Are the 49ers Super Bowl Contenders?
Good news! The 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams yesterday 35-11. The bad news is the 49ers looked great against a weak team, but can't produce the same outcome against playoff teams. In a weak primetime game aired on the NFL Network, the 49ers dominated the line of scrimmage. Making life miserable for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Daryl Richardson. Bradford threw 41 times and only connected on 19 of them. He was sacked five times and just seamed uncomfortable in the pocket. Richardson rushed 12 times and only racked up 16 yards. This is the 49ers defense that we all seam to recognize. To bad it came against one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Seriously its the Jacksonville Jaguars and then its the Rams. After the 49ers didn't score a single point in the first quarter, they quickly found their toughness in the way they're accustomed to. Shoving the ball down the opponents throat, with Greg Romans pistol power running calls. The only problem is the 49ers could find themselves 1-3 after four games. Losing to the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers were 50 yards away from losing a shootout game in week one against the Green Bay Packers. Yeah, a shootout! That's not the 49ers way of winning games, its through tough defense and power running. At least it use to be.
The 49ers are a running team. If that quickly changes to a passing team, the game could be headed for a rough outcome. The 49ers ran the ball 42 times and threw only 23 times against the Rams. That's because they won the line of scrimmage battle. They looked good against the Rams, but then again the Rams defense are giving up 30.2 points in four games, which is ranked 28th in the league. The defense is horrible, giving up 175 yards to DeMarco Murray, the week before. I wasn't mad because Murray is on my fantasy team, but Murray ran for a lot of yards against them the year before. My point is the Rams defense sucks! A week later, Frank Gore ran for 153 yards on 20 carries. That's a whopping 7.7 yards a carry. That is dominating the line of scrimmage, followed up with play-action. In the two losses, the 49ers were dominated. They only ran the ball 23 times against the Colts and 20 times against the Seahawks. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a mobile quarterback, who has the ability to throw the ball in the pocket, but he is more effective when he is on the move. When defenses shutdown the run, his best ability is taken away from him and he is now one-dimensional. The 49ers have to be successful running the ball for him to be his best.
Secondly, the 49ers need to be able to bring their high-powered defense every game. Against the Rams they shutdown everything the offense was bringing. They took out the run game and then took out Bradford's favorite targets on the field. Throwing for only 202 yards on 41 attempts. In the lost against the Colts, the 49ers gave up 184 yard on the ground. That was unheard of at Candlestick Park. With the Colts winning the yards being produced on the ground. The 49ers are throwing more than running, which is not found in their game plans. Kaepernick isn't Joe Montana or Steve Young. So winning with his arm isn't going to always work. He is a quarterback who has the frame of a receiver and the legs of a kick returner. The read-option and pistol formation are used to complement his qualities. To keep defenses guessing is what he does best. That's what separated him from former 49er quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is one-dimensional; a passer who looks to throw 10 yards in play-action and was very successful in taking care of the ball, simply because he never threw down-field. Kaepernick has the ability to do that, but he should be looking to run first.
The reason we haven't seen Kaepernick at his best is because of the play-calling. I rarely seen the read-option being used in the 49ers games this year. Coach Jim Harbaugh is concerned of getting his quarterback hurt. He should be, especially after Packers Clay Matthews tried to take his head off out of bounce in the first week. Playing Kaepernick as a pocket quarterback is hurting the team. Taking away a mans best asset leaves him with nothing. I say, let him play his style that we are used to seeing. Having defenses look confused and lost. Teach the quarterback to get down and slide if in trouble. Not to take hits like RG3, and not to throw hits like Jay Cutler. Its a long season and most teams go as the quarterback goes...unless you're the Minnesota Vikings. If the 49ers are not going to use him for what he can do, then what's the point of having him on the team. They might as well have kept Alex Smith, if they're scared of using a mobile quarterbacks skills. The 49ers do have injuries on the offensive side, but the injuries are in the passing game. Its irrelevant to what the team needs to do. Meaning Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are expendable. They have a veteran receiver in Anquan Boldin and a talented tight-end in Vernon Davis. They can coach-up others to catch the ball and to run routes. Big names are overrated. But they are a team who runs the ball, they don't need their best receivers to be affective. Like Sandra Bullock said in the movie The Blind Side, "Run the damn ball."
When they look bad against playoff teams, the Super Bowl looks further away in the distance. The 49ers need to change that. They need to run the ball to be effective and they need to bring that tough defense every game and they have to do it against good teams. They will have plenty of chances to redeem themselves. With matchups against the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. They have to establish the line of scrimmage early, because once they fall behind, they seem to get out of that running funk. Once that happen, its a whole different game plan, because the opposing team has them in unfamiliar territory. I don't see the 49ers making a repeat trip to the Super Bowl, I 'm not even sure they will make the playoffs, but I do know if they don't get back to their X and O's, its going to be a long season. Running the ball, while serving up the read-option and playing hard nose defense is 49ers football 101.