With the 49ers' win over St. Louis last week, some of the luster is gone from the Texans-49ers tilt, AKA the "Reggie Bush Bowl". As recently as two weeks ago, this game had the potential to be a matchup of a two-win and a one-win team. That's historic futility. However, it's now a two-win team versus a three-win team. The Saints, Jets, and Packers all enter the day with three wins, so the stakes in this game are not quite as clear. The Titans get Reggie Bush with a loss, and probably draft second or third with a win. The 49ers have poor odds for the #1 pick even with a loss, and might fall as far as the #7 selection with a victory.
Conclusion: There are a lot of teams that suck this season. Are you ready for some football?
I don't wake up from my nap until nearly three minutes into the game, just in time to see Alex Smith take a sack. He did manage to avoid a safety or fumble, at least. I fell asleep after Carolina took a 24-point lead on Atlanta. Even the promise of Jim Mora the Younger throwing equipment on the sidelines was not enough to keep me awake.
Elsewhere in the NFL, both the Packers and Jets have won their morning games to finish at 4-12, while the Saints have lost. I can't find confirmation one way or another on the Internet, but it looks like Houston will pick first with a loss, and second with a win. Even if the 49ers lose, I think the strength of schedule tiebreaker means they'd pick after Houston. So, for the Niners, this game is at best the D'Brickashaw Ferguson Bowl. Still, that's better than it being the Haloti Ngata Bowl, I guess.
Andy Lee just punted the ball 18 yards out of bounds. I guess he's a D'Brickashaw fan.
My old roommates and I used to talk up Andy Lee's Pro Bowl chances, based on how much he'd punting, given the 49ers' sorry offense. We thought his punting might get really good, given all that practice, and if he set the single-season punt record, Pro Bowl voters couldn't possibly ignore him. We failed to anticipate how often Alex Smith was going to fumble, so Lee didn't get quite as many chances as we expected. Still, that pathetic shank was his 98th of the season, which leads the league. He'd need 17 punts today to tie the record, which is impossible even on this terrible team.
The Texans drive down to the 3, but have to kick a field goal. With all the hype attached to the #1 pick, it's important to remember that both teams' wretched quarterbacks were the first selections in their respective drafts. At least the Texans can blame Jeff Tedford.
Alex Smith has been sacked both times he's tried to throw a pass so far. I think the color guy is Rich Gannon, and he really hates Alex Smith. Football telecasts have been a wasteland in the Bay Area. The 49ers get the absolute dregs of every network's announcing rotation. The only game they've played that even had a sideline reporter was the gimmicky Sunday Night game in Mexico City, and even then, the announcers included Joe Theisman and Paul Maguire. "Mira a este hombre. Estas mirando? Ahora, miralo, miralo - estas mirando? Bam!"
Continuing his efforts to improve the team's draft position, Andy Lee has his next punt blocked. I don't think he's going to Honolulu.
Houston starts from the 49ers's 25. So, they got slightly worse field position from the punt they blocked, compared to the one Andy Lee actually kicked. They waste little time in scoring, only I miss the whole scoring drive because my sister Molly is watching The Best Man on cable. She asks, "Oh, is this game important?" and I can't lie. I steal the remote back just in time to see Andy Lee punt again. This time, it goes 22 yards.
Philadelphia is leading Washington, 10 to 7, and I wish I were watching that game instead.
On the last play of the first quarter, Alex Smith completes his first pass. It gains one single yard.
"Alex Smith is doing a great job commanding the huddle", according to our crack broadcast team. Smith then does a poor job commanding the football, bouncing a pass into the arms of a Texan defender.
My dad is very happy with the ten-point deficit. I am having a tougher time rooting against the 49ers, though I know a high draft pick is better than a meaningless win. It probably doesn't matter, since the San Francisco offense has shown no signs it can score ten points in a game.
In The Best Man, the guy from Hustle and Flow is playing poker with Taye Diggs and Michael from "Lost". Molly and I think Taye Diggs is about 5'6". IMDB claims 5'10", which we agree is a goddamn lie. Also, the movie was directed by Spike Lee's cousin.
Grudgingly, we return to the game, where Gannon says the 49ers are "playing a field position game", which is announcer-speak for "unable to get a first down". The 49ers follow this comment by allowing a 25-yard punt return.
After another punt, the 49ers put together a real drive, based on surprisingly competent passing by Smith and some very solid rushing. The continued quality play of running back Frank Gore makes Don Criqui suggest that maybe the Niners don't need a running back like Reggie Bush. Then he comments that Gore is having surgery on both shoulders once the season ends. Also, Gore tore ACLs in each leg during college, and his knees were repaired with ligaments taken from cadavers. This is not a franchise running back here.
