Every great one meets a Ken Norton, and 49ers will have theirs

Here is my Friday column on how the 49ers are like Muhammad Ali.

Of the 49ers’ remaining opponents, which ones have a defense that can cause problems for a 49ers’ offense with a spotty passing game? That is the key question.

If a team can’t stop Frank Gore and Anquan Boldin, that team can’t beat the 49ers. But if a team has a good run defense and at least one good cornerback, now the 49ers are in a fight.

It’s the Muhammad Ali Syndrome.

Ali could knock you out – he knocked out George Foreman – but Ali wasn’t a devastating puncher. He wasn’t a one-punch knockout fighter. He had to work and take shots to beat inferior boxers, boxers Foreman put away early, no sweat.

In 39 rounds, Ali never put away Ken Norton. Norton broke Ali’s jaw and won a split-decision the first fight, Ali won a split-decision the second fight and Ali won a 15-round decision the third fight. Foreman knocked out Norton in the second round.

Norton had a glass chin, so he couldn’t stand in and trade shots against a puncher like Foreman. But Norton could trade shots with Ali, who lacked a killer punch just like the 49ers.

NFL teams with nothing going for them other than a good run defense and one good cornerback can trade shots with the 49ers. Those opponents are the 49ers’ Ken Nortons. You saw it last weekend when the 49ers played the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are not a good team. Their quarterback, Carson Palmer, didn’t mess around against the 49ers – he tried to give them the game right away. He took a sack in the end zone and threw two interceptions in the first half. But the 49ers still couldn’t pull away from the Cardinals until the fourth quarter, after the Cardinals had committed their third turnover of the game.

The Cardinals’ defense held Gore to 20 yards on 10 carries in the first half and cornerback Patrick Peterson held Boldin to three catches for 28 yards the entire game. The Cardinals trailed by two points late in the third quarter when they had the ball near the red zone and Larry Fitzgerald fumbled. If he hadn’t fumbled, the Cardinals probably would have taken the lead.

The Niners almost got Nortoned.

The 49ers’ didn’t have Ali Syndrome last season. The 49ers had the knockout punch of Sonny Liston – a dangerous passing game – mostly because they had Michael Crabtree.

Crabtree was the seventh-best wide receiver in the NFL according Pro Football Focus. This season, Boldin is tied for 64th with Leonard Hankerson and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Boldin had 208 receiving yards against the Packers’ soft zone defense Week 1. Since then, opposing defenses have covered Boldin man-to-man with their No.1 corner. Boldin has just 213 receiving yards the past five games. Good cornerbacks shut him down.

That wasn’t the case with Crabtree last season. He almost was unstoppable down the stretch. From Week 13 through the Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick passed to Crabtree an average of 10 times per game. Week 17 against the Cardinals, Crabtree had eight catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns against the same Peterson who held Boldin to three catches for 28 yards last week.

Crabtree tore his Achilles’ tendon May 21. The 49ers hope to have him back by late November, six months after his injury, but it usually takes an athlete 12 months to completely regain explosiveness after tearing an Achilles’ tendon.

Crabtree probably won’t be Crabtree again until next season. There is no cure coming for the 49ers’Ali Syndrome this season.

So how many Ken Nortons are left on the 49ers’ schedule?

We already know the Cardinals are a Norton. The 49ers play them again in Arizona Week 17.

The 49ers host the Falcons Week 16. They have the seventh-ranked run defense and three good cornerbacks. A Norton.

The 49ers play the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay Week 15. They have the 13th-ranked defense and Darrelle Revis, a great cornerback. Another Norton.

The 49ers play the Seahawks at Candlestick Week 14. They have the No.5 run defense and the No.1 cornerback in the NFL – Richard Sherman. The Seahawks are Ken Norton minus the glass chin. The Seahawks are Joe Louis.

Week 13, the 49ers host the Rams and their 30th-ranked run defense. Not a Norton. A bum.

Week 12, the 49ers play the Redskins in Washington D.C. The Redskins have 27th-ranked run defense. Not a Norton. Another bum.

Week 11, the 49ers play the Saints in New Orleans. The Saints have the 21st-ranked run defense so a Norton they are not. But they score more than 30 points a game in the Super Dome. Call them George Foreman.

