In their Week 16 win over the Atlanta Falcons, the San Francisco 49ers looked set to play a fourth quarter that appeared to be all but academic. Yet, it turned out to be a final 14-plus minutes of agony as they ended up winning 34-24 thanks to NaVorro Bowman and his “Pick at the Stick”.
In the 49ers’ regular season finale against the Arizona Cardinals, they once again lived through an inability to finish a game and allowed their opponent back into it with a chance to win. Luckily for the 49ers and their fans, they were able to pull out a late win once again.
Against the Cardinals, the culprits were failures from each of the three units as well as a questionable coaching decision. With the 49ers up 17-0 after one quarter of play, the offense was unable to score again until late in the fourth quarter when Phil Dawson connected on two field goals to give the 49ers a lead and then to win it. By only converting on three of their 13 third-down attempts as well as failing to convert on their lone fourth down attempt, the 49ers were unable to keep several drives alive which could have seen them eventually score.
With a fourth-and-one at the Cardinals’ 16-yard line and the 49ers leading 17-7, logic dictates that they should attempt a field goal and make it a 20-7 lead. Whether Jim Harbaugh was influenced by Dawson’s miss at the end of the first half or whether he wanted to go for a touchdown, the 49ers failed to convert the fourth down as the Cardinals stuffed their run attempt, something they did quite well all game. Blowing away three points from this possession factored in later on.
The 49ers’ special teams also failed later on in the fourth quarter as they stupidly attempted to draw off the Cardinals on what would have been a 48-yard field goal attempt. Because of this error in judgement, the Cardinals had a 43-yard attempt which they made.
While the 49ers again found a way to pull out a win late, the inability to finish a game could come back to hurt them as they head into the playoffs for what they hope is a deep run. Sunday’s letdown should only serve to remind them that they need to play the full 60 minutes and maintain concentration at all times.