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Though the San Francisco 49ers gave up nine sacks and Alex Smith threw another interception, the team should feel good right now. In this case, "good" is defined as "not complacent," at least in the mind of head coach Jim Harbaugh. Not everybody is feeling complacent though, at least when it comes to the fans. Some folks are saying that the 49ers got "exposed" on Thursday when the Baltimore Ravens came out on top. Others are asking if the team is over-hyped and not a threat going forward.
Well, let's make it pretty clear right away: the 49ers did not get exposed, and the team is probably not over-hyped. If the 49ers got exposed, then every team in the league outside of the Green Bay Packers have also been exposed. Look, if all someone is going to take from that game is that the 49ers just weren't that good to begin with, that somebody needs to fill us all in on what that blueprint was that John Harbaugh developed.
"All you gotta do is sack them nine times! Also, if you can play them on short rest at home, which is three time zones away, that would probably help, too!"
News flash: the 49ers aren't likely to give up nine sacks again (though the turnstile known as Chilo Rachal might have something to say about that if Adam Snyder can't return) and that travel situation is not likely to ever happy again. The only reason it did happen was the fact that Jim and John are brothers, and it made a juicy Thanksgiving story. Jim Harbaugh wasn't making an excuse when he said (pregame) that the 49ers got the short end of the stick.
That's just a fact - that kind of schedule isn't asked of any team in a different situation.
So no, the 49ers have not been exposed and there is no miraculous blueprint to beat them. Of course, there is a smart gameplan, but sitting at 9-2, is it really as simple as going out there and executing it, after big wins over Detroit, Tampa Bay and the New York Giants? It's probably just slightly more simple than saying that the simple blueprint to beat the Packers is to stop Aaron Rodgers, or that the best way to beat the Patriots is to score more points than Tom Brady.
To say that the 49ers were exposed on Thursday is foolish and irresponsible. To say that the team is over-hyped is an opinion that, really, isn't embraced by many. It's obvious that folks will have their own opinions of the team and its 9-2 record, but drawing that conclusion after a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, of all teams, is actually pretty funny.
The 16-6 final score did not turn people away from Thursday night's game as the Thanksgiving night matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers became the highest rated game ever for the NFL Network. Not only was the game the highest rated contest in the history of the eight-year network by over 50 percent, but the game also was the highest rated cable program ever on Thanksgiving.
There was an average of 10.7 million people who tuned in to watch this game and the numbers could be higher since they do not include those people who live in the Baltimore and San Francisco areas and watched the game over-the-air instead of the NFL Network.
The previous highest rated game on NFL Network was last year's Thanksgiving game between the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, and Thursday night's game was a 50 percent increase over the 2010 game.
In Thursday's 16-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers had very little to hang their hats on. The fact that they were in a bad situation, playing on the road with a short week across three time zones only soothes the pain of having an eight game losing streak snapped so much. The fact that the team won eight straight to begin with will be soothing after the initial feeling of the loss wears off.
There were few silver linings on the actual football field, though. Other than the fact that, when thinking level-headedly, it was just a team that got outplayed that time out and there wasn't a ton to really look at as needing an emergency adjustment going forward. The biggest thing to note is that, yes, the 49ers allowed nine sacks on the day. That's the worst thing that happened in that game.
What's bad about that is that a good portion of them were right guard Chilo Rachal being a hologram. A turnstile. The 49ers weren't able to do anything at all when Rachal came in for an injured Adam Snyder. The other bad thing to note is the fact that tight end Vernon Davis was soundly beaten by the Ravens pass rush. Terrell Suggs got three sacks on the day, and Davis stayed in to block.
It was the only time I can remember in which Davis was soundly beaten more often than naught when blocking a linebacker. Couple that with some lacking play in the passing game (drops, lack of effort), could that mean a bit of regression for the 49ers star tight end? That's one worry going forward - that Davis is regressing in all areas or perhaps isn't fully healthy. It's not a case of jumping the gun here, just a possibility and an observation that he was soundly beaten in pass protection.
Almost everything was bad about the 49ers offensive line play. Mike Iupati even had points in which he looked completely lost out there, struggling to even find where it was Alex Smith was so he could make another poor attempt at protecting him. About the only silver lining in regards to pass protection is the fact that rookie running back Kendall Hunter actually showed some improvement in the area, getting just enough of multiple rushers to extend the play. Frank Gore also performed well in that regard (outside of one or two plays), but he's always done that.