The Panthers qualify as a Norton. The 49ers play them Week 10. The Panthers have the No.4 run defense in the NFL and their No.1 corner, Captain Munnerlyn, is pretty good – he’s allowing an 81.4 passer rating this season. The 49ers host the Panthers Week 10.

Week 9 is the Bye. Week 8, the 49ers play the Jaguars in London. The Jaguars have the worst run defense in football. The Jaguars are not a Norton, they’re a punching bag.

The 49ers fly to Tennessee to play the Titans this Sunday, and the Titans have definite Norton qualities.

Their run defense ranks 19th, but they held the elite Marshawn Lynch to 23 rushing yards on nine carries in the first half last week. The Titans have one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL – Jurrell Casey – and one of the best run-stopping safeties – Bernard Pollard.

And the Titans have one of the best cornerbacks in the league – Alterraun Verner. He’s picked off four passes and broken up eight so far this season. Quarterbacks have a 15.4 passer rating when they challenge Verner.

Counting the Titans, the 49ers will face six more Nortons and a Foreman during the regular season. The 49ers may win all of those games – after all, Ali KO’d Foreman and beat Norton two out of three.

But if the 49ers fall short of the Super Bowl this season, it’s because of the Muhammad Ali Syndrome and how the Niners had trouble with Nortons.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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  1. Interesting cross sport article. I would say the Norton qualities above will likely be dominated by the 49ers O-line. Those guys up front are like throwing repeated body blows. It may not put the “Norton’s” down and out, but will likely be the reason we beat a majority of those decent teams. Yes, 1 good CB can shut down Boldin, but VD is still going to run wild. That is our KO potential right there.

      1. Yeah, Neal? But did you know any of them personally? Did ya, huh? Did ya?
        Just laughing, Bro. You’re Blacksox remark got me going. A+

    1. “But if the 49ers fall short of the Super Bowl this season, it’s because of the Muhammad Ali Syndrome and how the Niners had trouble with Nortons.”


      I’m speechless!

    2. Listening to Grant, you would think that Ali was a bum who only beat scrubs. Wow, we’ve had it wrong all along. Ali cannot be the greatest boxer of all time.

  2. I think our norton is Seattle.. We can beat anybody anywhere..But kap hasnt beaten them up there…So in order to get to where we wanna be..We mite have to get them up there…A Redemption story possibility in the making..

      1. I doubt that 0-2 makes them a monkey on his back. I’d think so after a couple of home losses. He’s played them twice, in Seattle where the Seahawks undefeated during that time. Hardly a monkey on his back.

    1. 23jordan, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, if you’re a good team you can win anywhere, anytime? The 49ers team today is inconsistent, and they don’t have, what it takes to be a champion

      1. Capeman,
        That’s a good assessment of the team. They used to be a bully but now they can’t out bully the new bully, Seattle, so they have to outsmart and out wit and out play in all phases.
        They have time to evolve. But right now they might not beat Detroit

      2. Fan77,

        I’m not down grading the 49ers team. The way the 49ers have been playing the last 6 weeks. Its unlikely they will make it to the SB this year. The 49ers defense have a tough time stopping good teams, with good offense. Without Gore and Vernon Davis, the 49ers team will have a tough time score points.

  3. OK, I’m kinda grinning here at myself because I have 3 different reactions to Grant’s essay.
    1st/ Its a fun and different way to look at the mundane subject of the remaining schedule, so kudos for an imaginative approach to the write-up.
    2nd/ The underlying point Grant makes holds up pretty well, and in my mind the Rams showed it last year and other teams have had some success against us with variations on that approach. The Rams also showed that for game management you should run against the Niners even if without much productivity. So, the football part is good too.
    3rd/ Ahh, its always something with me… I know, I know…BUT, metaphors are just that and only that; loose approximations. I think you took it too far trying to slice and dice your fine points. No analogy holds up to comparison forever. Besides, Forman & Liston were the same kind of fighters. Much of their success came against shorter brawlers with less reach who tried to get inside and ended up walking into punches.
    Norton slipped and ducked and blocked well, but eventually the hammer came down. Joe Frazier was like if Frank Gore were a Heavyweight, he got low, watched his balance and footwork, and worked to get inside, but Forman made him look bad. These guys’ styles were perfect for Forman.
    Part of Ali’s brilliance were his game plans, but when not fully engaged in the challenge (L.Spinks!) it showed. Norton earned that 1st win, but Ali was way off his game.

