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You might recall that after our week one victory over the Cowboys, I declared that the 49ers might not be as bad as preseason led on, unfortunately for the second year in a row, the 49ers have opened the season at 1-2. This year, much like last year featured a thrilling victory in week one, a heart break in week two, and a big goose egg in week three. On the heal of last year's 1-2 start, the 49ers ran off five straight wins where they returned to their core strength of running the ball and playing good defense. It could be argued that the five game win streak last season basically saved the season for the team and built the momentum needed to get through the second half. The biggest question that stands for this team right now is will the 49ers be able to replicate last year's turn around? My personal answer is a shrug and a sigh because I simply don't know. However, this season might quickly begin testing the faith of the 49er Faithful.
Here are some thoughts on the past two weeks.
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There are going to be penalties and then there are going to be penalties. There are plays that are just going to get called because rightfully so, they should be. Then there are the ones that just kill you because you can't be a professional. Yes, I'm looking squarely at Anquan Boldin and Chris Culliver with this statement. While the passion and fire makes you watchable, the overzealousness and not being aware of the situation makes you just plain dumb. I almost give Culliver a small pass because he is has proven that he might not be the brightest bulb in the pack with his recent arrest. However, I cannot and will not give Boldin a pass on his penalty. Everyone knows you are tough Anquan, you prove it every play. After a decade in the year, you think he would have learned that.
There are other penalties over the past few weeks that are really starting to grate me. I will not accept that the over emphasis on defensive holding is not having a deep effect on games. It is watering down the product on the field so much that it is almost comical. I'm sure every fan of every team has an argument about this. That all being said, the players decide the games and a lot of our struggles can come squarely back at the players themselves. They simply have to play smarter, and more businesslike.
And a final though on the penalty front, the 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness needs to have a replay component on it. Too many times it is called incorrectly because of the speed of the game. I would rather take two minutes for New York to review it and call it a legal hit than it kills a defensive stand. It all too often costs teams games or points when it shouldn't. I think almost every fan, coach, and player can give me an Amen on that one.
Suddenly the 49ers envision themselves a passing team. It is a nice thought in theory because the team does need to be more explosive. However, this team is not built to be a passing team fully because our offensive line is not built to pass protect! When Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde only get a combined 9 carries (four less than Kaepernick) there is a serious problem. I know this team is missing Anthony Davis in the run game, but it would be nice to see the team rededicate itself a bit to the bread and butter. While I will touch on this a bit later, I think there is some value to shortening the game and keeping it a bit closer to help the defense. This is even more important now that the high-powered Eagles offense is coming to town. If Harbaugh and Co thinks they can win a shootout with the Eagles at this point in the season, they are seriously delusional.
I do give some kudos to the passing game however. It is more creative and full of weapons and more than anything, it ate up a lot of clock time in the first half. Stevie Johnson had a great game as the 3rd option with Vernon Davis out and that will speak volumes as the season progresses. Another glaring issue is Kaepernick got away twice with staring down Crabtree on out-routes that were not interceptions. He has to get better in reading that route in particular.
I don't even know where to start that we have zero 2nd half points. They only thing I can say is bad coaching! The old saying, if it isn't broke don't fix it only applies if when it does break, you fix it! The coaches have done a horrible job of adjusting to their opponent's second half changes on both sides of the ball.
Our defensive is playing really well in the 1st half because they are still facing the opposing teams full game plan and not having being forced into obvious passing situations to play catch up. For the second week in a row, our secondary was exposed for what it is, mediocre and overwhelmed. With extra manpower being used to rush the passer, it is leaving us with less manpower on the back end. Teams are eating us alive and the main culprit has been rookie Jimmie Ward. A few circus catches aside from Brandon Marshall last week, he has been out of position a lot including the long pass play that scored the Cardinals first touchdown yesterday. This defense needs Brock back on the field and Ward might be better off watching Perish Cox play the slot for a few games.
This defense could use a few grind it out games where teams have to be honest and play the pass and the run. In addition to all of that, the defensive team needs to adjust the way they play to avoid the penalties.