Ray Ratto

Ratto: 49ers learn limitations in loss to Dallas


Ratto: 49ers learn limitations in loss to Dallas

Sept. 18, 2011

Jim Harbaugh prides himself on saying nothing, and explaining less, when it comes to the outer workings of his job and his teams jobs, but to his great revulsion, he must face the fact that he revealed the central essence of the 49ers in one sentence Sunday.We played well enough to win the game, he said, and without taking a breath, followed it with, but we didnt play well enough to win the game.Oh. Well in the case, well done, and shame on you.

I suppose there is some sense to be made in controlling the Dallas Cowboys early, taking a 14-0 lead with the same conservative deftness that propelled them to a 16-0 lead a week ago against Seattle. Nothing flashy, nothing too demanding, just regular tough-minded flatnosed football.But then came the final 39:16, in which they gained 52 yards and three first downs, en route to a galling 27-24 overtime loss in front of a very happy transplanted Cowboy crowd at La Candeliere. A week after they finished 31st in yards gained, they gained three fewer yards than that. They ran for 11 fewer yards. Why, if the Cowboys werent such damaged goods (their injury report starts with Tony Romos ribs and shoulder and goes weird from there), this might have been a full-on rout.In short, Harbaugh might defiantly refuse to play the blame game, saying, Im not gonna play the blame game, the blame here is clear.The man who failed the 49ers is Ted Ginn, Jr. I mean, if he isnt going bust two returns a game, this is going to be a long season.Oh, lets be honest. This is going to be a long season anyway, and the number of 49er fans who sold their seats to Cowboy fans is an indicator that most people know it. There is no quick fix, and Sunday showed the conundrum in which the 49ers are truly wedged.They are at their best when they are careful with the ball, but they cannot run because defenses have put 16 and 17 men in the box to squeeze Frank Gore. The receiving corps were average before Michael Crabtree and then Brandon Edwards went down. The offensive line was stripped naked by Dallas greater talent and multiple fronts.In other words, the 49ers at their most efficient can jump out on a team quickly, but are not yet a team that can keep that opponent jumped upon, and they know it.Or at least they are beginning to suspect it.This isnt about coaching. It certainly wasnt about leaving David Akers 55-yard field goal on the board with 11:12 to play. The 49ers were playing against a crippled quarterback whose two best receivers, Jason Witten and Miles Austin, were clearly hurt. It was the right percentage move.But it also demanded that the defense continue to stifle Romo, Witten and Austin, let alone Jesse Holley, who caught the 77-yard throw on Dallas first offensive play of overtime. The Cowboys gained 237 yards and scored 17 points in fewer than 14 minutes of playing time, and nine minutes of possession time.Thats not a team that played well enough to win, or is in a position to say such a thing, even if it it just pre-programmed, stonewalling nonsense from a coach who is not in a position to say, Were not good enough yet.At least not without two stiff belts of Ginn.Not that Harbaugh will get any more glib in the months and years to come, so lets never mind fixing that idiosyncrasy. It is, as most existentialists will tell, what it is.The fact is that whether the opponent is Seattle or Dallas, scheme will only take you so far. The rest is toughness, and an even more difficult trait to develop, talent. One player change doesnt do it, either, so stop with the blathering about You Know Who. This team simply isnt in a place yet to stand steady on ground like two games over .500.And you all know this as well. Otherwise, Sunday wouldnt have been a modified home game for the Cowboys.But if its any consolation to 49er fans, consider this. The lead the 49ers blew was three fewer points than the one the Raiders coughed up in Buffalo three hours earlier.That, kids, is what happens when you play well enough to win the game but not well enough to win the game.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”