The 49ers better hope Adam Snyder can return in ten days - though I daresay the St. Louis Rams won't put on that kind of defensive display, even against the likes of Chilo Rachal.
The response to the San Francisco 49ers 16-6 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens has been many things, but more than anything, they've been reactionary. Overreaction has dominated the team's first loss in eight games and second loss in 11 times out this season, but it's easy to understand the feeling. It's even more frustrating when the team suffered injuries and were called for quite a few penalties.
Needless to say, some of the responses have really been all over the place. There are people after Alex Smith, fans looking for Chilo Rachal to rough him up a little bit (if the Ravens did it, why can't they?), folks upset with Jim Harbaugh and people freaking out about being anything less than the Packers.
This is par the course - keep it steady and remember the circumstance. Couple days rest, traveling 3,000 miles and playing a team who is presently undefeated at home. More than that, the Ravens were simply the better team on Thursday. Will they be a better team if they were to meet, say, in the Super Bowl? That's really up for debate - I certainly wouldn't pick the Ravens to win 16-6 ten times in a row even in last night's situation.
There was one response, though, that I found to be particularly odd. It seems like a situation in which the person was just waiting for a loss to pull out. Now, I've got nothing against him and think he's been a solid writer in his coverage over the years, but Kevin Lynch of the SF Chronicle said something really, really odd on KNBR Thursday night.
Lynch said "They're (49ers) playing better than their talent," and went on to say that they have been playing so well because of the coaching from Harbaugh. That last part is partly true - the 49ers have been brought together and have been able to execute with Harbaugh coaching as opposed to guys like Mike Singletary and Mike Nolan, but to claim that the 49ers are playing better than their talent is somewhat absurd. Really, it's a bit more than absurd, it's downright silly, something I almost never say in regards to another beat writer's comments.
Over the past few seasons, the 49ers have been regarded as one of the more talented teams in the league who continues to underwhelm and play poorly. A huge part of that was, of course, the coaching, but being coached up doesn't suddenly mean that the team is now overachieving.
Suffice to say I'm in disagreement with Lynch, this team is right where it should be based on the talent on the roster, and that the 49ers got beat last night by a good team in a bad situation. Nothing more, nothing less.
The San Francisco 49ers simply could not win the battle in the trenches against the Baltimore Ravens, falling in a defensive-minded contest 16-6. San Francisco's offensive line was whipped up front by Baltimore's defense, holding Niners tailback Frank Gore to 39 yards rushing and sacking quarterback Alex Smith a bunch of times.
Joe Flacco only go it into the end zone once, but he was effective and efficient when the Ravens needed it, completing 15 of 23 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown. He led Baltimore to three field goal drives as well, and that was all that the Ravens needed to top the 49ers.
Smith didn't have a bad night passing, going 14 of 22 for 131 yards, but he threw a crucial interception when the Niners were driving at the end of the first half and San Francisco would never come close to threatening the end zone ever again. The 49ers compiled only 12 first downs and 170 yards of total offense, and were penalized seven times for 97 yards.
San Francisco falls to 9-2 on the season, but they're still in smooth position to clinch the NFC West any week now, and are still second best in the NFC by a few wins. They just ran into a defensive buzzsaw in Baltimore tonight.
The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens are battling in the trenches, and both split the third quarter halfway. The biggest difference is that one team got into the end zone and the other didn't.
San Francisco started the second half at the 20 down three after a touchback. Alex Smith did a pretty good job finding Michael Crabtree for eight yards and 18 yards on 3rd and 17, bu the was sacked twice and that eventually stalled the drive. David Akers ended up kicking a 52 yard field goal to tie things up after a 7 minute, 30 second drive.
Baltimore came right back with a 7 minute, 30 second plus drive of their own, and it was the turn of Joe Flacco to wheel and deal. Flacco found Anquan Boldin for seven yards, Lee Evans for eight yards, Ed Dickson for fifteen yards, Vonta Leach for 10 yards, and found Dennis Pitta twice for 11 yards and an eight yard touchdown. Baltimore is now in good position up seven, as their defense just forced a three and out and now have a chance to really make their mark in this one.
After the Baltimore Ravens took a late 6-3 first half lead, Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers looked to make an immediate response and try and march down the field. Smith found Frank Gore for nine yards, Ted Ginn Jr. for 12 yards, Michael Crabtree for 10 yards and Vernon Davis for seven yards and Delane Walker for three yards on 4th and three (and there was a defensive penalty on the play). It looked like San Francisco was in good position to at least tie the game before halftime.
