Photo by Kelley L Cox of USA Today Sports

Photo by Kelley L Cox of USA Today Sports

Optimist vs. Pessimist: Two views of the 49ers’ season so far

Nov 12, 2013 at 9:59 AM4

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After the team's 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, fans are looking at the 49ers season in one of two ways. One of those ways is as an optimist. It's just one loss and there is a lot of football left to play. The other is as a pessimist and viewing this as a mess of a season for the 49ers. Let's take a look at both views and when we are done, feel free to share your view of the season by leaving a comment below.

The optimistic 49ers fan

Sunday's loss was to a very good Carolina Panthers team who had already won four in a row. Heading into the game, the Panthers had the 2nd best defense in the league. They were 2nd against the run and 4th against the pass. They possess one of the best front seven in the NFL and accomplished a lot against an already struggling passing attack, keeping the 49ers offense out of the end zone and sacking Colin Kaepernick seven times. The Panthers offense had scored 30 or more points in each of their previous four games and their defense had not allowed more than 15 points in any of those contests. The Panthers were a formidable opponent.

The 49ers defense only allowed 10 points to a surging Panthers offense and held quarterback Cam Newton to a mere 169 yards passing, a 50% completion percentage, no touchdowns, an interception, and sacked him 4 times. It was a great performance against a quarterback who had averaged 229 yards passing, a 72.3% completion percentage, 7 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions in his previous four outings.

While wide receiver Mario Manningham returned to the 49ers on Sunday, the team lost some key players during the defensive battle with the Panthers. Tight end Vernon Davis and safety Eric Reid were both knocked out of the game with concussions. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald, a key player in the 49ers defensive front, also left the game with an ankle injury. Other injuries included left guard Mike Iupati, who would return to the game, and tight end Garrett Celek who suffered a hamstring injury.

These injuries coupled with wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who remains sidelined after an Achilles injury during the offseason, left the 49ers far from complete against the Panthers and they still only lost by one point. They are only 2.5 games behind the Seattle Seahawks, who still have the Saints at home and a road game against the 49ers on their schedule. So the division is not completely out of the question yet.

The Panthers, now 6-3, are proving to be one of the hotter teams in the NFC. They are not only in control of their wildcard playoff destiny, but even have the New Orleans Saints looking over their shoulders in the NFC South race and the race to the number two playoff seed in the NFC.

The pessimistic 49ers fan

The Carolina Panthers started the season 1-3, losing to Seattle, Buffalo, and Arizona. After that, they won four straight before facing the 49ers. However, those four wins came against Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta. Not exactly elite competition. Had the 49ers been an elite opponent, this matchup should not have been close.

The loss to Carolina raises a lot of questions about the 49ers. The 49ers passing attack ranks dead last in the league. The last victory against a quality team was during week one, when the 49ers squeaked by the Green Bay Packers 34-28. In fact four of their wins came against teams that are .500 or under. When facing teams over .500, the 49ers are a mediocre 2-3. One of those victories was against Arizona, who did not rise above .500 until this past weekend when they defeated the Houston Texans by 3.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was a big part of the 49ers' Super Bowl run last season, has been absolutely abysmal since week one. His predecessor is now leading the Kansas City Chiefs, who are the only undefeated team left in the NFL. One has to wonder if Kaepernick would be performing better if he were looking over his shoulder at someone like Alex Smith rather than Colt McCoy and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

During the 49ers' week one battle against Green Bay, Kaepernick passed for 412 yards, a 69.2% completion percentage, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Since then he has averaged almost 158 yards per game, never passing for more than 252 yards. His completion percentage has been 53.6% and he has thrown 6 touchdowns and the same number of interceptions.

According to Pro Football Focus, Kaepernick was pressured on 10 of his drop backs against Panthers. He did not complete a pass on any of them. He scrambled once, threw two incompletions, was intercepted once, and sacked six times.

Seattle leads the 49ers by 2.5 games and four of their final six games are at home, where they are nearly impossible to beat. They could easily run away with the division if the 49ers stumble again. At this point, Seattle has to be the favorite to win the NFC West leaving the 49ers fighting for a wildcard spot and starting the playoffs on the road -- should they make it. If Seattle wins home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, it will be nearly impossible for any team -- including the 49ers -- to knock them out of the postseason.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Gonzola
    The 49ers have ELITE players, but the coaching staff is nothing less than disorganized and simple. Ever wonder why there are so many timeouts wasted to stop the clock thus avoiding delay of game penalties? Can't blame crowd noise for all of those. Also can't blame anything other than the offensive play calling and lack of consistency on anyone or anything other than Greg Roman and the coaching staff. Me thinks perhaps the 49ers have sold their soul and the NFL is more "fixed" than most of us want to believe. Perhaps we lose close games only to be vindicated by winning Superbowl L? I wonder. Sounds like a familiar story line - anyone remember the Bucs who could not win a game to save their life instantly winning the Superbowl once the new stadium came online?! Hmmmmmm. I wonder? Are we in a holding pattern by NFL design? Was there any doubt the Ravens were going to win last years Superbowl the way the NFL was hyping them? The 49ers need to buck the trend, refuse sleazy NFL nonsense, give the bookmakers back their money/support, and play football. Eternal optimist in a pessimistic, crooked world. GO NINERS!
    Nov 13, 2013 at 9:44 AM
  • VegasNiner
    Both views are extreme. But I tend to side with the pessimist. Sure, the injuries hurt, but will the offense "explode" once everyone, including crabtree, return?? Probably not. See? Pessimist.
    Nov 12, 2013 at 10:56 PM
  • Greg DaMota
    I guess that makes me an optimist in a pessimistic world. For many reasons. Big one would be we lost three starters in the game on top a backup TE (Snyder had to play TE for crying out loud), were still awaiting the return of our no. 1 receiver and Aldon Smith played a mere 11 snaps. Now our defense was pretty fierce in this matchup but only using our top pass rusher 11 times in a matchup with a QB like Newton is not smart. Our special teams lacked alot of the fire i had in the previous games, I have to believe thats due to benching osgood for this game, and our returners trying to hard to be heroes. I agree with Harbaughs route of blaming the offense as a whole and when I say as a whole I mean from the coordinater all the way down to the last string players. The play calling was bland, the decision making was not what we had seen in the last 5 weeks, and Kap was terrible under pressure, and if you remember previously he was one of the best ranking qbs against pressure. This game was an epic fail on behalf of half of the team but there are logical explenations. Oh no were behind Seattle 2.5 games, there is still 7 games left in the season and alot can change. Dont lose the faith..
    Nov 12, 2013 at 11:41 AM
  • AJ Dembroski
    Color me pessimistic. The 49ers are not an elite team this year. The losses in the receiving corps are a big part of that, but a season's worth of film on Kaep is a bigger one. He's simply not a franchise QB. I was saying this when he was handed the starting job, but I have to admit, I allowed myself to believe during the Superbowl run. I still think he's got potential, but he's not close to there yet. His footwork his atrocious, his accuracy can be great at times but is very inconsistent, and he doesn't handle pressure well. The offensive line, often touted as the best in football, can't seem to put four quarters together. I do think the team improves substantially once Manningham, Davis, Crabtree, and Boldin can all be on the field, but I think that's mitigated by the fact that the team's best 11 is 21 personnel, not 11. The main reason Alex Smith's presence made them a better team than Kaep's is the coaching staff's tendency to stick with the team's strengths under Smith rather than trying to artificially open things up just because Kaep's got a bigger arm. Kaep's a "better" QB than Smith, but he isn't as good at what Smith does (being safe and efficient).
    Nov 12, 2013 at 11:16 AM

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