    1. I doubt Ali could have beaten Foreman a second time. There is a reason Ali never gave Foreman a re-match. The rope-a-dope only works once.

      1. Idle speculation on my part, but I never saw anything that would make me agree that Ali couldn’t beat Big George again and again. George had more trouble with guys with reach, and Ali had the mental game mastered when he put his mind to it and would, IMO, find a different way to do it every time. Ali’s command of the Head Game was a bit like Michael Jordan’s. Ali vs Foreman has similarities in match-up psychology to Montana vs Marino in the Super Bowl. By the way, Walsh & Montana & the Niners had NO CHANCE against Shula & Marino & the Phins in the SB. And Foreman was going to murderize Ali.

      2. Brotha…. The only reason Ali won was because the locals cursed foreman. Ali boombyeah Ali boombyeah. Lol if that’s how you spell it.

      3. I am not sure that Foreman would have one a second time. Jimmy Young defeated Foreman by outsmarting him in a different way. Ali would probably not have used rope a dope against Foreman a second time but outsmarted him in a different way.

  4. I like the analogy. Kenny Norton exposed a flaw in Muhammad Ali’s style. Ali fought with his hands down and couldn’t block a jab. Eddie Futch told Ken, “Everytime Ali jabs at you, jab him back.” Ken did so, and everytime Ali tossed a jab at Norton, Norton countered back with his own jab, and Ali had no answer. Early on his career, Ali never learned the fundamentals of boxing. He fought with his hands low, he never learned to parry or block a jab, and he couldn’t cut the ring. To be honest he really didn’t need to do those things in the 60s because he was so fast, and Norton would not have had a chance against him then. But in the 70s, he was much easier to hit, which is why he adopted a rope-a-dope and other creative tactics to win his fights. Ken was not a good fighter, but his trainer found a weakness in Ali’s style and took advantage of it. He should have lost all three fights to Norton.

    1. For that reason alone, Ali could have never beaten Tyson in his prime. The 70″ were the greatest heavyweight boxing era ever…..

      1. Bay,
        I disagree. George Forman was the Tyson of his day. In their championship fight, Foreman came in with impressive track record: 40 wins, 37 by knockouts. his previous 8 fights all ended before the 3rd round. He had knocked out Frazier to win the heaveyweight belt and was fresh off of a 2nd knockout of Norton.

        So what did Ali do? He knocked Forman’s as$ out.


  5. See Shrub, you can write the snot out of sports when you silence that mean little voice in your head that wants to be a wise ass. Pin this column up next to your computer and remember that you can keep up with the big boys when you put your mind to it. B+

  6. I like the article but think you need to factor in and compare more variables, something like this:

    Last year
    Crabtree and V. Davis
    Strong run defense
    Strong pass rush until H2 in New England
    Weak secondary
    Few takeaways
    Weak special teams
    Passing attack helped by read option

    This year
    Boldin and Davis
    Strong run defense until I. Williams/Dorsey hurt
    Strong pass rush until A. Smith deactivated
    Stronger secondary
    More takeaways
    Strong special teams
    More conservative offense — Passing attack not helped by read option, relying more on play action

    Obviously there is going to be major a problem if they can’t shore up the run defense. There probably won’t be as many sacks, but they are pressuring the QB and the secondary is better. Also, they must stay with the run to help the passing game. If Dorsey fully recovers and Dial and Tank get going, and if they stay with the run, I’m optimistic.

  7. about 15 years ago I was introduced to Michael Buffer after the Bowe / Hollifield fight. He brought me back to a VIP boxing party. I met a couple of my childhood heros that night. Talked for ten minutes to Tommy “hitman” Hearns out of Detroit. Awesome dude awesome night. Love the boxing analogies.

    1. It is sad, you ever put in a few boxers names net worth. Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, Evander Hollyfiled, Thomas Hearns,. I have a higher net worth then some of these guys.

