Monday, January 23, 2012

I don't (completely) put the loss on Kyle Williams

First, let me say that the 49ers' second year receiver Kyle Williams had a horrible day as a punt returner. Early in the game he took a huge risk when he dove to receive a punt; then he had a "muff" when he was indecisive and should have just gotten the hell out of the way instead of letting the ball graze his knee; and finally, he fumbled the ball on a punt return in over time that put the Giants in position to kick the game winning field goal.

With that being said, you can't put the loss on just one player. As much as everyone wants a scapegoat, it's always going to be a team game, and although Williams' plays might have had bigger impacts than others, there are countless other plays that could have determined the outcome. It's just like the '91 NFC Championship game against the Giants that I briefly talked about. One of my best friend's dad still hates Roger Craig for that fumble despite his prolific career as a Niners' runningback who won three titles with them. However, I would say that the defense still had the chance to stop New York from getting down the field in time for a game winning field goal. And yesterday, it was a team loss that could have gone differently if any number of players had made a better play, not just Williams.

And that's exactly how Patrick Willis put it last night when consoling his teammate. If Dashon Goldson doesn't collide with Carlos Rogers and comes up with the interception in overtime, Williams wouldn't have even been in that position to field a punt. Or if Goldson hadn't have taken out his teammate Tarrell Brown on the other near interception, then Tramaine Brock isn't in the game, and maybe the Niners don't give up that touchdown on 3rd and 15 after the muffed punt. Or if the referee doesn't blow a quick whistle for forward progress, then Brock's strip of Ahmad Bradshaw would have given the Niners the ball deep in Giants territory. Or if the Niners don't run a shotgun run for Frank Gore that loses yardage, then maybe Alex Smith's pass to Vernon Davis for 11 yards would have been a third down conversion instead of just short. Or if the offensive line gives Smith better protection on any of those final plays in the fourth quarter, maybe he could make a play down the field.

You could go on and on. You can't just say "If Williams would have actually taken care of the ball on the punt return, then the Niners wouldn't have lost" because it's a slippery slope from there. The kick still would have been a 42 yarder if the defense wouldn't have given up any yards after the fumble, and that is certainly no gimme. Just ask Billy Cundiff (another unfortunate scapegoat) after he missed his "easy" 32 yarder that would have tied the game against the Patriots. It happens. I may have lost sleep over it, but life goes on. It was still a hell of a first season under Jim Harbaugh.

No comments:

Post a Comment