San Francisco 49ers Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 7?

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterOctober 16, 2012

September 16, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (left) and quarterback Alex Smith (11) look at their play cards during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Did anyone see that coming? I sure didn't. Anything is possible in the NFL and the New York Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, but I would have never thought it would have been a lopsided 26-3 game. Jim Harbaugh's club struggled in just about every area of the game.

Fortunately for the 49ers, a loss equals success the following week. It's rare when a Harbaugh-coached team loses two games in a row. You have to go back to his days at Stanford to find out when that happened last. His weekly adjustments are some of the best in the game.

Case in point—San Francisco's loss to Minnesota in Week 3. Two weeks later, it had just outscored its last two opponents a combined 79-3. Not to mention the fact that it piled 1,000 yards of total offense over that two-week span.

I wouldn't expect a blowout on Thursday Night Football, but I would expect a much-improved showing from both the offense and the defense.


The Good

Even after giving up 342 total yards of offense to the Giants, San Francisco still has the No. 1 defense in the NFL. And whether or not you believe Alex Smith and the offense has caught up with the defense, it's safe to say Vic Fangio's defense is the heart and soul of this team.

Sure, the pass rush and run defense isn't at the level it was last season. But to think the defense has completely fallen off of a cliff is absurd. They are only allowing 275.8 yards of offense a game, and their third-down defense is one of the NFL's best at 35 percent.

NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are still two of the top inside linebackers in the game. Pro Football Focus has them at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively. There is no one who patrols the run game better than Bowman, and there is no inside linebacker that covers as well as Willis. He already has a couple pass deflections and one interception.

The 49ers defense has also seen improvement from safety Dashon Goldson and linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Both players are on pace for career years despite the couple of underwhelming team performances.

Regardless, for those that think the sky is falling on San Fran's defense, let's be realistic. It is still the backbone of the 49ers. This team will only go as far as its defense takes it.


The Bad

Yesterday, I touched on Justin Smith's and Aldon Smith's disappearing pass rush, so I won't beat a dead horse. Yet, the run defense in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game was a bit concerning.

The Giants only ran the ball 11 times in the first half, but then totally shifted gears in the second half. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride called 24 run plays if you exclude kneel downs. At one point in the fourth quarter, New York ran the ball on 12 consecutive plays.

I realize it was because they were ahead by double-digits. But if you're one of the best run defenses over the past two years, don't you think you could stop the run if you know it's coming? It was easy to see the defense was gassed by games end. They were on the field for almost five minutes longer than the Giants defense.

After re-watching the game a couple of times, I noticed that nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and Aldon Smith were two of the biggest culprits. Sunday's game was probably the worst outing all season long for both players. David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 5.5 yards per carry when running right at Sopoaga.

Until now, no team had ran for 149 yards since Mike Singletary was head coach. However, as I mentioned above, the defense will be just fine. The run defense is concerning right now because of two bad games in three weeks. Once it strings together a few stout performances again, no one will even remember.


Stock Watch 

Rising: Randy Moss

Even though Randy Moss only played 17 snaps on offense, his performance might put him in the running for more snaps. He caught two passes on three targets and registered a season-best 75 yards through the air. Also, his 55-yard catch was San Francisco's longest pass play of the season.  


Falling: Alex Smith

A three-interception performance will surely help you find your way on this list. Alex Smith's three-pick game was only the second of his career and first since 2009. On 16 of his 36 dropbacks, Smith was under pressure. His quarterback rating while under pressure was an abysmal 25.0. Two of those three interceptions also came while under duress.   


Rising: Carlos Rogers

Carlos Rogers was on this same list last week, but it was under the falling category. Lucky for him, he had a big bounce-back game against Eli Manning. Manning targeted Rogers nine times, but only completed four passes. He did allow a touchdown to Victor Cruz, yet overall, Cruz only averaged 3.4 yards per catch against him.


Falling: Aldon Smith

For the second straight week, Aldon Smith has laid an egg. Over the past two games, he only has a total of three quarterback pressures, and running backs are averaging 4.5 yards per carry when running right at him. After two strong games against the run to open the season, his play has fallen off.


The Outlook Heading Into Week 7

Even with Seattle winning two straight games and it coming off of its biggest victory under Pete Carroll, this is a matchup the 49ers should dominate. Seattle's passing attack has been inconsistent from week to week, and it hasn't shown the ability to score a lot of points.

Only twice this season has it scored over 20 points in a game. It did it Week 2 against Dallas and then again last week against New England. If Greg Roman can get his offense back on track, the Seahawks won't be able to keep pace.

Losing two games in a row under Coach Harbaugh just doesn't happen. It hasn't happened yet, and you know there's no way he will let it happen this week. Harbaugh and Pete Carroll go way back—they will be gunning for each other. Just like they used to do at USC and Stanford.




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