  8. Good writing. Nice diversion from the standard fare. Niners’ trajectory is not steep, but it is steady. That slope intersects with the Saints and later with Seahawks. Get through those with one win (preferably Seahawks), NO INJURIES and the improvement (aided by returning starters) will continue and peak when it needs to in January. If nothing else this season, I’d like to avoid the site of Pete Carroll chewing 17 sticks of gum at once.

    1. J Hammer – I liked Grant’s Norton read too. I saw all 3 Norton/Ali fights as a kid. Norton actually won at least 2 of the 3 fights IMO. They’re probably all on YouTube. He was robbed in one of them for sure. They even had a tv show after one of the fights. They replayed the fight with some boxing experts who rescored the fight, round by round. I can hardly remember but I think they gave Norton the decision.
      TGIF Hammer!!! Go Niners!

      1. Did you get a chance to watch the ESPN 30 for 30, “No Mas”? I have not had a chance to catch it, but have heard it is really good.

      2. Hammetime – The “no mas” fight killed me. I was rooting for Roberto Duran (hands of stone) over Sugar Ray. Duran had stomach cramps….lol
        Duran kicked the crap out of Leonard in their first fight.

      3. Not sure if I’m reading your comment correctly, but I’d have to put the Tyson ear bite as the most improbable ending of a fight I can think of.

  9. Interesting piece, Grant, altho I got a bit lost in my own reveries on Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Quarry et al – Ali was great, but he was never quite the same after the hand injuries which took away his limited power (late 60′s – mid 70s?) but the Rumble in the Jungle was the greatest rebirth since the year 31…anyway, you nailed it and I’ve been saying it since the Green Bay game: the Niner O is subsisting on 2 old warhorses and one TE and that won’t be enough against the defenses we will face in the playoffs. If we had a suffocating D that might be ok, but for any old timers out there, remember how the old Niners used to get the important play from the 2nd or 3rd tier player? eg Mike Shuman…Mike Wilson…Bill Ring. Our studs are subject to getting shut down, and the 2nd tier guys are evaporating. Oh well, it’s a long season, we have some important troops coming back, and we just might be strong when it matters: January and February.

  10. I thought this was a bad read. To summarize, there a still several teams left on the schedule who have defenses that can defeat the Niners. I usually enjoy these columns, but this one just had very little insight for me.

  11. you left out Vernon Davis in your analysis and comparison.

    The key to the Niner’s passing game is the strong side of the formation, Davis AND Boldin. Just like last year it was Davis and Crabtree. As with most standard passing concepts one guy helps the other get open.

    The key to stopping the Niners is more than having a good Corner to cover the Flanker. Kaepernick has been criticized (including me as well as real analysts) that he’s a one read QB. While that’s mostly true, he does figure out weather to throw the ball to Davis or the Flanker. Weather that’s based on progression reads or simplified play design…I don’t fully know.

    So defenses will either have good enough sticky coverage by their Corner AND a dedicated guy for Vernon Davis (like Seattle does) or they will have to roll their coverage to the strong side which leaves one on one match ups with the Split End and any other eligible receiver.

    The interesting question will be if the 49ers start designing more plays to go to those other receivers. Where they are the first reads; which keeps it simple for Kaep. The Niners already do this a little bit with those play action passes to Bruce Miller in the flat (or is it a wheel route…I forget). Or if Kaepernick will be able to find those receivers (like whomever is playing Split End or a slot receiver or 2nd TE like Vance McDonald) with smooth timing as part of his natural reads…or in other words find his 3rd and 4th receiving options.

    1. and oddly enough your next blog entry is about Davis vs. the Titan’s secondary.

      btw. Nice boxing analogy. Good to reread some of that great boxing history. It makes me sad about the state of the sport of boxing today.

    2. Good comment, I appreciate it. I left out Vernon Davis because even if a team can’t stop him, they still can beat the 49ers as we saw last Sunday. The Cardinals may have beaten the 49ers if they hadn’t turned the ball over.

      If a defense can take away Gore, Boldin AND Davis as the Seahawks’ can, the 49ers’ offense hardly can function.

      1. Not really. Kaepurnicus is another weapon that has yet to be unleashed. Manningham will give him a proven threat to make that sideline catch. McDonald is coming along and could prove to be dangerous as well…..

