Editor’s Note: I refused to allow this shitty team to ruin my Saturday night, so I passed the recap responsibilities to my attorney, former guest blogger, basketball nemesis, and fellow suffering Niners fan Josh. I don’t want to steal his thunder, so let’s get right to it.
Merry Christmas from your Santa Clara Raiders! Last weekend, they prayed to Santa Claus and his earthly representative and only begotten son, Jesus the Magic Elf, to lead his donkey sleigh through Mordor to drop this steaming load in your stocking: a 28-7 halftime lead that the Niners turned into a 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers.
Feigning injury to avoid the pain of this recap, Justin has summoned me off the bench once more, the Borland to his Bowman, to write this week’s requiem for a team.
The Frank Gore Award (Best Niners Offensive Player of the Last 15 Years): Frank Gore
Let’s start with the good. In what may be his penultimate game as a Niner, Frank Gore exploded for 129 yards on 14 carries in the first half. In the second half, he went back to being old. But it was awesome to get that brief throwback performance from the best running back in Niners history.
It’s a shame that his best years were wasted in the dark ages of Nolan and Singletary.
I think he should end up in the Hall of Fame. Plus, what a name. Frank fucking Gore. This guy was born to play football.
Perhaps if Gore had been given the ball on one of the final four plays of the 2013 Super Bowl, the Niners would be in an entirely different position right now. Thanks Greg Roman! Best of luck coaching pee wee football next year, you fat Jeb Bush.
The Merton Hanks Award (Awesome Safety Play): Antoine Bethea
Bethea is a fucking ninja. He completely gamed Phillip Rivers on one play, duping him into throwing a pick that Bethea took to the house.
When the Niners brought in Bethea last offseason, I wasn’t too fired up. I was fine with letting Donte Whitner go, but I barely knew who Bethea was, and it seemed that the Niners could have gotten a bigger name without spending too much more. But Bethea has been the clear team MVP this season, and the only Niner worthy of All-Pro consideration to my mind. I knew that he was decent in coverage, but I didn’t know how good of a hitter he was. That all changed when he leveled Dez Bryant in the first game of the season. Over the course of the season, he made several huge plays in the run and pass game, including almost single-handedly winning the Eagles game. He has played every defensive snap, anchoring a secondary that far exceeded expectations despite a rash of injuries.
The Brett Favre (pre-dick pic) Award (Opposing Quarterback Who I Respect): Philip Rivers
How many times did Brett Favre burn the Niners in the ’90s? He was directly responsible for Steve Young not getting a second Super Bowl. And he burned us one more time with the Minnesota Vikings when he threw an impossible last second touchdown to beat us in 2009. (Editor’s Note: I was watching that game by myself in a bar in Oakland, surrounded by Raiders fans who heckled me mercilessly after Favre’s TD pass. It was the lowest moment of the Singletary era for me.) Then he started texting pictures of his dick to sideline reporters.
Philip Rivers gave us the Favre (football) treatment Saturday night. Rivers is what you would get if you fertilized Dolly Parton with the combined sperm of Dan Marino, John Denver, and Han Solo. He of the gold and mother-of-pearl bolo tie and rattlesnake skin boots. The man who doesn’t give a fuck if he threw multiple Ryan Leaf-type interceptions, who could care less if you’ve got perfect coverage and he can’t move his decaying body and you are about to sack him on third and long. He’s going for the win on every play goddamnit. He is America.
We were treated to vintage Rivers moonshine Saturday. Without a running game or his top receiver, he threw for 356 yards and four TDs, including one to tie the game with 30 seconds left. Play on, playa.
I don’t really fault the defense. They were good this season up until the wheels fell off on Thanksgiving. They’ve suffered so many injuries, they were forced to play practice squaders with names that sound like football players we know—Marcus Cromartie and Leon McFadden—with predictable results. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
The Young Steve Young Award (Talented Quarterback Who Needs to Get His Shit Together): Colin Kaepernick
Before he became a Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Famer, Steve Young was a bust with the Buccaneers, and struggled at first when he took over for Joe Montana. Early on, Young was too reliant on his athleticism, but when he finally put it all together, he was the best quarterback in the league.
