Now that we are three days removed from Sunday’s mind-numbing 24-24 tie between the Rams and 49ers, it’s important to understand that it’s possible to express overwhelming disappointment that the Rams failed to win a game that was there for the taking, while still acknowledging that the team was in position to win for an obvious reason: they answered San Francisco’s physical play with their own and made enough plays to have a chance to win.
It’s obvious that if the Rams are to become a consistently good team, they have to find ways to win games like that. However, to somehow reach the conclusion that progress isn’t being made because they didn’t win borders on lunacy.
Having said all that, it would be nice to hear coach Jeff Fisher accept some responsibility for not doing “the little things” in the non-victory he so quickly points out when it involves the players. Fisher is adept at finding the positives in a loss (which is a good thing), while noting the things that can’t happen if you want to win.
As he said Monday, “Whether we get the kick off on time, or make a play, or get lined up in the appropriate formation, we had opportunities to win this game.”
He left out calling a time out at the appropriate time. Saying "I think I have a pretty good feel for clock management," Fisher refused to second-guess his decision to call a quick time out late in the game against the 49ers.
As a painful refresher, here’s the sequence: Trailing 21-17 and on the 49ers' 10-yard line while facing second-and-6, the Rams snapped the ball with 1:24 left in regulation. Quarterback Sam Bradford hit wide receiver Danny Amendola for an eight-yard gain to the 2-yard line. The play ended with 1:17 to play and the time out stopped the clock with 1:13 remaining.
When Bradford connected with wide receiver Austin Pettis on the go-ahead touchdown, there was 1:09 on the clock. After the kickoff, which Ted Ginn Jr. returned to the 22-yard line, there was 1:03 left. The 49ers then drove to the 15-yard line in six plays and after an incomplete pass, David Akers kicked the game-tying 33-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.
Said Fisher, "People can second-guess that, whatever you want. I think I have a pretty good feel for clock management. At that point, I wanted a touchdown and we needed to talk about it. Had the clock running ... actually, we had a play called that we changed, and we changed to the touchdown play. So, no. You've got a backup quarterback and you've got a defense that, in a two-minute, that should win the drive, get the ball back."
It's fine to have faith in your defense, but making it as difficult as possible for the opposition is important, too. And, that backup quarterback (Colin Kaepernick), had led the 49ers on an 81-yard drive in the fourth quarter that cut the Rams’ lead to 17-14.
Still, the issue wasn't calling the time out; it was calling it so quickly. Fisher could have let the clock run down to 38 seconds and then stopped it. That would have provided them with even more time to talk about what play to call.
Might the 49ers have called time out in that situation to keep the clock from running down too far so they would have a chance to get the ball back if the Rams scored a touchdown? Possibly. But they had only two left and that would have left them with one or none for their final possession. As it turned out, they used both their time outs in the game-tying drive.
If the 49ers had elected not to call time out, even if the Rams hadn't scored on first down, they still had two more time outs, which would have provided flexibility for subsequent play calls. Most important, is if the same sequence had occurred, the 49ers would have started their possession with 28 seconds left in regulation.
You could have the best defense in history, and it’s still better to give them 28 seconds to score rather than 63.
That’s the definition of a no-brainer.
Givens suspended in college: There has still been no definitive report on what rule was broken that resulted in the deactivation Sunday of cornerback Janoris Jenkins and wide receiver Chris Givens along with the release of defensive tackle Kellen Heard.
The off-field red flags in Jenkins' background were well-known in the run-up to April's draft. Not so with Givens, who was listed as a potential second- or third-round pick by Pro Football Weekly. When word spread Sunday of the deactivations, there were reports that NFL player personnel executives had also researched red flags involving Givens although no specifics were given.
What is known is that during the 2010 preseason while at Wake Forest, Givens and another player were suspended for the first two games of the season for violating team rules. The suspension for Givens was subsequently reduced to one game.