      2. Razor,

        The big question about Manningham, McDonald or any other receiving option, is weather or not Kaepernick can find them before he rabbits from the pocket. To date, he hasn’t. We’re still waiting for Kaepernick to be able to sit in the pocket and CONFIDENTLY fine his 3rd and 4th receiving options. He did that against Green Bay but that’s because he had all day in the pocket to wait for a guy to get open (as opposed to knowing a guy is open based on reading a defense and progression reads) and a defense that was flat footed waiting for Kaepernick to scramble.

        On the flip side, I agree that Kaepnerick needs to be “unleashed”. While he often rabbits from the pocket necessarily, when he does scramble for good reason, he appears tentative like he can’t decide if he wants to run or throw. Which results in being tackled for minimal gain or bad passes.

      3. One thing Mario M does really well, he is a chain mover. He makes big catches at timely moments. He may not be a big guy, speed guy, deep guy, but he makes those great possession catches in clutch moments.
        My fear for him and Crabtree is coming back 100%. A set back to either guy means we lose critical time for the guys developing. I hope it all plays out right!

      4. I don’t care about those stats Grant. They mean absolutely nothing to me. The guy has made the proven catches in big games, can run the sideline route as well as anyone and is quick and smooth. Let’s see what he can provide Colin as the number three option on 3rd and long…..

      5. “One thing Mario M does really well, he is a chain mover.”

        Last season 50% of Manningham’s receptions went for first downs, the lowest total among the 49ers top 5 receivers.

        Comparing 2012 to 2013 I found that the top 3 are almost the same in terms of 1st down %, but the drop off is big after that.

        2012: First Down %
        Crabtree 67%
        Davis 63%
        Manningham 50%
        Moss 78%
        Walker 67%

        2013 First Down %
        Boldin 69%
        Davis 63%
        Williams 50%
        Miller 60%
        McDonald 60%

    3. I think Bruce Miller is a key to the 49ers passing attack. Those quick flat routes off playaction, and some of the other things he has done in the passing game seem to kind of kick start things. He is reminding me a lot of Tom Rathman this season.

      1. I’ve been advocating those plays for a long time. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Mr. Millers’ play ever since Marecic was brought in. If he keeps playing like that, he could be another Wrathman. That would put this offense in the sweet spot….

      2. why in the world can’t they get Miller and Gore or Miller and James in the backfield together and have Gore or James in the flat??? Gore used to be a pretty good receiving running back. Backs in the flat is a basic staple of the West Coast offense.

      3. I agree affp – I appreciate Gore is an excellent pass blocking RB, but in the past he’s also been a very solid receiver out of the backfield.

        And if they want to get James going they could do a lot worse than start getting him some balls as a receiver out of the backfield.

        They can do a lot worse than give Kaep the 1-2 read of Boldin/ Davis, then check-down to Gore/ Miller/ James if they aren’t open. Of course, it may be they are already doing that and Kaep just takes off instead of going to that check-down option…

      4. Scooter,

        Having a receiver in the flat helps to create the “spacing” passing concept or “triangles”. It’s a basic West Coast Offense staple designed to provide alternatives to different coverages.

        The passing concept basically sends 2 receivers to challenge zone coverage high and low (a Smash route combo concept). So a receiver in the flat creates the low part of the high low combo. It’s one of the reasons Walsh liked flat/split back formations so his backs could easily release into the flats. The high receiver such as a Tight End that runs a Corner route over the receiver in the flat. This is the high low combo.

        So for example against Cover 3 the deep receiver should draw away the coverage (including middle zone linebackers) away from an already open flat which would leave the flat open for a pretty good gain.

        Against Cover 2 the flat is covered by the zone Corner who is drawn to the flat receiver. But the Tight End must run his route under the deep 3rd zone Corner and should be open because the Corner is in the flat.

        The third part of the triangle is the Flanker who runs a horizontal route with the intention of being an option to beat man coverage. So a dig or slant. Hopefully the Tight End draws some of the attention away from the Receiver so that he gets a step on his man.

        Now the triangle concept can be changed around. The Tight End go run to the flat, the Flanker can run a comeback or curl route (for the high low combo) and the 3rd receiver can run a slant (say if you’re in a 3 receiver group). OR you could have the back go in the flat. The flanker run an out route and the Tight End run a dig or a post route (maybe give him the option based on coverage). lots a variations on the triangle concept.

