The Faithful’s criticism of the 49ers game plan against the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s opener came fast and furious.
Too conservative. We’re playing not to lose. Take a few shots at the end zone. We’re becoming a field-position team. Let Alex throw the ball. Where is the imagination?
Imagine if the 49ers had lost.
One game into the Harbaugh Era, the biggest talking point is how bland the offense looked in a 33-17 win. That begs the question: Do the 49ers need to play with style points or would a return winning football be enough?
Let’s put it another way: How would the Faithful feel if San Francisco morphed into an NFC version of the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers – a perennial playoff contender that favors an offense with more grunt than glamor?
Sure, it was only one game. And yes, head coach Jim Harbaugh was probably loathe to throw open his playbook when he didn’t need to do it to beat Seattle. But the 49ers certainly evoked thoughts of Baltimore and Pittsburgh in their opener, from a decidedly low-risk, run-heavy offense to a punishing defense that registered five sacks and three takeaways.
At least for one week, the mantra seemed to be protection. Protect the ball, protect the quarterback, protect the lead.
And it worked. San Francisco was the only team throughout the league not to allow a sack or throw an interception in Week 1. And it was one of just four teams to play a turnover-free game.
Even so, critics were quick to bemoan the team’s 1-for-12 conversion rate on third downs and the apparent contentedness in seeing four red-zone possessions end up as field goals. Frank Gore’s 22 carries despite an average of 2.7 yards didn’t sit well, and neither did Alex Smith’s 124 passing yards.
Harbaugh may have lauded “a very blue-collar type of day” for his offense, but many fans immediately recoiled as those words harkened flashbacks to the ill-fated Nolan and Singletary regimes.
But what if Harbaugh succeeds where his predecessors failed? Would it be enough if he brings winning football back to the Bay, but that it’s with more grunt than glamour?