Then Smith decided to go for an immediate response and go deep to the end zone, but the ball was a bit underthrown, and Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was in perfect position to box out 49ers wide receiver Braylon Edwards and make the interception. Baltimore took a knee to go into halftime with the narrow lead over San Francisco.
The San Francisco 49ers looked like they had finally taken their first lead of the game over the Baltimore Ravens when Alex Smith went deep for Ted Ginn, Jr and connected with him for what looked like a 75 yard touchdown score. But there was a ticky-tack officiating call when a Ravens pass rusher was chopped by Frank Gore and pushed from behind by Chilio Rachal, earning the chop block penalty. The 49ers were forced into a long yardage situation and eventually had to punt the ball away.
The Ravens had a nice looking punt return wiped out with an illegal block in the back, and Joe Flacco came up a yard short on 3rd down to force another punt. After the 49ers got the ball back and Kendall Hunter was forced to give the ball up. But Alex Smith was sacked once, there was a dead ball false start, and Frank Gore was stuffed a few occasions to force San Francisco back and had to concede the ball again.
When Baltimore got it back, Joe Flacco aired it out for Torrey Smith. 49ers CB Tarell Brown went up for the football and managed the pick, but the officials called Brown for pass interference and set up the Ravens in the red zone. A few Ray Rice runs and Baltimore had second and goal at the one.
But San Francisco stiffened on defense. C.J. Spillman caught Rice running to the outside for a three yard loss, and Flacco could find no receivers on 3rd down and rushed up the middle to get tackled by Justin Smith. Billy Cundiff had to kick another field goal, but another red zone stop by the Niners could be critical in what figures to be a low-scoring defensive battle.
After the San Francisco 49ers offense were forced to go three-and-out against the Baltimore Ravens defense trailing 3-0 early in the first quarter, the 49ers defense made a strong response. Ray Rice managed eight rushing yards on the first two carries to set up a 3rd and short, but Joe Flacco threw an incomplete pass to Anquan Boldin and the Ravens were forced to punt.
The 49ers finally started to march down the field. Frank Gore had two nice gains for four yards to set up a 3rd and short, and Alex Smith managed to find Vernon Davis hitting the right flat for a 20 yard gain. Smith then hit Ted Ginn Jr. on a sweep pattern for nine yards to set up a 2nd and short, and Frank Gore managed another first down carry. Smith was sacked on 3rd down on the next set of plays, and David Akers had to come in and hit a game-tying 45 yard field goal.
We're all tied up at 3 in the Harbowl after one quarter.
The Baltimore Ravens started by moving the ball early on the San Francisco 49ers. After a few short rushes by Ray Rice that forced Baltimore into a 3rd and 4 at the Baltimore 31, Joe Flacco connected with Anquan Boldin up the middle of the field to take advantage of a hole right inside the 49er pass defense. Flacco then hit Boldin again for 16 yards on the next play to put the Ravens into field goal range. Rice then bounced a run to the outside on 2nd and 9 for a ten yard gain.
The 49ers defense stiffened after that, thanks to a big hit by Patrick Willis on Ricky Williams and pressure that flushed Flacco out of the pocket and force a throwaway. Billy Cundiff hit a 39 yard field goal to put the Ravens up first.
The Niners received the ball, but couldn't do anything on their opening drive and were forced to punt. Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree on short routes, but on 3rd down Smith tried rolling out and was hit for a one yard loss by Tom Zbikowski.
The 49ers and Ravens square off Thanksgiving night on NFL Network and they have released their pre-game injury reports as kickoff is an hour away. The biggest news is that Ray Lewis will sit out the game with his toe injury. Given the short week it is not surprising, but it is still a pretty big deal. Lewis is getting up there in age but he remains a dynamic presence on the defensive interior. Removing him from the equation might open things up for the 49ers inside.
For the 49ers, Bruce Miller is officially out with a concussion. He was doubtful so his deactivation is not surprising. The 49ers will go with Moran Norris at fullback and third string tight end Justin Peelle will act as Norris' backup. Norris has been inactive the last two months and Miller emerged as a strong presence at fullback. This will be a big test for the 49ers without their emerging rookie fullback.
The San Francisco 49ers travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens on Thanksgiving in a game billed as Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. Jim and John Harbaugh will be squaring off in the first ever battle of head coach brothers and naturally this has gotten the bulk of the headlines.
