Defense wins championships, and there are none better than Robert Saleh's 49er group. With a front four that reminds some of the old Rams' Fearsome Foursome, or for antique 49er fans, the great GOLD RUSH of the early 1970's of Cleveland Elam, Cedrick Hardman, Tommy Hart and Jimmy Webb, there is no doubt that this defense is a Super Bowl contender and can do plenty to mask the offensive deficiencies of this year's team.

Mistakes and blown opportunities have limited this year's offense. The Niners could have had 20 more points against the Rams and have left many points on the field thus far, yet are winning by comfortable margins. Let's face it, the wide receiver position is inconsistent and streaky at best. Drops are prevalent, running the wrong route occurs more than we would like to see, yet each week a different player seems to make a great play or step up when needed. The offensive line has performed well beyond expectations. Weston Richburg, Laken Tomlinson, and Mike Person have stepped up both with their run blocking and pass protection, and despite the loss of Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill have demonstrated how effective Kyle Shanahan's motion offense can be in keeping the defense off balance.

At quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid and effective as a game manager. He still stares down his receiver on occasion and still does not resemble the gunslinger who arrived here two years ago when it comes to self-confidence and field presence, but he is gradually showing improvement, and his confidence appears to be returning. Hopefully, the 49ers can get a couple of blowouts so that Nick Mullens can get some reps that may be needed late in the season in the event of an injury or needed change.

The two most dangerous weapons are George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk; of that, there is no doubt. Kittle is simply the best in the league and a danger to score at any time, as well as a fantastic blocker who steamrolls and pancakes defenders.

Juice's blocking makes the running game function smoothly, and his ability to make the tough reception when needed enable him and Kittle to fill in where wide receivers would otherwise be depended upon.

That takes us to the key to the 49ers offense, the running game. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert were among the top 8 running backs in the league in yards per carry after the first four games, and their explosive speed and power is breathtaking. Breida has been clocked at over 22 mph (fastest in the NFL this season) and Mostert has an incredible 40 time of 4.28. This is the same type of quality running back combination the 49ers had in 1984 with Roger Craig (the bull-like Mostert) and Wendell Tyler (the water bug like Breida). That team went 18-1 and easily won the Super Bowl. Breida and Mostert have much the same chemistry, and their running styles complement one another. They could just as easily have accounted for the four short touchdown runs Shanahan gifted to Jeff Wilson Jr.

One potential problem appeared in the Steelers game -- fumbles. Breida dropped a pass that was intercepted, and Mostert fumbled for the first time in 65 carries, but Shanahan quickly reacted and limited his carries despite the fact both he and Breida rebounded with some excellent second-half runs to seal the win. He had only seven carries vs. the Browns, and against the Rams, Tevin Coleman had 18 carries, Mostert only four. What made the offense so explosive during the first three games was the Mostert/Breida combo. Moving to a more conservative run-up-the-middle type offense is not consistent with the team's explosive potential. If Coleman continues to carry the ball that much, he will wear out very quickly as he took some vicious hits against the Rams and is just coming off an injury. He will be needed as the season progresses.

I think the most difficult task facing Shanahan on the offensive end is to get and keep the right BALANCE between his three backs. We all hate fumbles, but I'd like to remind Kyle that WENDELL TYLER had 13 fumbles for the 1984 championship team. He also made the Pro Bowl and had 1,262 yards rushing, over 200 yards receiving, and seven touchdowns.

The 49ers don't have any byes left and have 11 games to go. I think it will be vital to keep these three backs fresh and healthy, and that places a burden on Shanahan. Now is the time to give Mostert plenty of reps to lighten the load on Coleman and Breida, which will help them all in the long run and allow Mostert's confidence to grow. However, he is dealing with a knee sprain as of this writing, so this makes Kyle's job that much tougher. This is Mostert's first full season as an RB, and he's still learning the position and to believe in himself after so many teams restricted him to special teams only. It will be worth the investment come playoffs. Good luck, Sunday, Kyle, and remember: KEEP THE BALANCE.
  • Gary Mialocq
  • Written by:
    Native of SF. Attended Washington HIgh, CCSF and SF State University. Investor & Startup Business Consultant, Former Juvenile Detention Counselor, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Self-employment Specialist, Real Estate Investor, Genealogist. Senior Pro Golfer.