning ways.
Even though Smith came into the weekend leading the NFL in passing, I don’t think anyone was terribly surprised to see this type of offensive performance: after all the years of Mike Nolan and Dennis Erickson weren’t that long ago.
What Harbaugh has done well, perhaps better than any coach in the league, is protect and bolster his quarterback’s psyche. However, on this day Smith was hit 19 times, sacked 6 times and put on the ground 11 times. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the bad Alex Smith but with a constant rush in his face and his team down big, he remerged with a vengeance.
There were interceptions, poorly thrown floating deep passes, bad reads and terrible decisions. He looked anxious and flustered as he missed open and big plays regularly throughout the game. His three interceptions in the game lead to 13 Giants points and kept his team emotionally and statistically out of the game all afternoon.
Don’t look for backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick to stop getting playing time soon. The ease at which the ball comes out of his hand and gets downfield coupled with his playmaking ability running the ball; make him hard to keep out of the game.
With Randy Moss proving he can still get over the top of a defense and speedsters Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams on the roster, maybe 10 passes and 15 snaps a game isn’t such a bad thing for Kaepernick. Before this Giants game I didn’t think I would hear myself say that.
That plan didn’t work against the Giants, but let’s be honest, nothing did. The Giants came in the more hungry, confident and willful team. They won on both lines of scrimmage and the 49ers got it taken to them.
That type of thing happens in this league a lot. It isn’t a clear indicator of the quality of the team or the coach; it just means they got beat on this day. For the 49ers and quarterback Alex Smith, this is the approach they’re going to have to take unless they want the Giants firmly implanted in their heads.
For both the psyche of the team and divisional standing implications, this game against Seattle is a big one for the 49ers. Once thought of as the best team in football, the 49ers will have to battle to win their division.
(RELATED: Heading to the Seattle/San Fran match up Thurs night? Check out Fanzooloo’s Candlestick Park page)
After that comprehensive thrashing and with the upcoming game against the Seahawks being vitally important, I expect the 49ers to win big Thursday night. That said, I also thought they were the best team in football before the Giants game.