MSR’s Looking Back, Looking Ahead: 49ers Beat Ravens in Super Bowl “Rematch”
Time to bring back an oldie-but-goodie from the Macho Sports Report vault: “Looking Back, Looking Ahead.”
This time around, I wanted to go back to this past Sunday, where a 49ers team that had lost four in a row needed a last-second defensive play to secure their second win of the season.
San Francisco 49ers Defeat Baltimore Ravens To Go 2–4: October 18, 2015
It hasn’t been the greatest month for the San Francisco 49ers.
In fact, their last four games have been the worst for the red-and-gold since the Mike Singletary Era — three embarrassing losses in four games, and a fourth “come-from-ahead” loss to a New York Giants team that struggled against Philadelphia on Monday.
So, when they took the field against the Baltimore Ravens — the team that gave the 49ers their only Super Bowl loss two years ago — things didn’t look any better, going up against a fairly elite passer in QB Joe Flacco.
Make no mistake — neither team had the same pedigree that they brought to New Orleans on that fateful Sunday Night in February 2013. Combined, Baltimore and San Francisco had only ten starters that played in Super Bowl XLVII 32 months ago. Both teams were essentially shells of themselves — especially San Francisco, who struggled on virtually every front this past month.
There was one thing, however, that the Niners could hang their hat on: QB Colin Kaepernick, in last Sunday’s loss to New York, finally showed signs of life on offense (23-for-35, 260 passing yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs). If he could keep up his offensive momentum against one of the league’s worst secondaries, maybe the 49ers could find their first win in over a month.
After passing for 127 yards in the first quarter — including a 52-yard pass play to FB Bruce Miller — Kaepernick had his longest TD pass of the season: a 76-yard strike to Torrey Smith, who beat former 49ers DB Shareese Wright to take the ball all the way for the score with 12:27 left in the second.
Allowing only two field goals in the first half, the 49ers took a 10-point lead into the third quarter.
To the 49ers’ credit, their young defense held the Ravens without a touchdown until Flacco connected with Steve Smith to cut the lead to 6 with 2:29 left in the third quarter. And, while the defensive front didn’t garner a sack against the 30-year-old, they applied enough pressure to force him into mistakes. Flacco threw two interceptions on the day — once to LB Michael Wilhoite in the second quarter, and another — considered an “arm-punt” — to CB Kenneth Acker early in the third.
The Niners even got some help from their own field: on a 45-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth, sure-legged Ravens K Justin Tucker slipped on Levi’s Stadium’s infamous loose sod and hit the right upright, keeping the 49ers’ precarious lead at 6.
Kaepernick and the offense took advantage of the momentum shift on two big pass plays: a 51-yard pass play to sure-handed WR Anquan Boldin, and a 27-yard TD strike that the 49ers signal-caller seemingly pulled out of his hat to WR Quinton Patton, that gave San Francisco a 12-point lead.
Despite giving up another touchdown to Flacco and the Ravens, the 49ers did just enough to keep a five-point lead late. Kaepernick finished with 340 yards on the day, with 2 TDs, zero interceptions and 16-for-27 passing. It was his best day as a passer in Kap’s career, and it was a performance — albeit against an atrocious secondary — that the 49ers were hoping for.
Now at 2–4, the 49ers have no time to rest their laurels. After all, San Francisco will host a Thursday Night game in two days, against — of all teams — hated rival Seattle.
The two-time defending NFC Champions, shockingly, also find themselves at 2–4, after a last-second loss to the still-undefeated Carolina Panthers at home on Sunday. It is a head-scratching slow start for the Seahawks, who took the outright lead to the fourth quarter in all six of their games this season.
But San Francisco fans still have every reason to be worried. After all, despite their sub-par record, this is still very much the same team that has owned the 49ers in their last three matchups. Their “Legion of Boom” secondary is still formidable, especially against a still-inconsistent 49ers passing offense.
Furthermore, San Francisco’s running game is also shaky: starting RB Carlos Hyde is still dealing with a sore foot, but expects to play despite his current “Questionable” status. Backup RB Reggie Bush is still dealing with a bad calf, and will likely not play, either. It’s forced the 49ers, who apparently don’t trust Jarryd Hayne’s running back skills, to look at free agent Pierre Thomas.
With such a quick turnaround, the 49ers are coming in half-cocked against a Seahawks team with its back against the wall — a situation no Seattle opponent wants to face, even at home.
But the mission is clear: if the 49ers can somehow find a way to beat their division rivals at Levi’s Stadium, they will put Seattle under the 8-ball, in regards to their playoff chances. And, maybe, after such an atrocious month of football, they can put themselves on track to prove all of the detractors wrong.
It begins this Thursday.