49ers Pull Off Last Second Win And Get Playoff Birth
Although the 49ers were the returning NFC Champions, this season the Bay Area squad has hardily gotten the attention they rightfully deserve, despite their 12-4 record. One reason for the 49ers inability to gain recognition as a premiere team in the NFC could possibly be their lack of an passing presence this season. In a league dominated by the pass, this season Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers looked like a 4-12 team rather than a 12-4 team when it came to passing the football. In 2013 Kaepernick and the 49ers ranked 30th in total passing offense with a dismal 186.2 passing yards per game with only 21 passing touchdowns all season, which is actually 29.4 yards less than last season when Kaepernick started 8 games for the 49ers. In his 16 games played this season Kaepernick has thrown for over 200 yards 6 times in 16 games, while last year Kaepernick accomplished that same feat except with only half the starts (8 starts). And although the 49ers’ passing game has been lacking this year, Kaepernick and the 49ers have had one of the most superb rushing attacks in the NFL this season to make up for it, ranking 3rd in the league in rushing (137.6 rushing yards per game). With the combination of veteran Frank Gore and young blood Kendall Hunter and the always versatile Kaepernick, the 49ers rushed their way to over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. But, as the old-timers always say, it is not offense, but defense that wins championships and the Niners definitely have the defense to win another NFC Championship. This season the 49ers defense ranks 5th in overall defense, allowing an average of 316.9 total yards per game. As well, the San Francisco D has been absolutely dangerous when it comes to taking the ball away from opposing offenses. In 2013 the Niners have intercepted 18 passes and recovered 12 fumbles (both rank 7th and 2nd in the NFC, respectively). One great thing about this San Francisco squad is that even though they rank 24th in overall yardage, they make up for it with their outstanding turnover/giveaway ratio (+12 this season, ranks #2 in the NFC). This past Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, the Niners showed exactly why they should be taken seriously in the playoffs this season. Against an underrated, strong Cardinals’ ball club, San Francisco pulled off one of the best performances from week 17. Although the score may read 23-20, so much more happened in that game to helped to give the 49ers the 23-20 win. For example, the 49ers held the Cardinals rushing offense to just 83 yards, including only 30 yards on 9 carries (3.3 yards per carry) to the usually potent Andre Ellington. And even though the 49ers did falter and allow a critical touchdown and field goal to tie the game at 20, they were able to pull off the improbable and march 42 yards down the field and kick a 40-yard game-winning field goal as time expired, giving them a spot in the playoffs. Although Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense had a huge part to due with the game-winning drive, the Special Teams should deserve all of the credit for the win. In order to set up Kaepernick and the 49ers for the potential game-winner, kick returner LaMichael James returned the Jay Feely kick-off 41 yards to the San Francisco 36. Then after about 25 seconds of offensive plays, veteran kicker Phil Dawson, as cool as a cucumber, nailed a 40-yarder to seal a 49er win. Looking forward to these playoffs, Kaepernick and the Niners will have their hands full as they will take on the recently recharged Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field. If this game is anything like the season premiere where the Packers got ousted 34-28 on Colin Kaepernick’s 412 yards and 3 TDs, the Packers are going to be in trouble. Regardless though, week one’s win was at home for the 49ers, thus it should be a little different playing in the often frozen climate of Green Bay, Wisconsin. I expect a very close game, but unfortunately for the Niners, I see the Packers on top in this match-up.
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