Kyle Williams: It's not all his fault
Kyle (explicative) Williams.
That name has been a taboo for pain, suffering and irk with 49er Faithfuls over the past two weeks.
After eight years of wistful hunger for a playoff berth, it was William's fumble in overtime of the NFC Championship game that set up the winning field goal for the New York Giants, ending the Niners' dream playoff run just short of what would have been the Storied Franchise's first Super Bowl appearance since 1994 (a 49-26 pounding of the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX).
It will take quite an effort next season before Williams can redeem himself in the eyes of Niner fans. Amid tweeted death threats, he will be the goat for the 49ers' demise in what was otherwise a revitalizing season for the Storied Franchise.
But is he the rightful scapegoat? Should Niner fans guiltlessly exert blame on the 23-year-old receiver's blunder?
Well, if you know anything about sports, especially the sport of football, wins and losses are never determined by the efforts of one player. Teams win games, and teams lose games and while Williams' fumble was a crushing blow, it was not a tell all story to the 49ers' defeat that Sunday.
Let's examine some of the other factors that contributed the the 49ers' shortcomings.
1. Alex Smith had an erratic day passing the football with just a 46.2 percent completion percentage, and came up empty on key drives late in the 4th quarter with the game tied.
2. Collaboratively, the offense was abysmal. Excluding the Vernon Davis scores, the team had no means of driving or consistently converting first downs. The Niners converted on just one of 13 third down conversions and possessed the ball for 28:18 minutes to the Giants 39:36.
3. While the 49ers' ground game was effective, offensive coordinator Greg Roman opted to run the ball just 31.4 percent of the time in the second half, despite a 5.4 yards per carry average for the team.
4. Defensively, the team failed to force any turnovers. For the team that finished the regular season with the best turnover differential in the NFL, as well as taking the ball away from the Saints five times the previous week, finishing a game with zero takeaways leaves a big pocession void.
5. Dashon Goldson's hard hitting nature broke up would be interceptions by Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Both were in the second half, Brown was lost to injury following the collision and Rogers' occured with the game tied 17-17.
6. Rogers was torched in the secondary, allowing Victor Cruz 10 catches for 142 yards.
7. The 49ers secondary was picked apart as a whole, allowing Eli Manning 316 yards through the air and two touchdowns.
And while yes, fumbling on a punt return in overtime is a pretty unforgivable miscue in football, it isn't the sole reason why we won't see any red and gold in Indianapolis this Sunday.
It's easy for the casual fan to put their finger on one man to express their woes on; someone who conceptually understands the sport knows that it is wrongful to do so. The 49ers aren't a complete team yet, and will need to improve in some areas in order to better contend next season.
And next season is exactly what fans, players, coaches and everyone else involved with the organization should be fixated on. Once the loathing and regret feelings subside, realize the Niners still have a solid young nucleus that should continue to develop as the team gains more experience.
This is likely the beginning of an another winning era for one of the proudest franchises in sports, and like the old cliche' goes:
There's always next year.
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