HOW WE GOT HERE:
In late September, with the 49ers showing an exceptional defense, I wrote an article entitled, DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS -- DO THE 49ers MEASURE UP? After only three games, it was very clear that this defense was special, and I went on to compare it to the greatest defense of all-time, the 1984 49ers. Now, after nine games, it is clear that Robert Saleh's defense is right up there, although not quite as deep as George Seifert's 1984 squad.

However, by mid-October, it became evident to me that this season's offense has some serious deficiencies. With the 49ers fanbase flooding the Internet with forecasts of 16-0 and other fantasies, it had become clear that this squad's offense was nowhere near the quality of the offense the 49ers fielded in 1984. In an article on Oct. 17 entitled, OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD KEY TO 49ers FUTURE SUCCESS, I praised the performance of the offensive line at that point, especially the excellent performances of Jason Skule and Daniel Brunskill as replacements for Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey but cautioned that, "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." This inconsistency jumped up to bite the team in the butt, and the many drops cost us the Seattle game.

I praised the REAL strength of the offense, "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 enables both he and Kittle to fill in where wide receivers would otherwise be depended upon".

Little did I realize at the time that both would go down with injuries and that Kittle would remain out for a few games, hurting the strength and depth of the offense a great deal. I cautioned fans that, "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". However, he is nowhere near the quality of Joe Montana in 1984.

That makes the point of that article even more meaningful. With the defense at its peak, the offense was consistently leaving points on the field with fumbles, interceptions, poor route running by the wide receivers, and plenty of drops. I pointed out the importance of the excellent RB combination the 49ers had settled upon: "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 are 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".

However, the worm turned in the game against Cleveland when the Niners fumbled five times early in the game. Kyle Shanahan overreacted, and despite the fact that it was Raheem Mostert's first fumble in 65 carries and that his several excellent second-half runs helped to seal the victory, Kyle reduced his carries to only seven vs. the Browns and four vs. the Rams. Coleman took over the majority of carries and that unique chemistry was broken. I warned that "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 pointed out at the time that, "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".

I continued, "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. 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".

In a poll from a previous article, 69% responded that Raheem Mostert will become the next great 49er RB. The article and poll were written before the Niners steamrolled Cincinnati. Mostert answered our question with 13 carries for 83 yards, with a 15-yard touchdown run called back, and three receptions for 68 yards, including a 39-yard score in which he ran right through two defenders. He accounted for 151 yards from scrimmage and made a hard tackle on special teams to start the game.

Finally, when Matt Breida injured his ankle again against Seattle last week, Mostert was inserted into the game and quickly made several good runs and an excellent first down on a pass reception. It was only because the replay ref blindly called his first-down run short, although he had obviously crossed the first down line that his late-game performance did not result in keeping the 49ers undefeated...Now with Breida out for a game or two, it may actually be a blessing in disguise. Breida has had chronic ankle problems, and Mostert is now under a three-year contract at $1.4 million per year. He is the most dangerous and explosive of the RBs, and it's time to get some return on the team's investment. He's a Pro Bowl type gunner on special teams. Mostert and Coleman may well prove to become a lethal combination, combining Coleman's inside running with Mostert's incredible speed and toughness.

So there we have it. The 49ers sit at 8-1 and will have to continue to rely upon their devastating defense to carry the load. Until and unless the passing game shows some dramatic improvement and receivers stop the "Butterfingers" routine, the team will have to increasingly rely upon the running game, which, as I have pointed out, has declined coincidentally with the decline in carries for Raheem as well as the injuries to Kittle and Juice. It is VITAL to the 49ers' future success to return the running game to its early-season greatness, and that MUST include Mr. Mostert in an important role, preferably as the permanent starter.

There is no doubt that the defense is Super Bowl quality. It very much reminds me of the Baltimore Ravens under Trent Dilfer. If the team is stuck with an inexperienced QB and a second class WR corps, it had better field a first-class running game to make the dream become a reality...or else it's just a pipe dream.

Kyle -- are you listening?



Results of the poll on Terrell Owens getting a 49er tryout:

Should the 49ers give T.O. a serious evaluation?

Yes 89%
No 11%
1,081 votes
  • 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.


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