Monday, September 12, 2011

Is Boring Better?

The Harbaugh Era is here, and the 49ers are undefeated in the regular season.

OK, they beat Seattle in their first game under Harbaugh and it's not clear if the Seahawks are any good but, still, it's a start.

Except: there remains a sort of unease about a team that wins with only 124 yards passing, and was nursing a less-than-a-field-goal lead before Ted Ginn's kick-return madness in the 4th quarter.

The Bay Area's favorite athletic whipping boy, QB Alex Smith, threw only 20 times. Frank Gore didn't even crack the 60-yard rushing mark. Time and again, the Niners chose to run (usually unsuccessfully) on 3rd down.

In short, except for Ginn, a game remarkably devoid of spine-tingling moments. This begs a question: were the 49ers playing it close to the vest because that's the hand they hold? Or maybe another question: did the labor strife-shortened NFL summer lead to this?

It's possible a new head coach, still establishing a relationship with his quarterback, is going to keep it simple. But it's also possible that these are the Harbaugh-era 49ers. Fans sometimes forget the goal of the game is to win. Coaches don't get bonus points for excitement and style; they get them for W's.

If Harbaugh calculates his best chance to win is not to lose, then a controlled passing game that averages 6.2 yards per attempt might be preferable to one that takes the bigger downfield risks. By the way, that "yards per attempt" stat is worth watching; the team with the higher "YPA" figure in a game will win more than 80% of the time. And if you need something to brag about, tell your skeptical fantasy-league buddies that Smith's YPA was higher than Michael Vick's in Week 1 (the Eagles averaged 5.2 yards per passing attempt in their win over St. Louis).

Bottom line for Niners fans: a win is a win, and one week does not a trend make. Give Harbaugh and Smith their due, for it's better to be 1-0 than 0-1. But if you like your offense wide-open, don't hold your breath.

No comments: