Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
So the 49ers did what they were supposed to do and beat the Giants and have thus kept this desperate season alive.
It's an ironic stretch of 14 days that has seen the team face two relatively-recent Super Bowl champions. The Giants and the Saints uniquely showcase just how fickle the NFL is when it comes to bestowing power upon franchises. The obnoxious neighbors up the Pacific Coast are finding this out as well, and it casts a truly defining light on just how fleeting a team's chance at winning a NFL championship can be. Something the 49ers were already acutely aware of.
Sitting at 6-4 (with a sorry-looking Washington team set to visit), the 49ers are hardly in the dire straits they were two weeks ago. Yet, they're far from out of the woods schedule-wise and need to play at least .750 ball the rest of the way to potentially ensure their continued attendance of the NFL postseason tournament. They've suffered some key injuries, no doubt, but with the personnel available this is still completely doable for Harbaugh and company. Moreover, if this is going to be "The Year" (which we've all decided it has to be) then it could be that the 49ers are doing it just right, whether they intend to or not.
There are a lot of blueprints to win in this league. Some more popular than others, but it's obvious that getting hot at the right time is a big part of the equation over the last half-decade (see '10 Green Bay, '11 New York, and '12 Baltimore). It was easy to get down after what the Broncos were able to do on that mid-season trip to the woodshed for the 49ers, but one thing that was cathartic about the loss was that it was clear that Denver had
their whole game clicking by Week 8 and the 49ers did not. Denver was peaking relatively early in the season and as the Rams just showed us, that doesn't mean a whole lot of anything less than a month later.
One thing the 49ers would never be accused of so far this year is playing their best game of football. One cannot really think of a stretch (even over multiple games) where they've strung three
solid quarters together, let alone four in one game. The defense, with a very BIG hat-tip to Vic Fangio and rookie Chris Borland, has been consistently productive and at times dominant. Even with a slew of injuries and heaps of adversity, they continue to be the engine that drives this team's success. With the presumed return of Navorro Bowman, adding veteran leadership and providing a HUGE boost to morale, this defense could be better than any time in the last four seasons, even without the services of Patrick Willis.
So the defense has answered a lot of the pre-season questions around their performance already, but the offense continues to slip and struggle in the most frustrating ways possible. It's time to acknowledge (if you haven't already) that Colin Kaepernick may just always
be a streaky quarterback. So if that's the case, we can at least be thankful we haven't seen the upswing yet this year. Save for a few halves of spectacular play, he's been as up and down as he's been at any point in his career.
Yet you look at the tools available to him and to the offense at large, and you cannot help but wonder just how good they can be. There is literally Pro-Bowlers at every position on the offense, but the total value of this unit is far from equal to the sum of its parts thus far in the season.
The 49ers know they aren't the power-run team they used to be, but they also don't have to be with the added talent of their Wide Receivers and their Quarterback. Yet, switching between the schemes mid-game has proven to be enormously difficult for them. They seem reactionary and content to let the defense dictate their offensive plan, a complete 180 from the "be-the-bully" philosophy the head coach traditionally dictates. They must be more strategic than that. You can still bully a team with three wideouts on the field, but when and how you present them is the key element the team is missing so far.
How that gets fixed requires more expertise than I'll claim to have, but I do have faith in Harbaugh and Roman to, at the very least, get some rhythm for this unit before it's too late. Every year, the offense has had its struggles, but they always find a way to light it up at some point or another usually when it matters the most. That "some point" sure as hell hasn't come so far this year, but there's time to pull it together and these coaches have proven they can do it.
This weekend against Washington, they have an opportunity to finally build some momentum and if they can win big (not implausible) they can send a message to the rest of the league that this is not a team to be taken lightly in any phase of the game. Should they get up big early in the game, I'd challenge the coaching staff to play against type and keep their foot on the gas and keep pouring it on until feelings get hurt.
This offense and the men who play on it are starving
for production. You can see it on their faces and in their body language. Big names who are accustomed to getting big numbers just aren't satisfied with how it's gone down so far. These are prideful men, talented men, and being a below-mediocre offense just will not live up to expectations. You don't see any finger-pointing, and that is perhaps the most encouraging element of what's happened so far. They are still in this together.
Look for that team-pride to come out against Washington. With it, I suspect, will come the points we've been waiting for. With the points coming, the defense performing, and the Head Coach grinding as hard as ever, something else should come we've been waiting for a hell of a lot longer than that.
This is "The Year" and not because the team is better than they've ever been. It's because they've been struggling, and struggling together. Sure, individuals have taken exception to their role (Crabtree, Brooks, and even Gore a little) but road wins against New Orleans and New York after two of the more brutal losses they've had to endure, has shown that no one, to a man, has abandoned each other.
Date: November 19, 2014 at 11:38 PM
Comment: In my opinion, it will be up to the ref's. They are the one's who decide what team will win that day.
By: zach ameen
Date: November 19, 2014 at 10:47 PM
Comment: Fire Greg Roman.
Date: November 19, 2014 at 9:36 PM
Comment: The 49ers O with Keapernick at QB has showed he can get the job done people forget ,as well as I forget he a Kid only a short time in the league and has done great things ,People have forgot he's came to a team with hall of fame QBs @ people expected him to come in @b a Montana@a Young he's needs to stop listening to all the social media BS use every min. To Study the greats the all time greats 1 thing they all half in common the ball was 123 @ out of there hands @ take a look of coolness of this Winton from FSU he was in the middle of a Strom all yr.all he cared about was winning between the lines ,So let's all Get Off His back and if where all ture 49ers fans let's get off his back instead let's have it ,much love Kap 49er 4 life David
Date: November 19, 2014 at 12:51 PM
Comment: Excellent , I could not have laid it all out there any better. Football is a complicated game, a rubiks cube of possibilities but when it comes together, watch out.
Date: November 19, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Comment: "Streaky" is a way of saying Kaepernick is inconsistent, and that is holding back this offense. Harbaugh/Roman also seem to have a split personality on offense as well, which doesn't help the production. I have never felt this offense has gotten into a groove at any time this year.
By: Lucky Phil
Date: November 19, 2014 at 9:32 AM
Comment: Jesse, You bring up a good point, with a team struggling together, basically fighting for the playoffs at the mid-point of the season this team is going to pull together (your argument) or fall apart. We have seen Craps and Brooks more focused on themselves than the team; however, the team is still fighting and focused on winning. It hurts JH and the team that his contract situation has not been resolved. Players such as Brooks and Craps will try to drive JH out of town if it means Craps gets more playing time (playing for next contract) and Brooks stays on field (Playing to hold onto contract). However; for the most part this team is playing better and playing harder for each other now that their season is on the line. It will be interesting to see how this team plays against Washington, a team in serious disarray. We will jump to an early lead and fold in the second half. Will we take this team for granted and look forward to the Seahawks on Turkey Night. We will see, I still need this team to have a big win and play all four quarters before I believe we are heading in the right direction.
Date: November 19, 2014 at 8:42 AM
Comment: Edd makes the most solid point here. You make some great points in the article, and I hope a lot of that comes to fruition, but I have a tough time believing in your headline. The last 3 gut-wrenching playoff losses have come as a result of the offense just not getting it done. 2011 - yes this is mostly Kyle Williams' fault, but the offense had a chance to win the game in OT with a FG if they could move the ball 35 yards. 2012 - 3 abominable playcalls and 1 bad execution was how we ended the Super Bowl with 1st and goal from the 5 with 2 minutes left. 2013 - 3 4th quarter turnovers and a bad decision/bad throw to end the game. 'Continuing to fail, which is why they succeed' might work as a tagline for Jordan, but I can't trust it for our offense. All that being said, I really think we have a chance to put it together this year. 6 games left, only have to get on a plane once, and we're battle tested enough to handle road playoff games. It's Super Bowl 49. Let's do it.
By: shawn walker
Date: November 19, 2014 at 7:50 AM
Comment: I agree with this article. I know we can beat the redskins but hope we don't underestimate them. There is alot of talent on that team as well and are capable of an upset. They beat the cowboys. That being said....lets kick some redskin ass!
By: Jake McCandles
Date: November 19, 2014 at 7:21 AM
Comment: This team has not hit on all cylinders and they are still in the midst of things. To all 49ers fans be strong and have faith in your team. The day is coming for those who don't have hope in there team. Go 9ers. ......
Date: November 19, 2014 at 7:13 AM
Comment: This is a very constructive & accurate article.
This is the year.
Thank you. And thank you 49ers and the best coach in the NFL...Harbaugh.
Date: November 19, 2014 at 6:38 AM
Comment: As fans, we all have an irrational "belief" in our team. But the major fallacy of your argument assumes that since the offense has been so bad, they will inevitably get better. That simply isnt true.
By: Stan Bucasas
Date: November 19, 2014 at 6:09 AM
Comment: Do they have the talent to be a dominant offense? Yes. But I don't have a lot of faith that they will be able to just 'turn it on.' Something is badly broken with this team, and it's not physical.
Date: November 19, 2014 at 6:09 AM
Comment: Great article and great team. I am a fan for life come what may I will never stray. I do believe they will shine as the season goes on. They are a united team that has in my opinion pretty well considering all the injuries they've had early on. I do have to commend the rookies that have stepped up and played like the veterans. I do believe Collin will overcome his shakey performances to prove to all he is a great quarterback and will only get better!!
By: Steve Rogers
Date: November 19, 2014 at 5:33 AM
Comment: Nice article and very true hope fully the best is yet to come. Colin Kaepernick is been anointed the one his play needs to improve dramatically cannon arm great athlete but he has been very shakey when things are not there. he needs to help line to protect him he is young and hope the best is yet to come but he has not progressed the last 2 years he needs to be the man and Execute which is favorite word all year if Kap plays great so does the offense. Lets go 49ers
By: John west
Date: November 19, 2014 at 5:26 AM
Comment: Get rid of Harbaugh and Roman aka dumb dumber
By: Bobby Reid
Date: November 18, 2014 at 11:56 PM
Comment: Great article, except for the " but they always find a way to light it up at some point or another usually when it matters the most" part. The truth is, they usually find a way to sh@t the bed at the very worst time 3 years running. They need to prove to their fans that they aren't the biggest chokers this league has seen since Buffalo. Period.
Date: November 18, 2014 at 11:48 PM
This is probably the best, well written piece on the 49ers I've read all year. I couldn't agree with you more. No matter what happens the rest of the year, i'm VERY proud of this team, with all they've had to overcome.. What's scary is we could EASILY be 9-1 right now. You've gained a follower!
By: Doc Woolley
Date: November 18, 2014 at 11:34 PM
Comment: Right on! Good luck to my team on Sunday. I believe in my heart they will pull it off!