This week, AJ Bolino will be flying solo again (Diego has instructed me to let you know that he still loves you guys, but that family stuff supersedes football on occasion). Last Sunday, the 49ers beat the Cardinals, which we all expected...but not quite in the way we all expected. All told the game featured some good, some bad and some seriously head scratching moments. The 49ers are 4-2, heading into what looks to be a very manageable portion of their schedule, and in complete control of their destiny...but this team still has some issues the work through.
Must. Run. More.
In Sunday's showdown with the Cardinals, the 49ers didn't manage to get a first down until their fifth possession. Dude. While I am sure that no one will dispute that this team has talent, it most certainly has a tough time getting things going offensively. At one point in the game, the 49ers had gotten to the Cardinals 3 yard line, 8 yard line and 5 yard line...yet had only 6 points to show for it. That is simply not going to get it done against teams that don't suck.
Don't misunderstand me...this is not an indictment Kaepernick or his receivers...this is an indictment of a "pass first" game plan for the 49ers in their current state. Right now, the 49ers have two viable, dangerous airmail options in the passing game: Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. Teams cannot take out both...but rest assured that they will do everything in their power to take out one of them. When the 49ers insist on passing with one viable threat on any given play, you'll see offensive results like we did for much of the 1st quarter of Sunday's game...a veritable cornucopia of nothing.
Eventually, the Yeremiah Bell lost the handle on Vernon Davis, and the 49ers were able to generate points through the air. But that isn't what won the game. At the start of the 4th quarter, the 49ers were nursing a 2 point lead. That is hardly the stuff that championships are made of...especially against what many would call an inferior opponent.
What won this game for the 49ers was their last scoring drive of the day...which featured some of of the most punishing runs I've ever seen. In short, the 49ers ran the ball right down the Cardinals' collective throats...and there was nothing that their defense could do about it. The hard truth about this team is that they are better at running the ball than they are at passing it and they need to take advantage of that...at least until their receiving corps gets back to full strength.
The Case for Kap
Some may think that my love of the 49er running game means that I am anti-Kaepernick...but nothing could be further from the truth. I am decidedly pro-Kaepernick...and every single 49er fan should be, too...even the ones still pining for Alex Smith that boo every time Kap throws an incompletion. His mix of size, arm strength, speed and athleticism is incredibly rare.
But what the football watching world forgot while falling in love with Kaepernick's talent is that until last weekend, he hadn't even started 16 games. He will (and has) had growing pains. He will make mistakes. He will miss open receivers. He will throw interceptions. He will take unnecessary sacks. He will have bad games. He will make mistakes that relatively inexperienced passers make...because that is what all inexperienced passers do. But admitting that he has growing to do is not tantamount to labeling him a bust...just being realistic.
The big and most important takeaway from this revelation is that though he has had his ups and downs, Kap's first 16 games look very nice...he's thrown for 3,627 yards, 22 TDs and 10 INTs to go along with 750 rushing yards and 6 TDs. To give this some scope, here are Steve Young's numbers over his first 16 starts: 2,718 yards, 9 TDs and 16 INTs. The moral of this story? That's easy. Kap is doing just fine...and if things break the way I think they will, he'll do a lot more than that before he's done.
In the 4th quarter of last Sunday's game, Calais Campbell was injured...and remained on the turf for over 10 minutes...while thousands of idiots did "the Wave." I have been watching the 49ers play football since 1976...and in all that time, I've never been more angry, embarrassed or ashamed of the home crowd at Candlestick Park. Ever. In the time between then and now it has become evident that some can't seem to figure why this is an issue at all. Kids...that is the issue.
The excuses abound....people were bored with the stoppage...no one knew how badly Campbell was injured...it was just the wave...and all of them suck. Hard. And so does anyone who was doing the wave. Why? Simple. First off, the wave sucks. It's tired, has nothing to do with football, and it usually results in spilt beer and/or blocked views...which is bad jenga. Next, it indicates that THOUSANDS of people had no idea what was happening on the field. Finally and most importantly...it showed an unfathomable amount of disrespect to an injured player...and that is a joke. Worse still, it made the 49er fan base look like a joke.
