Former 49ers linebacker Keena Turner, a four-time Super Bowl Champion, understands what's going out on the turf better than most which is what he'll try to share with you in his column Turner's Turf. In this week's entry, Turner recaps Sunday's divisional game against the Rams.
Starting at the end of this game, it was an exciting ending with the 49ers taking it down to the wire on the final play.
I think what you saw at the end of this game was the urgency that the 49ers players have to understand is a part of every single series. Offensively, they had opportunities at the end of the game to win it and once again there were many missed opportunities that the players are responsible for.
On offense, the 49ers were in a position to win and when you have that opportunity – no matter how the rest of the game was played – you have to have the ability to make that play. Your whole evaluation of a game can be changed by the W or the L. You can play the exact game and get the win and the earlier play can be forgotten, but you play that game and miss out on those chances at the win and the evaluation changes.
The opportunity was there and it was missed.
Looking at the game as a whole for the offense - I think Trent Dilfer came in and gave the offense a chance to win. He's a tough, gritty guy. There were a few plays where I saw him get hit in the pocket and stay alive whether through spinning or stepping up and delivering a completed pass. That's grit, that's experience and the toughness you need at the quarterback position. They hit on more downfield completions and you saw his experience and his comfort in those tough situations to keep going after it.
When you look at the run game, I think Frank Gore is a little beat up and the Rams did a good job of stopping the run. Defenses come in with a lot of confidence, believing they can hold this offense in check by bringing pressure and containing the run. I think Frank plays on will and determination. I want to see him get healthy and then critique him because he continues to hit it up in there when there isn't anything. There's no hole for him and he still runs full speed into nothing and that's tough.
I am not going to second guess Coach Nolan for the field goal decision. For me it's very easy to say that you should go for it but that's easy to sit there in hindsight and say. He's been criticized when he hasn't gone for it, and he's been criticized when he has gone for it. I think a lot of that is predicated on whether or not you are successful. I think what is important is that you have a guy who thinks it through and makes a decision. In tough situations, in the middle of a close ball game, you have to be decisive. I don't have a problem with making a decision and having it turn out to be the wrong decision because I think you look at whether or not you could have executed to make it a right decision.
In this situation, they had an opportunity to score and tie the game, and they had opportunities at the end to win the game even after the field goal and they just didn't get it done and that's on the players.
There were balls that were dropped that shouldn't have been dropped. Darrell Jackson even came out and said he makes that catch nine out of ten times. Vernon Davis' was a little tougher but if you want to be in the upper echelons of tight ends in the league, you make those catches because that's what this league is about. I'm not going to beat Coach up for it. His onside kicks have been great with Joe Nedney, one of the best in the league so he played his odds and what he thought his strength was and even though they don't get the onside, they had another shot.
On the defensive side of the ball – Bryant Young - I mean what can you say, wow. This guy has been there for 14 years for the 49ers on defense and he just continues to amaze me with his consistent play up front. We talked last week about the need for the pass rush and this week the defense was able to come up with a strong pass rush that totaled six sacks. That's huge up front to be able to disrupt an offense like that. The defense didn't give up many points and that's what you ask of your defense.
The one opening drive for the Rams is the one the defense would want back because without that one, this game was obviously even closer.
I also think Nate Clements has done a phenomenal job this year. Not only has he played the pass down and the coverage piece to it, but this guy has impressed me with his willingness to mix it up and be physical. I saw him shoot in on Steven Jackson from the outside to take him out on a run play. Just game after game this guy shows me he wants to get involved and mix it up and I love that out of my corner. A corner who says, "I'm going to cover you down the field, but I'm going to get in the action. I'm going to be a little backer in there too." Then he does the reverse on the punt return, and he did some of that in Buffalo, but to see him jump in and be willing to help, and have a big return like that - that's the right kind of guy, the right kind of leader to have on your defense.
Hopefully that leadership rubs off this week in Arizona and this team pulls it together and makes the plays that are there to be made.