Here is a link to my Monday column about the 49ers-Ravens game. The full text runs below:
One thing the 49ers proved with their 25-20 win over Baltimore. They are a better bad team than the Ravens. Had they lost, they would have been the worst bad team in Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.
As a general rule, it’s better to be the better bad team than the worst bad team.
All credit to the 49ers for upping their record to 2-4. It’s polite to praise a team that wins. And in this column we aim to be polite. But we can’t help noticing the 49ers were aided in their winning effort by one thing in particular. The Ravens. The Ravens were extremely helpful.
They dropped two touchdown passes in the end zone. Their place kicker slipped in a hole on a field-goal try and got zero points. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw two grotesque interceptions.
And, still, the 49ers had trouble putting Baltimore away. The 49ers had to hold off the Ravens at the end, the Ravens driving down the field but running out of time. And remember, the Ravens are a very bad team.
But the Niners won. So, here’s the crux of the issue. Does this win mean the 49ers are a good team?
Let’s hear from the people involved, like coach Jim Tomsula. “We’re measured by wins and losses, so to get one in the left hand column is very important,” he said. “These guys come to work every day. You know what I mean. They do. They work. And I see them getting better. We have to get better on game day. So, we did that today. It’s a good team. It’s a good group of guys that are willing to earn it.”
Tomsula requires a certain amount of textual pruning. Throw out the stuff about the team working hard. It is borderline gibberish, a form of mental throat clearing. All teams work hard. Throw out the stuff about the Niners being a good group of guys. Who cares if they’re a good group of guys? Can they win? That is the only criterion that matters. It’s clear Tomsula would say that about any team he’d work for. If he coached the Ravens he’d say they’re a good group of guys. But Tomsula, who at times is capable of coherence, did say relevant things.
This was Tomsula’s message. The team is translating practice into game play. Not easy to do. And a win is a win. It’s the deepest truth in sports — a win is a win is a win.
Let’s move onto Torrey Smith. Did the Ravens win build on the offense’s momentum from the Giants game — a loss?
“You want to say it’s definitely momentum from the last game,” Smith said. “Anything positive we can get, we’ve got to keep it going right now. Can’t really spend too much time being happy about this because we have a tough defense coming here on Thursday.” He meant the Seahawks.
Are the Niners back in it?
“The more you win the better position you’re going to be in. So, we just need to figure out a way to win the next game. We can’t really look too far ahead. We aren’t in any position to even think about doing that with our record.”
This was Smith’s message: Whoa. Don’t get carried away with euphoria. The Niners won a single game. Ten remain. The 49ers are at the bottom of the hill and they are carrying boulders on their backs and they need to walk slowly and not fall down to the bottom and wallow in the mud yet again.
Let’s move onto Anquan Boldin. Has the team turned the corner? “I hope so,” he said. “It’s one game. We feel if we come out and play the way we played, we’ll be OK. Today we were able to finish. Last week we weren’t.”
Then he said, “You come out to our practice and see the way the guys are flying around and the way the guys are motivated and playing. We’re just going to continue to prepare in the way we normally do and see where that takes us.”
This was Boldin’s message: The team should be cautiously optimistic. He has no idea where the 49ers are headed but he’s open-minded and he’s hopeful. To which we say, fair enough.
And we say something else. The 49ers did accomplish something by beating the Ravens, accomplished something big. They stayed alive. Stayed alive in their division. Stayed alive in the competition for a wild-card spot. Just stayed alive.
They sure seemed dead. They were dead. They had flat-lined. They were lying in the morgue on a slab with a tag on their collective big toe. But they leaped back to life — think of the monster coming alive in the flick “Frankenstein.”
“It’s alive. It’s alive. It’s alive.”
Not that the Niners are an “It.” I couldn’t resist using the quote.
The Niners are more than alive. The NFC West is not exactly a powerhouse — it used to be. The Cardinals lost on Sunday and are 4-2. The Seahawks lost. The Rams are no big deal. The 49ers, in spite of being mostly dreadful, are only two games out of first place. They are on the verge of being on the verge.
And that means Thursday’s upcoming game against the 2-4 Seahawks — both teams are 2-4 — looms large. It’s an important division game between two formerly good teams. It is a big test for the 49ers.
You never thought the Niners would qualify for a big test or a game that even remotely matters. Well, here the 49ers are. And get this. The Niners stand a good chance to beat the Seahawks whose offense went away along with the defense. They scare no one.
Toward the end of Tomsula’s postgame news conference, someone asked if the Ravens win is good for the 49ers’ “psyche.”
“Every time you win, it’s a really good thing,” Tomsula said with a sigh of relief. He laughed like a kid. “That’s my answer there. Winning is a good thing.”
Winning certainly is a good thing. Good for you, coach.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.