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Are the Niners better than they were last year?

Great article by Maiocco:
http://www.csnbayarea.com/football-san-francisco-niners/niners-talk/Are-the-49ers-better-than-a-year-ago?blockID=793323&feedID=5936

My response:

With improvement in some areas and decline in others, this team is no better than last year's and may, in fact, be a little bit worse.

It's hard to tell if Smith has progressed or regressed. After looking sharp against GB, DET, NYJ, and BUF; his recent performances against NYG and SEA indicate that the confidence and poise that were cornerstones of his turnaround under Harbaugh are waning. He seems to be forcing things (perhaps to keep Kaepernick on the bench) and panicking in the pocket like he had done so often before 2011. The passing game should have been vastly improved with a second year under Harbaugh and co. and a revamped WR corps. Yet it continues to sputter and be inconsistent. Smith's performance in Arizona will certainly be worth monitoring, as it may answer a few questions and foreshadow what's to come down the road.

The run game has definitely improved, but as a whole, this offensive unit can not seem to capitalize on opportunities and gain/build on leads when they should. They're lacking the "make-a-play-when-they-need-one" element. But then again, they did much of this last season, letting teams hang around for far too long despite physically dominating them.

On the defensive side of the ball, the secondary's play/coverage has improved a considerable amount, which has helped make SF the number one passing D in the league. Conversely, the pass rush and rush defense have regressed. The rush D is still pretty good (holding opponents to under 100 yards a game) but the pass rush is really struggling to put QB's on the ground. Opposing QBs are flushing out of the pocket and making plays when coverage can no longer hold up. With the expected and understandable decrease in turnover ratio, the 49ers were going to have to make up for it with a formidable pass rush and better secondary play. So far, only one of those has come to fruition. And while a solid secondary is great, a fierce pass rush is more valuable as it can help mask deficiencies in the secondary.

Lastly, special teams, as Matt noted, have taken a significant dive--mainly in terms of coverage. I'm sure there are other contributing factors, but this team is really missing Blake Costanzo.


Your thoughts, as well as thoughts on my response, are greatly appreciated.
I've been talking about Costanzo since day one. My buddy is a Chicago Bears fan and when I told him about Blake in the offseason he didn't know who he was, now he loves the signing as much as we did last season. I still don't understand why we wouldn't have re-signed him.
Originally posted by TheRatMan13:
I've been talking about Costanzo since day one. My buddy is a Chicago Bears fan and when I told him about Blake in the offseason he didn't know who he was, now he loves the signing as much as we did last season. I still don't understand why we wouldn't have re-signed him.

Agreed. Hated seeing him part in the offseason from the get-go but when I put it in perspective of the fact that we retained Brooks, Rogers, Ginn, franchised Goldson, and added WRs; I felt greedy b***hing about the loss of one special teams player (albeit an awesome special teams player).
Easy...don't all comment at once now.
Originally posted by NinerPrideinNJ:
Easy...don't all comment at once now.

We are the same, Our Offense can get shut down by a good defense
I agree with most of what you posted with the exception that Smith looked good in the NYJ game. It was Kaep that scored our TDs (or one of them).

I also think that our declining passrush is primarly because we focused on stopping the pass. Which sounds counter intuitive, but we pretty much send four and drop everyone else into coverage. I think thats great against unbalanced teams, but I think we're losing our edge because of it. For the firs time teams are running on us, which would have been unthinkable in the past. I wouldn't say our D is soft, because it isn't, but I do think we have been playing much more passive and it's affecting us when when we see a team that can run the ball (Vikes, Seattle, NYG).


In short, the only thing that is clearly better this year is our Oline, both in the run game and in the passing game. And while we've taken advantage in the run game, we haven't been able to capitalize in the air. I'd say if the late 2011 team played the current 2012 team, the game would be won on special teams: Edge 2011.
[ Edited by Oakland-Niner on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:11 PM ]
Originally posted by Oakland-Niner:
I agree with most of what you posted with the exception that Smith looked good in the NYJ game. It was Kaep that scored our TDs (or one of them).

I'm also not sure if our decline in rushing the passer is primarly because we focused on stopping the pass? Which sounds counter intuitive, but we pretty much send four and drop everyone else into coverage. I think thats great against unbalanced teams, but I think we're losing our edge because of it. For the firs time teams are running on us, which would have been unthinkable in the past. I wouldn't say our D is soft, because it isn't, but I do think have been playing much more passive and it's affecting us when when we see a team that can run the ball (Vikes, Seattle, NYG).


In short, the only thing that is clearly better this year is our Oline, both in the run game and in the passing game. And while we've taken advantage in the run game, we haven't been able to capitalize in the air. I'd say if the late 2011 team played the current 2012 team, the game would be won on special teams: Edge 2011.

Agreed. We're better numbers-wise on defense this year than we were last year (except for rush D and turnovers) but that 2011 defense had teeth where as this one seems more passive, like you said.

You also have to tip your cap to the secondary. Culliver has been picked on at times but as a whole, this unit is even better than it was last year.
Mostly the same players so mostly the same type of team. You dont just go from being who you are to being Aaron Rodgers.
Originally posted by NinerPrideinNJ:
Originally posted by Oakland-Niner:
I agree with most of what you posted with the exception that Smith looked good in the NYJ game. It was Kaep that scored our TDs (or one of them).