Alex Smith throws his first career touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd, after the announcers unsuccessfully attempt to jinx him by discussing his no-TD streak. Gannon also manages to slip in a dig at his former backup, Bobby Hoying, who started eight games in 1998 and threw zero TD passes.
With just 18 seconds remaining in the half, Tony Banks enters the game for Houston, to take a knee. Tony Banks, who I believe is the worst quarterback ever to take a snap in the Super Bowl, is the game's X Factor. If Banks is quarterbacking, it is anyone's game in the second half.
"I bet they told Carr to fake an injury", snarls my dad.
I can't properly enjoy the halftime highlights, because I'm unsure whose victories help the 49ers' strength of schedule tiebreaker, but they are mostly quite sad. Saints QB Todd Bouman fumbles a snap, and makes one of the weakest attempts at a tackle I've ever seen. Bouman's elevation to the starting job may yet get New Orleans the #1 pick, and it was done in the guise of disciplining old QB Aaron Brooks. Coach Jim Haslett is still totally getting fired, but this was a brilliant move. Maybe the Saints should give him that five-year extension he demanded after all. CBS also shows Herm Edwards giving an inspirational postgame speech, because they think he's getting fired on Monday.
The CBS "Fantasy Notebook" shows Alex Smith has surprisingly not-terrible halftime stats. He's 11/14, though for only 82 yards. The more interesting thing about the Notebook is that CBS apparently thinks completion percentage is a big part of fantasy football.
By the way, Joe Theisman picked Jim Haislett as his Coach of the Year.
The unstoppable San Francisco offense marches down the field once again, going 64 yards and taking about six minutes off the clock. On 1st-and-10 at the Texans 16, Alex Smith fumbles a snap. Dad says, "Wait for it. They're going to talk about his small hands." CBS not only mentions them, they show an elaborate "small hands" montage of balls slipping out his hand on sacks, rushes, and failed passes. One of my sources in local news confirms that Smith's hands are indeed "wee".
After the drive stalls, 49er MVP Joe Nedney drills a difficult field goal from a patch of mud. Nedney famously faked an injury in the playoffs versus Pittsburgh in 2003, drawing a game-winning roughing the kicker call, so he has the acting chops to pull off an intentional miss. Clearly, San Francisco is trying to win, much to my father's chagrin. The guy who catches the field goal then falls over a temporary retaining wall and into the mud, which I feel is emblematic of the entire season for the 49ers.
I like to imagine Dom Capers gave the Texans an anti-inspirational halftime speech, all about honoring the team's legacy of losing, of disappointment, of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, of high draft picks and terrible trades. "Don't lose for me," he'd say. "Lose one for Reggie Bush and your new coach, Dan Reeves. That's the Houston Texans way."
Tony Banks is possessed by an alien on the Texans next possession, throwing two very accurate deep passes. Julian Peterson gets burned on a 25-yard TD pass, and he's definitely not coming back next year. Houston 17, SF 10.
This game is so, so terrible. Since the fumble, Alex Smith has thrown six straight incompletions with his tiny, girlish hands. Also, he took a sack. It's raining, and the stadium appears to be about 40% full. The middle of the field is completely muddy. At my parents' house, there are three pumps running to make sure the living room doesn't flood and we are low on snacks. It is difficult to even imagine less appealing conditions.
The X Factor strikes when Tony Banks throws a pass directly to CB Mike Adams, who runs it back 40 yard for the score. Gannon gets super-excited and yells, "That's my boy! Delaware grad!" Wow, Rich Gannon went to Delaware. I didn't know that. For some reason, that makes me feel sorry for Rich Gannon. And, since there's only two players in the whole league who went to Delaware, and one of them is the Eagles' fourth-string QB, it's pretty rare that Rich Gannon gets to call a fellow alumnus his boy. In fact, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it will never, ever happen again.
If they win this game, San Francisco is looking at the seventh pick. This amazes me, as I cannot fathom how there are six teams worse than the 49ers this year. Of the seven crappiest teams, I think the Raiders are the best bet to return to the playoffs next year, provided that Norv Turner is fired. Also, they should fire Norv's cousin. Is "Norv" short for anything? Did his parents screw up and name him Norvan? The Raiders need a coach with a norval nave next time.
Coming out of the quarter break, the Texans get a five-yard penalty for delay of game. This is after they had nearly five minutes to choose a play. Before the next snap, the Texans run out of time again, and Tony Banks calls a timeout.
