Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports



It feels like we've been here before, and it's getting too familiar. We've experienced another week of professional football and hung our heads in yet another San Francisco 49ers loss.

I know, I know.

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"That was last year's team! This year's team is different!"

You're right. This year's team is different: Different roster, coaches, and front office. The 49ers shed a lot of dead weight in the offseason and drafted well. Plus, the careless whisper campaigns are a thing of the past.

"Damn right. It's like 1979 all over again. We're rebuilding something great."

It's far time to have an honest conversation about this year's 49ers, so what better way to do it than two truths and a lie.

Truth: The defense will return to greatness. But today, it's not built to win games.


For months, I've sung the praises of what the 49ers' defense is capable of doing. We all knew the secondary was the weak link, but the front seven was shaping up to be the team's North Star and formidable opponent.

Unfortunately, various evil spirits with sinister plots caused a plague of injuries, prohibiting the 49ers' defense from living up to its potential. For a brief moment in August, we all had visions of rookie linebacker Reuben Foster playing alongside Malcolm Smith. Today, it's a rotating cast of Brock Coyle, Ray-Ray Armstrong, and Eric Reid.

Next year, once Smith has healed from his pectoral injury, Foster and Smith will be a two-man wrecking crew.

As I've said before, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is doing the absolute best with what's been placed before him. In Week 9, the defense forced the Cardinals to four three-and-outs, forced two turnovers and held the Cardinals below 50 percent on third down conversions.

Even after allowing a few big plays, notably the opening 52-yard pass from Drew Stanton to John Brown, the 49ers' defense recovered and held the Cardinals to a field goal.

Throughout this season, the 49ers' defense holds its ground despite only playing with a lead for 29 minutes. As the game wears on and the 49ers' offense refuses to score or harness any momentum, we watch the defense crumble: it surrenders points, blows coverages and resorts to committing costly penalties to try and halt the opposing team.

One day next year, probably on a hot Santa Clara afternoon, we're going to witness the 49ers' defense completely dominate a game from start to finish and win the game for the team. Maybe this weekend is the first step to that wonderful day since the New York Giants' offense is a bumbling embarrassment this year. Its interior offensive line can hardly handle a rush, allowing the Rams to force two fumbles and two sacks on Eli Manning.

Truth: The passing game is Kyle Shanahan's white whale.


Midway through Moby Dick, Captain Ahab explains to the crew his mission and how far he'll go to kill the white whale.

"Aye, aye! and I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out." Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. US: Harper & Brothers. 1851. Print.

Ahab's ivory leg is what propelled him, but it's unknown what is motivating Shanahan to craft a game plan that asks his quarterbacks to throw 64 percent of the time. Is he trying to prove his system works? Is it some lingering, non-curable Super Bowl hangover? Is he trying to toughen up rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard?

Before you comment, take a breath or three. Be honest: Is passing the ball 64 percent of the time efficient?

Through nine weeks, the 49ers attempted 366 passes which tops the NFL, but have not seen a return in the over-investment.

Instead, it's an inverse: 49er quarterbacks complete 54.9 percent of their passes, which is second worst in the league, and have a whopping six touchdown passes, which is the lowest total in the NFL.

Indeed, the 49ers have an atrocious offensive line. It struggles to remain consistent in pass or run blocking. Yes, tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown have played well, but the interior line is a disaster.

But a weak interior is not an excuse for calling 17 runs and 51 passes against Arizona, or a flagrant misuse of running back Carlos Hyde. Last season, Hyde gained nearly 1,000 yards behind a shoddy offensive line. I'd be hard-pressed to believe that Hyde can't repeat last year's performance with the five men he has blocking for him this season.

A football offense isn't rocket science. A team cannot efficiently pass without a running game to balance the attack; it's a symbiotic relationship.

Captain Ahab does find the white whale after a three-day chase. However, after becoming tangled in his harpoon, he falls overboard, and Moby Dick carries him out to sea. Shanahan is not going to lose his job as head coach, but he's leading the team into uncharted, rough waters if he cannot bring balance to the offense.

This Sunday is an ideal weekend for Shanahan to invest more in the running game. The New York Giants give up 4.2 yards per rush attempt and gave up 162 rush yards on 39 attempts last weekend. Plus, I don't think a two-gap defense – what the Giants run – is a practical front in professional football.

The 49ers need to use the Giants as a doormat this Sunday, not just for fans, but to give themselves a boost going into the end of the season.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post: The most prominent lie about this year's 49ers.