  12. Very nicely done, Grant. It is rare that I find news/opinion pieces to be pleasurable to read rather than just a means to obtain information. You have had a few other pieces that were close, but this one was by far the best. I enjoyed reading it for what you were writing and how you wrote it, not just for the bottom line.

      1. Grant,
        Nice take. Question. You singled out a team stopping Gore and Boldin as part of your analogy. You didn’t choose stopping VD or even Kap on the pistol. Was there a reason they don’t fit your boxing analogy?
        Can’t the Niners develop a new strategy to make them unstoppable, or do you see something missing? As much as we all hated the Offense under Singletary/Jimmy Raye, are we seeing the same kind of limited thinking? Or we just all ignorant and Greg Roman is a genius?
        I still don’t get why they don’t use laMichael James in creative ways to get him in space. That’s a waste of a 2nd round pick, when they could have taken Doug Martin.

      2. fansince77,

        The running game by Roman is ,b>LIGHT YEARS,/b> ahead of the Raye/Singletary running game. Their use of motion to get specific defensive alignments which give their blockers tactical advantages are ingenious.

        As to the passing game: Raye featured an old school power run game that set up a basic vertical play action passing game. Three yards and a cloud of dust then throw the ball down the field. Roman’s offense is a hybrid West Coast Offense melded onto a power run game which features a lot of play action. Which is different than the “purer” forms of the WCO which in modern times features 3+ WR packages and more deep ball passing. But many of the passing concepts are the same. In basic simplistic terms think WRs beating their coverage mostly by themselves (vertical passing game) vs. WRs running coordinated routes to get one or the other open).

        However, Kaepernick has not been making his reads very well for a WCO QB which limits the kinds of passing plays Roman can call. Lots of play action and half field reads.

  13. So can we call the rams the Gerry Kooney opponent for the rest of the schedule? Lol
    Great analysist Grant. I’m a big Boxing fan. When you’re blood is laced with some Puerto Rican blood. You are born to do 3 things.
    1 Boxing
    2 Baseball
    3 tag a wall like nobody else can. Lol

    I have a question. I don’t know if you saw cotto’s last fight and his first with the great Freddy Roach. But if you did how do you think he looked? I know the competition wasn’t top ranked, but cotto looked young, crisp, and powerful again. He attacked the body like he used to do an looked hungry again. I’m wondering if Roach wants another shot at mayweather. Since his main man Paq won’t get a shot.

  14. hey grant.. you’ll never be a Norton, Ali, or a Foreman as a writer! give it up & stop hatin’ on the Niners! smh!

  15. I have another theory about the Norton-Foreman-Ali. I see three basic boxer postures…
    - Classic Stand Ups (Foreman, Cooney, Arguello, Bramble, Liston, Lyle, etc.)
    - Crouchers (Norton, Frazier, Mancini, Duran, LaMotta, etc.)
    - Stickers and Movers (Ali, Leonard, Holmes, Robinson, etc.)

    If the skill levels are relatively equal (important), the following rock/paper/scissors effect usually pans out:
    - Classic Stand Ups dominate Crouchers, but have a hard time with Stickers and Movers
    - Stickers and Movers confuse the heck out of Classic Stand Ups, but are vulnerable going against Crouchers.
    - Crouchers do well against Stickers and Movers, but get killed fighting Classic Stand Ups

    Of course Norton (and Frazier) did well vs Ali, but got killed vs Foreman and Cooney. It was a style match-up thing.

    Of course, the trend only continues if the ” skill levels are relatively equal.”

      1. Didn’t see the comment until now, but Gore = Frazier makes sense on so many levels… including effort and work ethic. As you know Gore does so many of the little things beyond yardage, like pass blocking and giving early body blows to the belly of the defense.

      1. Yes
        Classic Stand Ups = Rock
        Crouchers = Scissors
        Stickers and Movers = Paper

        There are endless examples.

        Mancini (Croucher) dominated opponents until he faced (Classic Stand Ups) Bramble and Arguello.

        The seemingly unstoppable (Croucher) Frazier got killed against (Classic Standup) Foreman… who struggled against Sticker/Mover Ali.

        The big caveats… Both boxers have to be in their natural weight class, relatively equal in talent, and in their prime.

