By Sam McPherson
If nothing else, the San Francisco 49ers showed everyone in the nation on Sunday Night Football that they still have the ability to win football games in 2015. It took a game-winning drive in the late fourth quarter by Eli Manning and the New York Giants to defeat the 49ers on Sunday night, 30-27. Considering Manning has done the same to the New England Patriots twice in the Super Bowl, the San Francisco team really has nothing to be ashamed of—although that will be little consolation to the players as their record fell to 1-4 with the loss.READ MORE: El Dorado County Braces For Flooding After Caldor Fire
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Carlos Hyde rediscovered their game, and the offense scored its most points in a single game yet this season. The defense played well enough to win, but as noted above, a few breakdowns at the end of the game cost the 49ers a win. That’s what happens, though, when you get stuck facing so many Super Bowl-winning QBs in a row as the S.F. defense has in the past four weeks (Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Manning).
The 49ers scored almost as many points in this game (27) as they did in the last three games combined (28). That’s definite improvement, and it started with Kaepernick’s arm. He threw the ball successfully downfield, and he did it consistently throughout the game. The 49ers scored in every quarter, and the offense got better as the game progressed. With a total of 380 yards of offense and no turnovers, this was the offense’s best game since Week 1—and it showed on the scoreboard.
Kaepernick was 23-for-35 overall, with two TD tosses, completing passes to nine different receivers. He also ran for 23 yards on three carries. Because Kaep was throwing well, that meant Anquan Boldin showed up big-time, too, with eight receptions for 107 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Hyde found himself again as well. The No. 1 running back gained 93 yards and scored the go-ahead TD with just 1:45 left in the game. It really was a well-balanced effort from the offense, one that needs replicating every game going forward this season. Now, if Kaepernick could just learn how to manage the game clock better …
It’s hard to give the defense such a poor grade considering it almost did the job, but when the opposing offense runs up 525 yards, it’s hard to give any grade above a “C”, really. Manning’s numbers on the night were somewhat stunning: 41-of-54 for 441 yards and three TDs. Yes, the 49ers did intercept him at the end of the first half, which turned out to be a huge play. However, the defense also gave up the last-minute TD to lose the game, letting Manning march the Giants 82 yards in just 1:24 without his best WRs on the field. That was bad.READ MORE: Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Barred From Caring For Bears Until It Makes Changes To Enclosure
The Giants only ran for 84 yards, but at 4.0 yards per carry, it was enough to keep the defense off balance for Eli to pick apart the secondary. The big issue on the last drive was the 49ers couldn’t cover RB Shane Vereen, who ended up with eight catches on the night for 86 yards and a TD. He burned them repeatedly out of the backfield, an the Giants wouldn’t have been able to win the game without him. No one could cover him or stay with him after he made those receptions.
Special Teams: A-
Fullback Bruce Miller made a big mistake on the final kickoff, going to the ground immediately after recovering the squib kick in order to save time. However, he had a lot of open space in front of him, and since the 49ers just needed a field goal to tie at the end of regulation, those extra yards may have helped. Otherwise, the special teams were fine in this one.
Not only did the team almost win, but the 49ers didn’t get blown out in the first half—and they played better after halftime, showing the staff’s ability to adjust (finally). This was a pretty good coaching effort, all around, considering the team was on the road against a tough opponent with a veteran QB. The team came up just short, and perhaps the defense did get outfoxed on the final drive. The 49ers had to know that Manning didn’t have his top two WRs for most of that drive, making the inability to cover Vereen somewhat unacceptable.
Week 6 Is Chance For Redemption (Again)
The 1-4 Baltimore Ravens come to Levi’s Stadium next week, desperate for a win. The 49ers have played well at home this season, and if S.F. can muster up this kind of effort again, the team will have a good chance to beat the Ravens. However, the 49ers haven’t shown they can put together any consistency yet this season, especially on defense—and yes, the Ravens also have a Super Bowl champion QB at the helm: Joe Flacco, who led Baltimore to the win in Super Bowl XLVII over Kaepernick and the 49ers.MORE NEWS: Kings Home Opener Brings Life To Downtown, Stresses Business
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.