Since Iâ€™m still accustomed to the college lifestyle, including the late hours, yours truly got stuck watching the West Coast Monday night game from the East Coast, featuring the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.
If this NFC West matchup was a soap opera, itâ€™s title would have undoubtedly been “The Young and the Inexperienced.” With two of the youngest starting quarterbacks in the league both young men had something to prove coming into Monday nightâ€™s game. Both teams were absolutely dismal on offense last year, and were struggling to find their own identities in the NFC West.
After much discussion during the off-season and extensive work on improving their ground game, the Cardinals still took to the air in their opening drive at Monster Park, which lasted all of: one play. Yep. One single snap. Leinartâ€™s first pass was intercepted by Pro-Bowler Walt Harris, that set Frank Gore up for the TD with barely 3 ½ minutes off the clock.
Reverting to the running game (otherwise known as PLAN A), the Cards came up with a field goal and then a touchdown on their following drive, putting them up with around 9 minutes to go in the first half. San Fran answered their call, and put up another three before halftime, tying the score at 10-10.
In the second half, the Cardinals seemed to dominate, holding the 49ers to a mere 30 yards in the second half. Until the last three minutes. The end of Monday nightâ€™s game showed a glimmer of hope for the chronically ailing 49ers. After San Franâ€™s Darrell Jackson allowed a 45 yard pass to slip through his grasp, Smith took it upon himself to make the ensuing 25 yard scramble. He then completed a pass to Arnaz Battle near the paint with about 30 seconds left on the clock, but Cardâ€™s safety Terrence Holt stripped him of his prize as he stretched for the goal. A fumble resulted, and after some scuffling among the teams, the ball was recovered by Battle, and he then scored on the following play. His catch however came under some hefty scrutiny being within the two minute warning, but was ruled by the officials to be complete. Rookie Cardâ€™s coach Ken Whisenhunt stood stunned along Arizonaâ€™s sideline as he watched Leinartâ€™s final pass get intercepted by Shawntae Spencer with only a few seconds left.
For the first time in 49ers coach Mike Nolanâ€™s five year stint, his team handed Arizona their season opening defeat… which has become all too common a theme for the team from the desert. While their defense held up their end of the bargain for 57 minutes of playing time, it was the final three that led to their demise. Football games are 60 minutes long, and if a defense lets its guard down for even just one play, itâ€™s as if they didnâ€™t show up at all.
There was nothing pretty about Leinartâ€™s play. He couldnâ€™t convert third downs to save his life, and his line didnâ€™t spend enough time protecting his back, which left him laying on it most of the game. And it took him nearly the entire game to establish a rhythm with his offense. Donâ€™t get me wrong, Alex Smith was certainly not scoring any style points with his play either – But a “W” is a “W,” no matter how ugly it looked through the lens of early Tuesday morning. Though, I will give the 49ers some props for the throw-back unis. Now, if only they can start playing like the 49ers of â€˜Old.â€™ Thatâ€™d be grrreeeattttt.
What can I say??: Iâ€™m just an Old School kinda girl.
Now, if youâ€™ll excuse me.. Iâ€™m heading to bed. Iâ€™m getting too old for this crap.