    1. Very sad loss for the NFL family….one of the great “characters” of NFL coaching.

      Regarding the “No Mas” doc, I’ve seen it and enjoyed it to a point. I don’t want to give too much of ending away to spoil it for you, but the description of the fights and the immediate aftermath is top-notch. The most surprising part of the Doc to me was the extensive involvement of Christie Brinkley in fight photography during that time. I did not know that she was a “fight photographer” and photographed numerous big fights of the era. Her insight is very refreshing and revealing.

      I also wanted to ask you about a comment you made regarding Cowboy’s and Bowman’s PFF rush defense ranking. You noted that Bowman’s poor run D ranking was partially a result of Smith’s reduced ability to hold the point (so to speak). I agree completely, and would go further to say that the fact that Bowman’s grade is reduced because of Smith’s performance casts doubts on the validity of PFF’s individual rankings. I don’t think they are meaningless, but I do think they should be looked at with a healthy grain of salt. Your thoughts?

  16. your just too negative now grant. you focus on the negative an EXAGGERATE it wayyyyy too much. and ‘the cardinals are not a good team’….??? are you kidding me, you obviously have not seen that defense. you make good points, but hide the positive things about the niners an expose the negatives an repeat them over AN OVER from every angle possible hoping to create new negative points. please go back to your 2011 an before reporting. much better then. iv said it once an il say it again i use to come to your articles for straight forward facts an cause you had all the up close info nowhere else had. not anymore nows its just like a game.

  17. The Cardinals game very easily couldve been a blowout. Both those 1st quarter turnovers should have become TD’s. The 49ers blew several good scoring opportunities, and still won by 12. The “Norton” theory is just another way of saying that its possible for a weaker team to beat the 49ers if they let their guard down. The Harbaugh era 49ers have trouble with teams that big and physical. The Giants, Ravens, Seahawks, Rams, etc. give us a taste of our own medicine, and we struggle. Finesse teams like the Packers never give us many problems.

  18. I can’t believe I hung in for half of this article, more than what the hell is Grant rambling about, why the hell did I read for so long?

  19. A very ingenious way of saying what we all know — the niner’s are very weak at wide receiver. There is still speculation that we trade for Hakeem Nix. This would make us much stronger this year — Grant is right, Manningham is nothing special. But, a trade would weaken our position to get good young receivers, corners and defensive linemen in the future. (I include defensive lineman here because I am just not sure, with their past injuries that Dial and Carradine will help us as much as we would like.) What to do?

    1. The way the front office stacks draft picks I think it’s a stretch to say it would weaken our chance to get some good young picks. We have Rockefeller riches at draft pick hoarding.

  20. The Cardinals trailed by two points late in the third quarter when they had the ball near the red zone and Larry Fitzgerald fumbled. If he hadn’t fumbled, the Cardinals probably would have taken the lead. And the 49ers would’ve loss the game to the cards. The cardinals are going to be a good team next season;

    1. Blah blah blah…. And if Kyle Williams hadn’t of fumbled, and if we would have ran the ball once at the goal line in the superbowl, and if we would have scored one td in the 2 golden opportunities in the redzone last week. Blah blah blah…. Man imagine if Clark wouldn’t have caught that pass.

      1. ninermd,

        Just accept truth, that the 49ers are not an elite football team. The 49ers will not win the SB with kap and the recieving corps that they have. There are many teams in the NFL that are much better then the 49ers.

        NFC AFC
        1. Seahawks 1. K.C Chiefs
        2. N.O Saints 2. Broncos
        3. Cowboys 3. Patriots
        4. Atlanta 4. Colts
        5. Packers 5. Ravens
        6. Bears 6. Dolphins
        7. Lions 7. Steelers
        8. 49ers 8. Texans

      2. Buncha hooey.
        > The f Falcons? Are you delirious?
        > We beat the Packers, so until they beat SF again….not.
        > Bears-Lions-Cowboys? Meh, let’s line ‘em up.
        > Seahawks, well yeah, until SF beats them.
        > Saints? I’d allow for speculation that they’re better, but it’s speculation.
        > Yeah, the Steelers. You have indeed lost your senses.
        I’ll admit I’m not betting my mortgage on SF reaching the SB this year, but your rankings don’t hold water.

