Last weekend against the Saints, the 49ers put together their best 4th quarter in recent memory. Today against the Giants, they failed miserably with the game on the line.
Everybody will focus on the two miscues by fill-in punt returner Kyle Williams. But after an amazing performance last week, Alex Smith reverted back to his old form in the 4th quarter, costing the 49ers a chance to meet the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
When all that was a required to win in regulation was a field goal, Smith couldn’t get the offense in David Akers’ range. The final three possessions of the 4th quarter were haunted by the Smith that we became accustomed to seeing over the first six years of his career. He panicked, left the pocket and eventually threw the ball away. And when he did stay in the pocket during those three possessions, he was sacked.
After watching Smith show enough poise last week to lead two 4th quarter touchdowns, it was disappointing to see him play so poorly when it really mattered.
Ultimately, the two muffed punts will get all the attention on highlight shows this week. But in spite of those costly turnovers, the 49ers had four chances to beat the Giants and they didn’t capitalize on any of them. If they score on one of those 4th quarter drives, we’re not talking about Williams’ second blunder.
Kyle Williams, the back-up punt returner, will be the scapegoat this week, but everyone should be pointing the finger at the starting quarterback, not the back-up punt returner.