I'm also not sure if our decline in rushing the passer is primarly because we focused on stopping the pass? Which sounds counter intuitive, but we pretty much send four and drop everyone else into coverage. I think thats great against unbalanced teams, but I think we're losing our edge because of it. For the firs time teams are running on us, which would have been unthinkable in the past. I wouldn't say our D is soft, because it isn't, but I do think have been playing much more passive and it's affecting us when when we see a team that can run the ball (Vikes, Seattle, NYG).


In short, the only thing that is clearly better this year is our Oline, both in the run game and in the passing game. And while we've taken advantage in the run game, we haven't been able to capitalize in the air. I'd say if the late 2011 team played the current 2012 team, the game would be won on special teams: Edge 2011.

Agreed. We're better numbers-wise on defense this year than we were last year (except for rush D and turnovers) but that 2011 defense had teeth where as this one seems more passive, like you said.

You also have to tip your cap to the secondary. Culliver has been picked on at times but as a whole, this unit is even better than it was last year.

Warning: This will sound really whiny

I know we are number one in defense this year, but with the talent we have, I think we could be even better. I really am not a fan of the scheme we are implementing. Our whole game plan is to not give up the big play and hope your opponent makes a mistake dinking and dunking up the field. Thats ok, but I'd like us to force the issue more, rather than wait for someone to make a mistake or the QB to become impatient and force the ball. As we've seen, when a team doesn't mind dinking and dunking or forcing the ball, we become very beatable, because our offense stuggles vs good defenses.


Edit: I hate the way we use Willis. In fact, I think its one of the reasons teams are beginning to run on us. I hate seeing Willis dropp into coverage as much as he does. Sure he can cover a TE, but is that really what he's best at? On the flip side, we have a saftey that can't cover but is a savage in the box (Whitner). Its almost like a role reversal. Honestly, with Bowman and Willis I really dont think we need a saftey in the box if we had one that can cover. I'd like the Niners to draft a big body cover saftey for the elite TEs and let Willis get back to what made him great, destroying running backs. I think Fangio is wasting our talent, including Aldon.
[ Edited by Oakland-Niner on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:22 PM ]
They have improved in some areas, however keep in mind that the competition has also improved. In addition, the 49er's are NOT going to surprise anybody this year as they did last, therefore it would seem that they have regressed in some areas.

Keep in mind also that they have a tougher schedule than they did last year, the price of being in the playoffs.
IMO its hard to say at this point in the season..do i think we improved in areas ,yes. Did we decline in areas possibly,,but over all the niners are steadily building a team that can compete at a high level year in and year out,,we all went through the hard years.were we couldn't compete.it was rough..Now we can play with any team and are considered one of the elite of the NFL...only time will tell if "we come out better" then we did last year..
We are winning games and overcoming other teams and our own mistakes. Good enough for me.
  • Chico
  • Veteran
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[It's hard to tell if Smith has progressed or regressed. After looking sharp against GB, DET, NYJ, and BUF; his recent performances against NYG and SEA indicate that the confidence and poise that were cornerstones of his turnaround under Harbaugh are waning. He seems to be forcing things (perhaps to keep Kaepernick on the bench) and panicking in the pocket like he had done so often before 2011. The passing game should have been vastly improved with a second year under Harbaugh and co. and a revamped WR corps. Yet it continues to sputter and be inconsistent. Smith's performance in Arizona will certainly be worth monitoring, as it may answer a few questions and foreshadow what's to come down the road.]

This is the year that Smith had no excuses about having a new OC. Not only has he blossomed under Roman but he should have definately gotten better in his second year. I am very dissapointed that he still can't hit the deep ball. This made it east for the Giants to gameplan against us because they dont think AS can beat them deep...so just play the short field and play the run. Who cares if Moss or Kyle get deep, more than likely AS will over throw them!
My opinion is that we are a more dangerous team, but not as consistent because of the special teams. People that think we not significantly better on O are mistaken, we are more aggressive, are converting more 3rd downs, are getting better push in the run game and are more diverse than last year. We are turning it over more, but that has more to do with last year being historically great than being a team that still doesn't protect the ball very well. And we are stretching the field a bit more, which means more highly positive AND highly negative plays. I think the fact that throwing a bit more has helped the running game, but the o-line is clearly better too.

The special teams were also historically great last year and the most instantly noticeable difference. Hopefully this can change - I worry about this more than I worry about Alex personally.

Those saying that we can still be shut down by good defenses are also incorrect. We are running for almost 6.0 ypc on average for the year! This is insane. Even when we are down (unless it is very late in the game and we are down big) we need to stick with the run because nobody has stopped it yet. Not MIN and not NYG, we just stopped running in both games. We ran for 4.5 ypc vs MIN and 4.7 vs the Giants. No team has stopped us from picking up very good yardage on the ground when we stick with it. I am still an Alex supporter, but the fact is a big part of the reason we've lost twice was overpassing early in those games which led to more passing late. Until we lose a game because we refused to quit running even though we aren't having any success, POUND THE ROCK! Do this and we will be better than last year, and will probably win it all.
[ Edited by bpg4980 on Oct 25, 2012 at 3:59 PM ]
  • cciowa
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 26,910
Originally posted by TheRatMan13:
I've been talking about Costanzo since day one. My buddy is a Chicago Bears fan and when I told him about Blake in the offseason he didn't know who he was, now he loves the signing as much as we did last season. I still don't understand why we wouldn't have re-signed him.
cuz he had dixon who was going to be a beast and take his spot
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