      3. Capeman the seahawks fan. You spend more time here than you do your own teams blog. The rant above about air these teams being better the Niners is a joke and you are as well. You’ve been trolling longer than the average Seahawk troll. What’s your deal?

      4. 23jordan,

        I have a feeling , i’m getting to your nerve’s? Why do you care so much, in what i said in my previous post, does it bothers you, that i’m telling the truth? Does it hurts inside hearing when I say your boy kap is below average? i’ll be lying to myself, if I said he was an elite qb.. And what is it to you, If i’m posting on this blog? And you call other people trolls for posting on these blog? And you call out any one who disagree with your comments, and makes negative comments on the 49ers team?

      5. I would love it if Capeman is wrong, but only a big homer would not see some of the potential issues that still haven’e been solved despite this big lead.
        The D is coming together but still can’t get a consistent pass rush.
        Kap really still hasn’t thrown to anyone other then Boldin and Davis.
        If he doesn’t evolve, the good teams, especially the Seahawks, will shut down the Niners offense easily.
        The Niners will cruise through the teams they’re supposed to beat, but in the playoffs the better teams with enough balance will prevail.

      6. Fan that’s a bold prediction. In the playoffs, anything can happen. I’m worried about no one stepping into a #2 receiving role. But you have to think that with MM and Crabtree coming back, one if not both should be that guy by January. If not, you are right, we are in trouble.

      7. Prime,

        M.Manningham wasn’t even in the 49ers active roster, towards the end of last season with the 49ers. I’m sure that they missed Moss and Walker big production from last season, thats why crabtree had all that success. When crabtree comes back from his injury; I doubt he’ll be the same from last year. Having the kind of injury that crabtree had, it takes a lot of time to heal. Maybe next season he’ll be back 100 percent where he was from last season.

        If the 49ers continue to have this kind of production from their offense inconsistency, the 49ers won’t make through the 1st round of the NFC playoffs.

      8. Maybe by then you’ll learn to shut your pie hole and not be negative after several niner consecutive wins by wide margins……

      9. Maybe Capeman. But after today they look like a rejuvenated group. More touches definately to guys not named Vernon or Boldin is crucial. But you have to think that with so many more games left, someone will emerge.

      10. Bay,

        Are you still looking down the toilet bowl looking for your brain? Thats why your comments stinks. At some point did you ever stopped to think why some of the 49ers wins, were by wide margin? They played teams they should beat, the 49ers defense are winning games for the 49ers team. The teams that the 49ers beat in the last 4 games were below average teams that don’t have a winning record, except for the packers who have no defense.

      11. Prime,

        Most definately, Kap needs to be more creative in the pocket, and the 49ers recievers need to find ways to get open. If Gore gets hurt, and vernon and boldin doesn’t produce the 49ers offense are going to have a tough time moving the football. If the 49ers play against a very good team, that is well balance, It will be tough for the 49ers team to play catch up. I know its way too early to make any bold prediction. Over the course of the season, a lot of things will change.

    2. capeman, i agree that the team as a whole has not looked great this year Ck has been inconsistent and we do not have the same front seven on the defense to stop the run however we can still improve! All we need is some luck and to get some of our injured players back. Ck has the potential to improve as well he gains more game time experience and builds chemistry with other offensive players. Keep in mind cks top targets are all missing: Crabtree, Walker, Manningham, Moss! He is still very young and is not ready to carry the team on his shoulders. GO NINERS

      1. Chicago49ers,

        I agree with you, that the niners are missing Crabtree, Walker, Manningham and Randy Moss. But that is not the only problem the 49ers are having . The other NFL teams have prepared for qbs like kap, most of the NFL teams that the 49ers have played so far, they made it tough for kap and 49ers offense to be in a comfort zone, the other teams defense has films on kap and they know where his weakness is. The 49ers defense still have some holes to fix, and they’re still inconsistent.

  21. I think our issue started when Seattles line man dove into the back of our dt and it was acceptable then. Now we struggle against a strong run game and not sure how things will be with the dl injuries. I think the clipping for ol would be illegal for all teams. Espn checked with refs and they said it was legal and then sf gets called for it? I don’t think it is good for any team to get away with that kind of play.

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