Kaepernick is the bionic quarterback, but will he ever get it together? It’s somewhat hard to judge him this year because everyone on offense was noticeably worse this year (Boldin and Crabtree are tied for second in the NFC in drops, por ejemplo), the coaching staff had a foot out the door, and the front office was a mess.
With the exception of the Seattle games, I think that, in spite of the offense’s overall decline, Kaep has improved his play from the pocket. That said, he has looked lost at times and is basically guaranteed to make at least one bafflingly stupid play every game. He’s made far too many unforced errors, missing open receivers and getting frantic and running into sacks.
The full Kaepernick spectrum was on display against the Chargers. He looked great in the first half, making plays with his feet and arm. In the second half, a wild sequence of plays showed how sublime and infuriating he can be. He rifled a breathtaking 30 yard pass to Vernon Davis for what would have been a 62 yard touchdown and one of the best highlights of the year, but it was called back because of a Frank Gore chop block. The next play, Kaepernick showed terrible pocket awareness and ball security, getting strip sacked, with the Chargers recovering for a touchdown that brought the score to within seven. A couple of plays later, Kaep narrowly evaded pressure and shot into the open field for a 90 yard touchdown, the second longest run by a quarterback in NFL history.
Whither big runs this year?
As the Niners’ run game disappeared in the second half, Kaep was faced with several third and longs, and converted only one. (Boldin added a brutal drop on a beautiful 20 yard throw.) Then, with just under 4 minutes left, the Niners called a designed run on third down that went nowhere. Kaep avoided the hit and ran out of bounds. OUT OF BOUNDS!!! WTF?!? HAVE YOU EVER PLAYED MADDEN, BRO?!? YOU DON’T DO THAT WITH FOUR MINUTES LEFT!!! Joe Staley threw his hands up in disgust. On the ensuing drive, the Chargers tied the game with less than 30 seconds left.
At this point, Kaepernick is like a Rorschach test—he’s basically whatever you want him to be. He can make all the throws and reads. But he can also flub some of the seemingly rudimentary aspects of his job. Perhaps this level of inconsistency is all we need to know about him. But if Steve Young got a decade to get it right and Alex Smith got almost that much time, I say Kaep deserves another year or two at least.
The Spud from Trainspotting Award (For Completely Shitting the Bed): Your Santa Clara Raiders!
The first half of this game was unreality, a portal to a better universe where the Niners’ offensive line was overpowering, Frank Gore unstoppable, and Colin Kaepernick dynamic and decisive. It’s a universe where Kyle Williams can hold onto an oblong leather ball, where Joe Flacco made no deal with the Prince of Darkness, and Kaep’s final throw last year was a foot to the right. (Of course in this universe, there’s an even better universe where we drafted Aaron Rodgers, but I will settle for any universe other than my own.) (Editor’s note: That paragraph made me want to kill myself.)
The Niners managed to fumble away their best rushing performance in franchise history: Bruce Miller on the goal line; Kaep getting strip-sacked; and the coup de grace, Quinton Patton on a reverse in overtime.
The best explanation for this season is that we’ve entered the absurdist period of the Jim Harbaugh era. Fed up with shitbag Jed York, he decided to ruin Levi’s Stadium’s maiden season by finding creative new ways for the Niners to inflict excruciating losses on the petulant little trust fund scion. The Niners have squandered halftime leads against the Bears, Cardinals, Raiders, Seahawks, and now the Chargers. They’ve lost in the most brutal ways conceivable: the Kaepernick multi-turnover meltdown against the Bears; Kaep fumbling what would have been a game-winning sneak for a touchdown against the Rams; they even lost to the Raiders. But this loss was a tour de force. Bravo.
Now I’m in the horrible position of hoping the Cowboys keep the Seabitches from repeating. Nietzsche was right: God is dead.
(Editor’s note: A Dallas-Seattle NFC Championship Game plays on a loop in the sports bar in hell.)
Overall Rating For This Game (On a scale of Zero to Twelve Anchors, in honor of San Francisco’s favorite beverage): 6 Anchors, barfed on the floor
Objectively, this was a really entertaining game and would probably earn at least a six pack from a neutral observer. And even though the cold-hearted rationalist in me knows it’s better for the Niners to lose and improve their draft position, this loss was sickening enough to make me want to puke up that six pack. I award no Anchors, and may Santa Claus have mercy on our souls. Happy birthday, Jesus!