Ladies and gentleman, the Niners Awards make their return in triumphant fashion, as San Francisco/Santa Clara began their season with a 20-3 pasting of the Minnesota Vikings in Silicon Valley that was basically the polar opposite of their debacle of a home opener last year. This recap will be a bit longer than normal because I was watching it at home and taking notes instead of getting drunk at Finnerty’s, but let’s hand out some awards, starting with the big one.
The Jon Snow Award (Sports Blogger Who Knows Nothing): Me!
Who’s the guy that predicted the Niners would go 5-11 and their season would descend to the level of Divine Comedy? Me! Who predicted the Vikings would be a playoff team? Me!
Now, one game does not a season make, and you never want to overreact to Week One. Just look at last year, when the Niners thrashed the Cowboys in Dallas in what as far as I’m concerned was the first and last game of the 2014 season. No one can really claim to know all that much about these teams at this point, but I’m ready to acknowledge that I’m the Jon Snow of sports bloggers. I know nothing. Just so we’re clear, how much do I know, Ygritte?
The Joe Starkey Award (Best Words About the Game): Tierney Cooke
This season I’m going to start a new award, named after Joe Starkey, the great play-by-play man who delivered some of the best calls in Bay Area sports history (including “the band is out on the field” for “The Play” during the 1982 Big Game and “Owens! Owens! Owens!” for the T.O touchdown against the Packers in the 1999 Wild Card game. Hell, let’s hear that one.
Anyway, I have a lot of friends who are Niners fans scattered around this great country, and I tend to get a lot of amusing text messages before, during, and after the games. This year, I’m going to recognize the best message I receive about the game with the Joe Starkey Award. My friend and sometime guest blogger Tierney, right here in Brooklyn, sewed up the Week One award before the game even kicked off, with this gem:
The lesson here, obviously, is don’t buy sports jerseys.
A close second for the award, by the way, went to my attorneys Josh and Matt. Near the end of that absurdly sloppy and disjointed first half, Josh texted “How are we not losing 21-0?” Matt immediately responded, “How are we not winning 14-0?” I had no response for either of them. Anyway, on to the good stuff.
The El Guapo Award (Running Back Who Had the Balls to Nickname Himself “El Guapo”): Carlos Hyde
Hyde showed promise in limited action last season, and any optimistic projections for the 2015 Niners included the assumption of a breakout for him. Well, given last night’s performance, it looks like we might get that breakout. He destroyed the Vikes for 168 yards on 26 carries, and he scored two touchdowns, the first of those coming on a run that featured a glorious spin move.
Hyde was so good, you might even say that he had a plethora of great runs.
He did not wait for the Vikings’ flower to open. He took the game over.
The Charles Haley Award (Dominant Defensive Player Who Needs to Stay Out of Trouble): Aaron Lynch
This could double as the Aldon Smith Award, but since the team honored Haley last night, let’s name it after him. Anyway, it goes to Aaron Lynch, a young talented player with a checkered past who looked fucking great last night. He had a sack, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, and he was generally in the Vikes backfield the entire night. Along with Antoine Bethea and NaVorro Bowman (welcome back!), he was the biggest reason for the defense’s dominance.
The Denny Green Award (Player Who Is Who We Thought He Was): Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick looked decent. The numbers (17 of 26 for 165 yards) aren’t anything to write home about, but he didn’t turn the ball over, he led a few long drives, and he had a few big runs, including an early one on which he took a vicious hit and popped right back up. As long as you accept that this is who he is, and your team has a good running game and defense, you can win with him.
The Reggie Bush Award (Player Who Completely Predictably Got Injured): Reggie Bush!
If you had forced me to bet my life on one thing I would have seen in the Niners opener, it would have been this:
Wait, a player who always gets hurt got hurt in his first game with his new team? Shocking!
Bush is game-to-game. I expect him to return just in time for a meteor to strike the planet
The Al Davis Award (Dysfunctional Football Team): The Santa Clara Raiders
For the uninitiated, last season I noted the ways that the Niners had turned into a dysfunctional, criminal organization that played incompetent, penalty-ridden football—you know, like the Raiders. Here’s hoping I get to retire this award this year, but until I’m convinced they don’t suck, I’ll still be tracking their Santa Clara Raiders tendencies. These reared their heads in the first half, when the opening drive was derailed by a holding penalty and then a blocked field goal, and then when Jarryd Hayne muffed his first punt return in the NFL. People have been awfully excited about the “Hayne Plane,” but last night, the plane crashed into the mountain.
The Ray McDonald Award (Person That Makes Me Hate Football): Adrian Peterson
This award’s namesake doesn’t need much explaining. Football has gotten pretty depressing to watch over the last couple of years, and while I’d like to focus on the fun stuff, I’m also going to note the stuff that’s gross. This week’s recipient comes as no surprise: Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, who brutally whipped his child and never really admitted to doing anything wrong, even when he was suspended for a whole season. Last night, before the game, Peterson told ESPN’s sideline reporter that he felt “redemption” upon his return to the field. Really? You’re redeemed for beating the shit out of your kid because you get to play football for millions of dollars? Actually, according to the NFL, that logic is perfect. Let’s just move on.
Overall Rating For This Game (On a scale of Zero to Twelve Anchors, in honor of San Francisco’s favorite beverage): 5 Anchors
A standard, run-of-the-mill victory usually rates about 4 Anchors. I’ll bump this one up to 5 because of how great the defense and running game looked, and because it’s nice to get the season off on the right foot. (It won’t get a 6 because of the Santa Clara Raiders shenanigans in the first half, and because it’s possible that the Vikings just really suck.)
At any rate, it was a good, unexpected Week One performance. This team, man. Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.