I was back at Finnerty’s this Sunday for the Niners-Cardinals game. It was a rocky affair, way more stressful than I was expecting, but I was ultimately relieved by the 32-20 final score. On to the awards.
The Jerry Rice Award (Most Dominant Player on the Field): Vernon Davis
When you take a tight end with the sixth overall pick in the draft, this is the sort of game you expect: eight catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. The Niners’ lack of depth at receiver has been an ongoing issue throughout the season, and during this game you could pretty much see Colin Kaepernick shrug his shoulders and say, “Fuck it, I’m just gonna throw to Davis every time.” Our tight end rewarded that faith with a career high receiving yardage total that included a 61-yard second quarter touchdown and an over the shoulder sideline catch that was one of the most athletic plays I’ve ever seen from a tight end. We should all be happy the Niners got VD.
The Ronnie Lott Award (Guy Who is Such a Badass He’d Cut His Own Finger Off to Make a Play): Eric Reid, again
I mean, at this point I might have to re-name this the Eric Reid Award and just give it to him every week. The rookie safety made a huge impact once again, intercepting a first quarter pass and almost running it back for a touchdown. He also had an incredibly impressive tackle that stopped a Cardinals receiver a half yard short of a first down near the end of the first half. At some point during the game today I turned to my friend Tierney and said, “I’m ready to have gay babies with Eric Reid now.” That’s how great he has played so far. What a phenomenal draft choice.
The Gary Plummer Award (For the Play that Shifted the Momentum): Me, Tierney, and Jasmine
This award is, of course, named for one of the greatest hits in NFL history. After Larry Fitzgerald took a short slant and ran it 75 yards for a touchdown (because Donte “Hitner” just threw his shoulder at him and didn’t wrap up) to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead, the bartender at Finnerty’s looked at the three of us and said, “shots?” A round of Fireballs later, the Niners got a safefy and then a long VD touchdown to take a 15-7 lead. Then, in the second half, after the Cardinals cut the lead to 22-20, we lined up a round of Jamesons. What ensued was an epic 18 play, 89 yard, 9:32 second drive that ended with a Kendall Hunter touchdown that broke Arizona’s spirit. I’m gonna go ahead and say that we made that happen. (In a completely unrelated note, I’m not feeling so hot this morning.)
The Adam Walker Award (Player Whose Actions Most Led to Defeat): Carson Palmer
Palmer actually played pretty well in the second half, and ended up throwing for almost 300 yards. But man, was he wretched in the first quarter. He threw two picks that were almost returned for touchdowns, and had another likely interception bounce off Tarell Brown’s hands. Between Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, and Palmer, the Niners have seen some incredible quarterback suckitude the last three weeks.
The Emmitt Smith Award (Most Hated Opponent): Patrick Peterson
Peterson didn’t even do anything particularly impressive in this game. But dear God, every time Andy Lee fired off a punt, I started shaking in fear of this guy lining up a return.
The Justin Smith Award (For Big Guy Who Breaks Things): NaVorro Bowman
When Reid was running back his first quarter interception, Bowman threw a block that absolutely destroyed two Cardinals players. God, NaVorro Bowman is awesome.
Overall Rating For This Game (On a scale of Zero to Twelve Anchors, in honor of San Francisco’s favorite beverage): 4 Anchors
I’m not satisfied with the way the Niners played. They were sloppy, with Kaepernick throwing a red zone interception, fumbling before halftime, and once again looking a lot shakier than I’d like. The red zone struggles in the first quarter brought back unpleasant memories of the 2011 Niners. And I’m concerned about the defensive line; when Glenn Dorsey got hurt, I asked a friend at the bar, in all seriousness, if we had any defensive lineman left. Bruce Miller played D-line in college, but if he lines up at nose tackle at any point, we’re in trouble.
Yes, we won, but it was at home against an Arizona team with an absurdly terrible quarterback. An effort like that against a better team wouldn’t have ended so well.