However, as big a story as that is, the more important story for the 49ers is that they have a chance to clinch the NFC West this week with a win and a Seahawks loss. Given the 49ers strong start to the season, they are also in a position to secure a first round bye in the next few weeks. They hold a two-game lead over the New Orleans Saints and a three-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. As long as the 49ers handle their business the rest of the season a bye is their's for the taking. However, it is always nice to get a little help from the rest of the conference.
San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens: As was said when the 49ers traveled to the Detroit Lions and again when they hosted the New York Giants, this is probably their biggest game of the year. Aside from the importance of a win it doesn't impact the 49ers conference tiebreaker. At the same time, a win is a win is a win. And I don't pick against the 49ers (I also don't bet money on them). PICK: 49ers
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions: If the 49ers can defeat Baltimore, a Packers loss opens the door for the 49ers to secure the NFC's #1 seed and accompanying home field advantage through the playoffs. If the Packers defeat Detroit, it's tough to see them losing the rest of the way. Odds are high the road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field. PICK: Packers
Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks: The 49ers can clinch the NFC West with a win and Seahawks loss (some tie options could also work, but we'll ignore those for now). The Seahawks are on a bit of a roll and sitting at 4-6. Their NFC West chances are slim, but their wild card hopes are intriguing. They are three back of the Bears and Lions, but with three straight home games coming up (Redskins, Eagles, Rams), they could very well be 7-6 three weeks from now. Alongside the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, the Seahawks stadium (formerly Qwest Field) provides one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. I think they'll hold onto it this week. PICK: Seahawks
New York Giants @ New Orleans Saints: The Saints have a shot at matching the 49ers record in the coming weeks, but they are also behind in the conference tiebreaker, which makes it all the more difficult. This week though, the Saints get a home game against an inconsistent Giants squad. The Saints play well enough at home that I just don't see the Giants doing enough to get the W. PICK: Saints
Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys: Now that the Cowboys have moved back into a tie for first, they are a threat to get the first round bye if the 49ers have a modest collapse in the coming weeks. The Cowboys hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 49ers. Miami is playing incredibly well right now, but it just seems a little too tough heading into Big D. PICK: Cowboys
The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens have one of their biggest games of their respective seasons taking place this Thanksgiving night. Both of them have fierce defenses with capable offenses, and it figures to be one of those games where most advantages cancel each other out, leaving us with a pretty close contest. Oh yeah, and there's some big deal about two brother head coaches going up against each other.
This could be a problem for a lot of fans who don't receive the NFL, but Bay Area fans shouldn't fret though! The game will also be simulcast on CBS in the region (not in Sacramento though). The NFL Network crew will be on the call this game.
Game Date/Time: Thursday, November 24; 5:20 p.m. PT
Location: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Records: Ravens (7-3); 49ers (9-1)
TV: NFL Network. Announcers: Brad Nessler (play-by-play); Mike Mayock (color analyst); Alex Flanagan (sideline reporter), simulcast on CBS in the Bay Area (Channel 5)
National radio: KNBR 680 AM, Westwood One national telecast: Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Randy Cross (color), Laura Okmin (sideline)
Local radio: 107.7 FM- 1050 AM. Announcers: Ted Robinson (play-by-play); Eric Davis (color analyst)
Spanish Radio: KIQI 1010/KATD 990 AM. Announcers: Armando Botello, Juan Carlos Sierra, Matias Godinez and Melvin Moran
Betting Line: According to OddsShark, the 49ers are three to 3.5 point underdogs.
The San Francisco 49ers will be fairly injury-free on Thanksgiving, which should be a good sign when they head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. It figures to be a physical, hard-hitting matchup, so San Francisco being healthy will be fairly important.
The Niners will likely have their big offensive playmakers ready. Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree were both limited in practice, but both of them are going to play on Thursday. The only one doubtful is Bruce Miller, who is still recovering from concussions. San Francisco will need their offense to generate the critical points so they can turn it over to their defense to win this one.
The Ravens are a little less lucky. Ray Lewis is still getting limited reps (like Gore and Crabtree), but he's listed as questionable. Lewis not playing on that defense isn't a gamechanger, but considering San Francisco has embraced a physical nature of football, they might need him to play to win.
Here's the full list of injuries.