While the Texans move the ball to midfield, I notice that a trademark of bad announcers is that they say "National Football League" in its entirety, as if that makes them sound more authoritative and dramatic. It's impossible to sound dramatic when it's Texans-49ers in Week 17.
I start to wonder what would happen if regulation ended in a tie, and both teams simply refused to play the overtime period. Houston could lock down the #1 pick, SF would get the #3, but both of their final records would look incrementally better. While I have trouble rooting for a 49er loss, I have no such compunction hoping for a tie.
With 6:07 remaining, Kris Brown of the Texans misses a ridiculously easy 31-yard field goal. He missed a similarly easy field goal to lose a game a few weeks ago, and probably deserves the lion's share of credit if the Texans do end up getting Reggie Bush. My dad demands a Zapruder-style analysis of the missed field goal, to see if he whiffed on purpose.
After the missed FG and a two-minute commercial break, the 49ers immediately call timeout, in an attempt to one-up Houston's clock mismanagement efforts.
One-man wrecking crew Frank Gore single-handedly takes the 49ers to midfield. Alex Smith hasn't completed a pass since three minutes into the third quarter. Just like last week's game, Coach Nolan displays no confidence whatsoever in Smith by running the ball on nearly every play in the fourth quarter, and really, who could blame him? After eight runs, the 49ers throw the ball, and it is of course incomplete.
Dom Capers looks stunned on the sideline, but that might just be how he always looks.
The drive stalls at the 35, where the 49ers face a challenging 53-yard field goal attempt, out of the mud. Capers calls timeout, seemingly to ice Nedney, but the announcers reveal that the Texans didn't have the right players on the field. Dom is going out in style.
Don Criqui asks, "If you're a Texans fan, do you want Nedney to miss?" Gannon refuses to go one way or another, even though the answer is obviously yes, since the whole crowd chanted "REG-GIE BUSH!" during last week's loss. It's irrelevant, since the 49ers punt, and Faux Bowler Andy Lee boots one into the end zone for a touchback. Because San francisco is playing a field position game, and those fifteen yards are crucial. The ten thousand people left in the stands boo, since this means they're stuck in the freezing cold for at least another half hour.
The Texans begin their two-minute drill with a false start penalty, when the left tackle sprints forward four yards before the ball is snapped. Capers decides to take a knee and take his chances in the extra period. There's something poetically beautiful about a game this shitty going to OT.
Gannon rips six years of defensive teammates by stating, "When I was with the Raiders, if we lost the toss, that was it. The game was over."
David Carr really does not look especially injured on the sidelines. I think the ownership knew he wouldn't actively throw the game, but he might sit out if they threatened to draft Leinart, should they miss out on Bush.
The 49ers fumble the opening kickoff, but unfortunately manage to recover it. They run the ball four more times, and then Smith throws another incompletion. An emergency news crawl gives an update on flooding, rubbing salt in the wounds of Sacramento 49er fans. No Reggie Bush AND a broken levee.
Scouting report, Jabar Gaffney: He pretty much sucks.
My dad is still trying to sell me on the "just give up strategy", but worries about legality.
Dad: Can you be arrested for not trying?
Me: Well, Vince Carter is still a free man.
From his own 5, Alex Smith connects on a 40-yard pass to Arnaz Battle. Say what you will about Alex Smith, but he's done very well at avoiding safeties this year. However, the 49ers still haven't crossed midfield, and Andy Lee is soon on for his 107th punt of the year. Then, it's Banks Time!
Tony Banks heaves a terrible pass to midfield and my dad is screaming "No!" before Rich Gannon's boy Mike Adams makes the pick. Adams makes matters worse by pitching the ball to Ben Emanuel, who is not a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons like I originally thought. He advances the ball to the 21, which is nearly unmissable field goal territory.
This should be the part of the telecast where they cut to anxious fans watching in bars in Houston and New Orleans, their Bush hopes riding on the leg of Joe Nedney. Of course, the announcers are still pretending that the Texans want to win. It seems like Dom Capers is continuing the charade as well, as he calls timeout to ice Nedney. Dom's final act as a head coach is a meaningless, ineffectual gesture, and there's something poetic about that.
Nedney drills the kick, and the 49ers celebrate. Gannon muses about the end of the "Dom Capers Era". My dad wonders if you get to have an "era" when it's defined only by failure. I suggest "The Dom Capers Experience", and the drafting of a pass-rushing defensive end. I think Dad wants Vince Young, as a receiver. Mainly, I'm just glad that we'll be able to watch real football teams (i.e., not the 49ers or Raiders) on television, starting next week.