Are The 49ers Still A Force To Be Reckoned With?

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    Updated: October 1, 2014
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    Expectations were high going into the 2014 season for the San Francisco 49ers. With week four now in the books, the 49ers record currently sits at 1-2 including a very embarrassing home opening loss at the new Levi Stadium at the hands of the Chicago Bears. What is going on behind the scenes with the 49ers that they’ve come out this season so flat? 

    Well for the starters, the 9ers have some serious injury and suspension issues. Aldon Smith was suspended by league for 9 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse and personal conduct policy. Star linebacker Navarro Bowman is out due to an ACL injury he suffered in the last season’s NFC Title Game against the Seattle Seahawks. Bowman recently began light training and sprinting, and the 49ers hopeful for his return by at least after the bye week.

    Both Aldon Smith and Navarro Bowman are top 5 players at their positions; that sort of talent would be severely missed by any team. Without Bowman and Smith there is not a strong enough pass rush to give the 9ers young secondary a chance.    Tremaine Brock is out injured and the 49ers lost Carlos Rodgers, Donte Whitner, and Tarell Brown in the secondary due to free agency. Through four games the defense has given up 226 yards per game and is ranked 19th in the NFL. But the defense isn’t the only factor in the 49ers not playing their best football, the offensive side of the ball has been lacking as well. Jim Harbaugh is usually great with his second half adjustments, but this season the 9ers second half performances haven’t been great. The 9ers are struggling to score points in the second half of games and since the offense is not on the field long, the defense is playing more minutes and becoming increasingly tired. The more the defense is on the field without a great pass rush, the longer the young secondary will be exposed and learn the hard way. 

    Mental errors like penalties are killing the 49ers too. Against the Chicago Bears the 49ers were flagged sixteen times for 118 yards, which includes a touchdown that was called back on a great run by Frank Gore. They were flagged five times for 107 yards against the Arizona Cardinals. A good amount of those penalties were bad calls, not all but a good amount, but it’s been a factor in their losses. The bad penalty calls even prompted Wide receiver Anquan Boldin to say, “You send the tape in, and the NFL just reports back, ‘We made a mistake.’ But at the same time, the crap is costing us games. At some point, they need to be held accountable.” And Boldin is absolutely correct.

    Cheap penalties on terrible calls from referees should not be tolerated; every play in the NFL matters. These penalties can be the difference between a playoff berth and watching the post-season from home, especially in the difficult NFC West. But with all that being said, against the Philadelphia Eagles we saw a 49ers team that we are much more a custom to seeing. The 49ers defense came to play and they were great against a Chip Kelly offense that has received a lot of praise since Kelly came to the league. The Eagles offense didn’t score any points on the 9ers defense and had to rely on special teams and their defense to keep them in the game.

    LeSean McCoy had 10 attempts for 17 yards, and Darren Sproles had 1 attempt for 4 yards. That Running back tandem is one of the scariest in the NFL and the 9ers held them completely in check. Not only did the 9ers keep the Eagles running game under control, but they managed to stop Nick Foles from beating them in the pocket. Foles threw for 195 yards and had 2 interceptions. It was a vintage 49ers display on defense and it is the calling card of the team under Harbaugh. More displays like this are needed, and once the players who are out injured or suspended come back, this defense will once again be a force to be reckoned with. 

    But it wasn’t only the defense that showed up, the 49ers running attack ran riot over the Eagles defense. Frank Gore had 24 attempts for 119 yards on the ground. With their foundation of great defense and stout running, the 9ers played a really good game against the Eagles.

    The one worry for 9ers fans should be the play-calling and Colin Kapernick’s performances this season. Kaepernick was 21 for 30 with 218 yards and one interception. He’s been wildly inconsistent so far this season and has 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions and 912 yards through 4 games. As the leader of this team, Kaepernick must play better in order for the 49ers to reach their full potential.

    As the season progresses hopefully Kaep and the offense will find their footing and drive the team into the post season. Couple that with the defense getting players back, and the team will be a complete unit. Next week is the return of Alex Smith as the Kansas City Chiefs come to town. It’s another tough game for the 49ers and in that division, every game is a must win. This week will be no different. I’m sure the defense will give Smith and his Chiefs a very warm welcome. Should be fun.

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