Ignorance, stupidity or indifference...it makes no difference. If you were among those that were doing the wave while a stretcher was being brought out to get Campbell off of the field, you suck. Hard.
Two Minute Drill
*Last week, I wrote that singling out Corey Lemonier would be a good idea...and if you did, you got one hell of a show: a sack, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. Look for him to continue to be a difference maker on passing downs.
*With Glenn Dorsey hobbled, the 49ers are running perilously thin on the defensive line, especially at NT. This could present them with some challenges as it pertains to defending the run. After Dorsey left the game, the Cardinals made a point (with some success) of running at his replacement, Tony Jerod Eddie. If Dorsey is not a go for Sunday, expect the Titans to try more of the same.
*Former 49er and current Titan, Delanie Walker, presents a host of matchup difficulties for opposing defenses. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, who will likely be relied on to cover him.
*This week, NT Quinton Dial, DT/DE Tank Carradine, CB Eric Wright and WR Mario Manningham began practicing...which means that the 49ers have 21 days to add them to the active roster. Some of you are probably hoping that Manningham will come to the rescue of the receiving corps...but the more likely scenario is that it will take some time for him to make an impact on the field.
Week 7 Picks
Seahawks (-6.5) at Cardinals
The Cardinals have been tough at home, and the Seahawks had trouble with the Titans last week. That stated, the Seahawks are the better team, and it's not a stretch to see them winning this game by a TD. SEAHAWKS.
Bengals at Lions (-3)
The Bengals and Lions suddenly and surprisingly sit atop their respective divisions. Though the Bengals have the tougher defense, the Lions are at home...and that's worth a 3 point margin of victory. LIONS.
Bills at Dolphins (-8)
The Bills have been stung by the injury bug and the Dolphins have quietly become a solid football team. Both of these teams are riding two game losing streaks...but the Home team should win this one. DOLPHINS.
Buccaneers at Falcons (-7)
Ugh. There will be nothing pretty about this game. The Falcons defense has been in a tailspin since Sean Weatherspoon was injured. The Bucs have been a huge disappointment. Though the Falcons are bad...the Bucs might be the worst team in the NFC. FALCONS.
Chargers (-7.5) at Jaguars
I'd go in depth here, but it's the Jags. Me, Diego my buddy Nate and my girlfriend Carrie could give them a run for their money. CHARGERS.
Cowboys at Eagles (-3)
The Chip Kelly Chuck n' Duck Project got itself a win with Nick Foles under center, earning them a tie for first place in the NFC East (which may be the worst division in football). Though they are riding a 2 game winning streak, I think they'll lose to a better team this weekend. COWBOYS.
Patriots (-4) at Jets
The Pats are the better team, even with the Jets enjoying home field. Geno Smith will make the Jets a better team in the years to come...but not yet. PATRIOTS.
Rams at Panthers (-6)
The Panthers have become a quality football team...especially on defense, having only surrendered 68 points in 5 games. The Rams have the better record...but that won't matter if they can't score. PANTHERS.
Browns at Packers (-10)
The Packers have largely disappointed thus far...but they should get healthy this weekend, especially with the Browns coming to town. PACKERS.
Ravens at Steelers (-2)
I can't pick the Steelers to win against a better team...even at home. Pittsburgh has gotten old, and they are banged up. The Ravens have fallen off this season...but they aren't the worst team in their division. RAVENS.
Texans at Chiefs (-6.5)
The Texans are snakebit this season, and it seems that they have some work to do if they're going to right their season. But they won't right their season at Arrowhead. CHIEFS.
Broncos (-6.5) at Colts
Jim Irsay: do you really want to give Peyton Manning bulletin board material? This game will be a beatdown. BRONCOS.
Vikings at Giants (-3.5)
Eli Manning is turning the ball over like he gets a tax write off for it. VIKINGS.
49ers at Titans (-4)
The 49ers are far from perfect...but their defense is playing well, their running game is working as well as it ever has, the passing game has the ability to generate points...sometimes explosively. With Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for the Titans and Chris Johnson struggling, the 49ers defense should be able to control the tempo of this game early. The 49er offense will have to work to move the ball against a formidable Titan defense...but look for the running game to wear the Titans down late. 49ERS.
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