Originally posted on Cleveland Frowns  |  Last updated 1/23/12

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 01: Alex Smith #82 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the New York Giants on November 1, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Giants 40-17. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Niners were 0 for 12 on third down yesterday (technically 1 for 13, but the one conversion came on a meaningless short throw on the last play of regulation). Their wide receivers made one catch for three yards on nine targets. On any of their last four drives a field goal would have sent them to the Super Bowl, yet they moved the ball a total of -7, 0, 2 and 9 yards respectively on each. This, despite the services of a pair of running backs who ran for over 100 yards on just 20 carries and the best pass-catching tight end in football. Niners wideout Michael Crabtree was one of the best receivers to play college football in the last decade. He can’t be that bad now in the NFL.

It’s something for the (thankfully) dwindling “surround Colt McCoy with weapons” crowd to think about. Niners quarterback Alex Smith still came away with a decent statline (a 97.6 rating on 12/26 passing for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns, evocative of Colt’s best performances (like against the Rams, or Jags)) but it was impossible to watch him play yesterday without thinking his limitations are precisely what kept his team from overcoming the two brutal special teams fumbles that gave the Giants the win. Smith can avoid interceptions and can make the odd decent throw when a play is called to a specific receiver (like most of his big completions to Vernon Davis work), but no group of NFL receivers can be that bad when offset by guys like Davis and Frank Gore. It’s got to be a quarterback who can’t see or otherwise make use of the entire field, someone who’s not a legit NFL quarterback. It’s really amazing that the Niners did as well as they did this season with this guy; some legit Mangini-esque coaching work.

If I’m a Niners fan and they bring free agent Smith back to play QB next season I’m cutting myself. If I’m the Niners, I’m backing up a dump truck of cash in front of Peyton Manning and winning the next three Super Bowls.

As for the AFC, probably the biggest mistake we’ve ever made here with our football picks is ignoring the advice of Coach in laying the points with the Patriots yesterday, per ESPN Boston:

ESPN NFL analyst Eric Mangini (former Browns and Jets coach and ex-Patriots defensive coordinator) said he thought the Ravens defense matches up well against the Patriots’ offense.

  • How Ravens can cause Pats problem: “I like the matchup for Baltimore for a lot of reasons. They can disguise. They can bring a lot of different looks. They’ve got good matchups in terms of personnel. They’ve got Ed Reed, you never know where he’s going to be. And the last two times they’ve played (the Patriots), Tom Brady’s had a 69 quarterback rating and a 49 quarterback rating. Rex (Ryan) has done some good things in New York (against the Patriots) with that same defense (as the Ravens utilize).”
  • Don’t forget their running game: “Baltimore is not going to be intimidated by the mystique of the New England Patriots. I think the running game that Baltimore matches up well against New England’s defense and I think the shifts and motions and those things simplify the defense and create problems.”

Which is pretty much exactly how it went down.

Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff who missed a chip shot that would have sent the game into overtime surprisingly did not tell Ravens fan that “at the end of the day, they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today, and that he’s going to continue to live the way he wants to live and continue to do the things he wants to do,” but nobody really would have been mad if he would have. Anyway, thanks to Cundiff, the rest of the Ravens and the New England Patriots for saving us from one of the only things that could have been worse than a New York/Boston Super Bowl.

We’ll be back tomorrow to launch the Cheddar Bay Super Bowl contest for the $40 Red Lobster gift card, open to all. Hope everyone’s week gets off to a decent start in the meantime.

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