San Francisco 49ers Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 8?

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San Francisco 49ers Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 8?
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Did anyone really expect a different outcome from last weeks game? Any team who has had to go on the road on Thursday night has struggled mightily. Couple that with the fact San Francisco had just suffered a defeat to the reigning Super Bowl champions, and you knew there was no way Jim Harbaugh was going to let his club fall to Pete Carroll's Seahawks.

The 49ers victory on Thursday Night Football moved them to 5-2 with an 11-day layover until their next battle. San Fran will take their No. 1 defense in the University of Phoenix Stadium for Monday Night Football.

Even though Arizona has been reeling as of late, they are a very dangerous football team at home. Three of its four wins have come at home. Not to mention the Cards are averaging 21 points a game at home and only 12 points per game on the road.

That stat right there proves they are a completely different team when they don't have to leave the state of Arizona. But the Cardinals will only go as far as their offense takes them. That's the only unit currently holding this team back. 

With that, let's take a look at where things stand for the 49ers as they prepare to take on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.

 

The Good

There was plenty of good to take away from Thursday night's contest. It would be easy to make a case for Vic Fangio's pass rush, or even Frank Gore and the backfield. But I'm going to have to tip my hat to Coach Harbaugh's offensive line.

Seattle came into the game as the second best team against the run. They were only allowing 70.8 yards per game, yet that didn't seem to phase San Francisco upfront. They steamrolled their way to 175 yards on 32 carries.

No team had abused the Seahawks' defensive line the way the 49ers did. According to Pro Football Focus, all five members of the offensive line received positive run blocking grades. Even Vernon Davis dominated as he earned himself a plus-1.1 grade. As a unit, their plus-13.9 grade was the highest mark they had received all-season long.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

However, there is no one who deserves more praise than left tackle Joe Staley. Staley had suffered a concussion four days before playing in Thursday nights game. I honestly didn't think he would be able to go because of the short turnaround. And now players need to be cleared by independent doctors, so the process is a lot more stiff than it used to be.

Not only did Staley play—he played better than anyone else did along the offensive line. PFF had him graded out as the best run blocking lineman for San Francisco. He received a plus-3.6 grade, one tenth higher than center Jonathan Goodwin. Remarkable to bounce back from a concussion that quickly and still be at the top of your game.

This week No. 74 will have his hands full as he takes on Sam Acho and Calais Campbell.

 

The Bad

The 49ers played a really strong game in all three phases. Sure, the air attack could have been a little bit better, but against Seattle's secondary it's not expected. As I mentioned above the ground game was cranked up and the pass rush was in full force. The only area that really fell flat on its face was Fangio's run defense.

Even though this area of the 49ers hasn't been as strong as it was last year, it still has been a top 10 caliber unit. Unfortunately, they didn't show that they were very stout at the point of attack Thursday night. San Francisco's front seven got pushed around by Max Unger and Breno Giacomini

By games end, Marshawn Lynch had pounded out 103 yards on 19 carries. The Seahawks five ball carriers combined for 139 yards, while averaging 4.7 yards a crack. Given the fact the Niners defense is only allowing 3.8 yards per attempt, that is incredibly impressive on the road.

So fans may be wondering, what happened? Patrick Willis and Isaac Sopoaga apparently took the night off—that's what happened.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The Seahawks' backfield gashed San Francisco up the gut. Anytime Lynch ran off of Unger's backside they picked up big yardage. He averaged 6.7 yards a pop when running between the center and left guard. And he averaged 6.8 yards per carry when running between the center and right guard.

There's no question as to why Lynch had nine carries right up the middle. Sopoaga was getting washed away with ease and Willis wasn't always filling the right hole. It's pretty rare to see the All-Pro linebacker have an off night in that regard.

Over the long layover he will need to get a things ironed out. Arizona's backfield has eclipsed the century mark two weeks in a row.

 

Stock Watch

Rising: Jonathan Goodwin

After a so-so game in Week 6, Goodwin bounced back in a big way. Greg Roman's inside trap and zone plays worked to absolute perfection. The second-level blocks were there all night long and San Francisco averaged 15.8 yards per carry right up the middle of the field.

 

Falling: Alex Smith

For the second week in a row, Smith's decision making was sub par and his throws were no where near razor sharp. This week will prove to another strong test against Ray Horton's stingy defense. Patrick Peterson is playing at a high-level along with Adrian Wilson and Jamell Fleming. 


Rising: Chris Culliver

Like Goodwin, Chris Culliver had a rough outing in Week 6. Yet all it took was one strong week of play to turn things around. Culliver only played 29 snaps, but during his time on the field he deflected two passes and allowed a measly two receptions on six targets. Russell Wilson's quarterback rating when throwing in his direction was 42.4.

 

Falling: Isaac Sopoaga

In back-to-back weeks Sopoaga has gotten manhandled by interior offensive linemen. Two weeks ago David Baas and Chris Snee dominated him. Now this past week Unger and both of the Seahawks' offensive guards had their way with No. 90. At some point do the 49ers need to think about starting Ricky Jean-Francois at nose tackle?

 

The Outlook Heading Into Week 8

San Francisco should win Monday nights game without too many restraints. Yet playing on the road at the University of Phoenix Stadium is never easy. They are 3-3 since since the stadium opened in 2006. The all-time series is pretty close as well, Coach Harbaugh's club has a 24-17 edge.

The 49ers will need to pound the rock time after time because Arizona is coming off of a really poor performance against Adrian Peterson. Peterson is never an easy matchup, but much like the Seattle game—the inside traps and zone plays should be there all game long. Campbell and Darnell Dockett have really been sliding the past couple weeks.

Harbaugh's head-to-head record against Ken Whisenhunt is 1-1.



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