The 49ers game yesterday was a tough one to stomach. Best Coasters saw their football season end as the Giants kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime to create a Super Bowl matchup featuring two teams that reside in port cities on the east coast. The game conditions in San Francisco were horrendous and the rain was creating issues for all players involved. There were drops and oddly-thrown balls, fumbles and players slipping. For return specialist Kyle Williams, he was a victim of the weather at the worst possible time and his fumble in OT handed the game to New York.
While Williams did indeed make a mistake at the end which cost the team, fans need to remember that in the end, it’s just a game played by 53 players, not one man.
It would be easy to sit here and rip Williams, berate the special teams play and shoot down the NFL overtime rules – why in the world do they not copy the NCAA for this, anyway? But ripping Williams is what everybody has been doing and for the most part, it’s been over-the-top.
One fan tweeted, “@KyleWilliams_10 I hope you, youre wife, kids and family die, you deserve it.” Seriously? Others threatened to burn down his house while some promised to do horrible things that shouldn’t be mentioned in this column. Fake Twitter accounts have popped up and his Facebook fan page is littered with Bay Area people who are foaming at the mouth. Yes, his fumble did give the Giants the ball at the end of the game, but death and family harm are not the solution by any means and taking it to such an extreme shows low character by the fans that do it.
When you screw up a TPS report the mailroom clerk doesn’t slash your tires. If the bagger at the grocery store forgets a can of tuna you don’t threaten his family. Granted, Williams was playing on a bigger stage than the local Safeway, but he was doing a job, which happens to be playing a game. He is still a man who has his ups and downs, just like the rest of us.
Sports are an important part of our society and many of us do feel a strong connection to the game, teams and players, so watching a season end is always a difficult moment. We’ve all cursed the high heavens wondering why the coach put the fate of the year in the hands of a backup or why a coordinator would call such an asinine play. But over time the feeling usually slips away and it is nothing more than a, “hey, remember when _______ lost a few years back?” that is said without hate or resentment – John Carney, I’m over it. We want to look for somebody to blame for the loss and label a goat when in fact, it usually is the team that lost or the play that was botched was not the only mistake made on the day. Williams could have gone down and the next play could have been Alex Smith throwing a pick-six to end it anyway. They could have punted a few plays later and given the ball back to Manning who would drive down the field. It’s all up in the air and being put on Williams for making a mistake at the wrong time.
But let’s look at the three-and-outs the 49ers had in the fourth quarter and the fact that Alex Smith reverted to his old form when the game counted most. The defense helped give the San Fran offense three possessions in the last four minutes of the game but nothing came of it. The team finished the day one-for-13 on third-down conversions. Do you think that may have had something to do with the game even being that close to begin with? Add that to the fact the 49ers only had 15 first downs and a time of possession of 25 minutes, 10 minutes less that the Giants had.
In overtime the defense stepped up again to force a New York punt and the offense took over with the chance to kick its own game-winning field goal. Instead, the offense once again went three-and-out and handed the ball back to the Giants. The ineptitude of the offense is what fans should look back at.
More importantly, why not remember the fact that San Francisco has been a bottom-dwelling franchise for the better part of the last decade, posting losing season after losing season behind a slew of head coaches and coordinators. Getting to 13-3 and being in a position to get to the Super Bowl seemed unreal just eight months ago. Jim Harbaugh was able to put things together in a shortened off-season in his first year on the job and was able to get the best out of Smith – something no one thought possible – so the future is looking pretty bright for the Bay Area.
Instead of haunting a 23-year old, second-year player who was thrown in front of 57.6 million viewers in a severe storm, you should relish in the season that was had to begin with and be thankful that you didn’t post another 5-11 year.
So when recounting this story don’t be the guy who says Williams should be banished to hell, but be the guy who has an understanding of the game and realizes that while it was a sad ending to a phenomenal season, the situation as a whole is bigger than a fumbled punt return.