DOUBTFUL: RB Bruce Miller (concussion)
PROBABLE: WR Michael Crabtree (foot), CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), T Anthony Davis (ankle), WR Braylon Edwards (knee), RB Frank Gore (knee)
OUT: DT Arthur Jones (head)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Anthony Allen (thigh), CB Chris Carr (back), LB Dannell Ellerbe (thigh), LB Ray Lewis (foot)
PROBABLE: S Haruki Nakamura (thigh)
Last week, when the 49ers took on the New York Giants, defensive end Ray McDonald made the start at left defensive end, and he didn't look very good, and at times, looked downright bad. He was hurt the previous week, and probably shouldn't even have been active against New York. There were plays in which he was dominated, and plays in which he didn't even look to put out an effort. It's really hard to say that too ... it's more of that he looked like he was too hurt to put out an effort.
On five or six different occasions, New York snapped the ball, McDonald stood up, and did absolutely nothing. If it seems overly critical, don't despair - McDonald has been absolutely fantastic this year outside of that one game. This is his first full year as a starter, and he's played with a chip on his shoulder - being rated by some as one of the best 3-4 ends in the NFL right now. So, in actuality, it was scary to see McDonald play so poorly against New York, while the rest of the team performed well around him.
There were some worries that he still might not be 100% healthy, and with the short week coming up, that he shouldn't play against the Arizona Cardinals. However, he did play - and he played very well. McDonald only registered a single tackle, but he applied constant pressure and basically abused right guard Rex Hadnot the entire game. McDonald also got good pressure on John Skelton on the play that saw the Cardinals quarterback to throw an interception to Dashon Goldson.
Going into a game against the Baltimore Ravens, one of the most important and toughest games this season, it's a necessity that the team be confident in McDonald. So long as there were no set backs with his injury on Sunday, McDonald should start and have the confidence in him restored.
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens square off on Thanksgiving day in one of three NFL match-ups (in addition to Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys). The 49ers have several players limited in practice but figure to be largely healthy for Thursday's game.
Running back Frank Gore was limited again on Tuesday with a knee injury but should play on Thursday. He played last weekend against the Arizona Cardinals and the team is likely giving Gore some rest on a short week in preparation for Thursday's game.
The big loss for the 49ers is fullback Bruce Miller, who did some jogging in Tuesday's practice but was otherwise inactive. Miller is not expected to play on Thursday. Tight end Justin Peele took over fullback duties after Miller left Saturday's game against the Cardinals with a concussion. The 49ers are expected to have back-up fullback Moran Norris available for Thursday's game as well.
Following is a full look at the injury report for the 49ers on Tuesday:
San Francisco 49ers Injury Report
OUT: RB Bruce Miller (concussion)
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens prepare to face off in a marquee match-up on Thanksgiving. Brothers Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh, the respective head coaches of the 49ers and Ravens, hope to have healthy squads going into the game.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis missed his first game in 58 contests last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. The veteran, who has been plagued with a toe injury, was limited in practice on Monday. Despite only seeing limited action on Monday, the Ravens organization appears confident that Lewis will play on Thursday.
For the 49ers, running back Frank Gore was limited during Monday's walk-through. Gore has been dealing with a right knee injury but played during Sunday's win against the Arizona Cardinals, rushing for 88 yards on 24 carries. Monday's status likely reflects a precautious stance towards the running back's health.
Following is a full look at the injury reports for both teams on Monday:
San Francisco 49ers Injury Report
OUT: RB Bruce Miller (concussion)
Baltimore Ravens Injury Report
OUT: CB Chris Carr (back), DT Arthur Jones (head)
LIMITED: LB Dannell Ellerbe (thigh), LB Ray Lewis (foot), S Haruki Nakamura (thigh)
FULL: RB Anthony Allen (thigh)
With Jim Harbaugh with the Niners and John Harbaugh with the Ravens, this is the first ever NFL head coaching matchup between brothers. Both teams are near the top of their respective conferences which is leading Vegas towards close game predictions.
The line opened with the Ravens as 4.5-point favorites but has come down to 3 since opening last night. It'll be a battle between two of the top defenses in the NFL and Vegas expects a low scoring affair with the over/under sitting at 38.5
The Niners extended their win streak to eight games with a win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The streak will be put to the test with a Ravens team similar to themselves - run the ball, play defense and don't make mistakes.
The Ravens are coming off a big AFC North win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Ravens have a reputation this year for only showing up for the big games and playing the Niners definitely fits. Expect the good Ravens in this one.
The San Francisco 49ers now are guaranteed a winning record, sitting at 9-1, and are taking on the very tough Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football. It will be a matchup between brothers Jim and John Harbaugh. For more on the game and the team in general, go to Niners Nation, SB Nation's San Francisco 49ers blog.
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