Five Postgame Takes
1. It’s a start. We were one missed tackle away from getting the ball back with a lead and five minutes left to burn. We proved a lot of things on Sunday—that we can score touchdowns, that we can move the chains in a variety ways, that we can mount a comeback, and even that we can throw the long ball (when we try). Welcome back to the 21st century.
2. McCown connected on 15 of 20 pass attempts for 140 yards and no interceptions in first half amid a hail of boos and chanting for Daunte Culpepper. I guess that’s what a 75 percent completion rate will get you in
Compared to last year’s offense, the coaching, playcalling and execution were like the difference between junior high school and Harvard law school, so I can’t complain too much. But we failed to attempt one crucial thing: the long ball.
Only one of McCown’s first-half completions was for more than 15 yards, inclusive of yards after the catch (the exception being a 17-yard completion). None of the incompletions occurred downfield, either. In other words, we didn’t once try to throw the ball long in the first half, even though we’d set the table perfectly.
So while we earned 10 first downs during the half, we didn’t chew up sufficient yardage before the third-down percentages caught up with us. The result was Sebastian (Scholarship) Janikowski kicking off of the dirt, not once, not twice but three times—for zero points.
It wasn’t until the middle of the third quarter that we threw downfield, and with a magnificent result in a 42-yard completion to Curry that ignited the stadium and set up the first touchdown. From that point forward, however, we didn’t attempt another long ball. In other words, we waited too long to try it, and when it worked, we didn’t try again.
It’s hard to say whether or not this was solely a playcalling issue, or if McCown himself was choosing to play it safe as well. But something that needed to happen didn’t happen, and we paid a stiff price. With everything happening underneath, the Lions could just lay in wait with minimal threat of the big play that we proved we could execute.
3. Not that I’m saying I would have chosen (or that I would still choose) McCown over Culpepper. But until late in the game—after the chanting for Daunte Culpepper had subsided, and before he was pressed into urgent action by our defense—McCown proved to be quite capable. If the defense and Janikowski had done their jobs, McCown’s performance would have been good for enough a victory.
I literally saw Roy Williams angle across our end zone unabated and unattended prior to catching his touchdown pass. That’s just one example of many defensive breakdowns yesterday.
4. They say that KSFO’s postgame radio show is broadcast from Everett & Jones BBQ, but it might as well be coming from the Kremlin. Rich Walcoff, George Atkinson and David Humm have been afflicted with a terminal case of homer-itis. They invite callers to vent, then they shut them down with variations on two stock responses: “Have you ever played the game?” or “What the fan doesn’t understand is…”
It’s not a sports talk show. It’s a shameless exercise in propaganda and mind control. The low point yesterday came when a kid called to vent about Janikowski. He was asked how old he was and if he was a kicker himself, then mocked with a little ditty about “calling back when he grows up" and lectured about how hard it is to kick off the dirt. Funny, the Lions’ Jason Hanson didn’t have any trouble kicking off the dirt. Jason Hanson didn’t have any kickoffs imitate a banana. Jason Hanson didn’t suck last year like Janikowski (who was dead last in field goal percentage among kickers who attempted more than 10 kicks). Yet a 13-year-old kid gets slapped in the face for stating the obvious. Nice.
They had Kirk Morrisson on the show, and while I love Kirk Morrisson, he came down with a bad case of KSFO postgame syndrome, repeatedly stating that "Well, if we'd won this game, then we wouldn't be talking about all this." Yes, and if Metallica played with harmonicas and mandolins, we wouldn't call them heavy metal.
Here are the KSFO postgame ground rules: You can't talk about what just happened before your very eyes. You can't analyze the coaching or the performance, nor can you have an opinion. But other than that, it's wide open—as long as you've played the game.
5. We are a functional football team once again. Last year started off on a hopeless note. Yesterday, however, I felt hopeful. Big difference. I know that there is a lot of anger and frustration out there, and I share it. But we are pointed up, not down, and that's worth something .