We were a game away from the Super Bowl, and a few plays here and there would've put us in. We had the talent to compete with the elite teams like the Saints and Giants, and gave them everything they could handle. We went back and forth with the Giants in a high-level playoff atmosphere, and just came up short.
With that said, I'll say this: the bar has been raised. At the beginning of the season, we all predicted, at best, that we would win 9 games. I don't think anyone in their right mind would've said we would've gone 13-3 and gone very deep into the playoffs. Rightfully so, we ARE one of the league's elite teams.
From this point onward, given our team's history and tradition for winning, I want to say that "Super Bowl or Bust" has returned. Our Cinderella season has ended. Sure, it's a nice story that Jim Harbaugh took a 6-10 team and turned it into an Alex Smith-led 14-4 juggernaut. But we're a franchise that boasts 5 Super Bowl trophies and has fielded legends like Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott. Our team and fans will want more.
When I look at our roster, we have the potential to be a very good team for the next few years. We have a relatively young QB in Alex Smith who will benefit from a full offseason with a good offensive coaching staff. He'll continue to grow. We have an offensive line loaded with talent. We have an elite tight end in Vernon Davis, while Frank Gore still has a few more years of productivity. On defense, we are loaded. We have a high-level defense who is in the prime of their careers. This team will be around for awhile. Andy Lee, David Akers, and our special teams are probably the best in the league.
We have a huge weakness in our team though, and it's in our receiving corps. Sure, we have Vernon Davis, but he's not a pass-catching machine that can catch the ball 10+ times a game. He's not the most sure-handed receiver and is more of a big-play threat at tight end. We need more than that. We need a consistent pass-catcher.We all saw the statistic against the Giants. At one point in the game, their receivers had 16 catches while we only had 1 from our receivers. The only major receiving yards were those two big catches from Vernon Davis and a few dump-offs to Gore. It's a testament to the play design and Alex Smith that we're even able to have some sort of semblance of a passing game.
It's clear that we can win with Alex Smith. But the question is... can Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan (hopefully), and Kyle Williams get the job done next season? Crabtree looks like an elite pass-catcher sometimes, and then other times, he looks like he'd be a decent #3 on other teams. He completely disappeared in our two playoff games. Morgan was our best receiver this season before he went down. Kyle Williams is a dynamic player, and discounting his special teams fumbles in the game, makes for a good slot receiver.I
t's just frustrating. So many games it looks like our receivers are so well-covered. Sure, Alex Smith doesn't make the throw sometimes and misses downfield, but the problem isn't big plays. We got big downfield plays from Vernon Davis against the Giants. Kendall Hunter and Frank Gore will get some big catch and runs every now and then. We just don't have guys on the outside who we can get the ball to and that's our biggest weakness.I hope we get aggressive this offseason in finding another wide receiver. I liked that we went for Braylon Edwards earlier this year. The man has talent, was a big receiver, was considered a threat to opponents.. he just didn't pan out with all of his injuries. I hope we get a free agent because I don't know of a wide receiver that we could pick up in the draft that would produce immediate results.
It's Super Bowl or Bust now. Let's bring in those missing pieces and get our sixth next year! We've got a great base to work off of now.
[ Edited by Wubbie on Jan 22, 2012 at 20:43:30 ]