What We've Learned About San Francisco 49ers Through 3 Games
If you told me before the season started that the San Francisco 49ers would lose consecutive games by a combined score of 56-10, I would snort in derision and throw my arms in the air, exhausted by your constant tomfoolery (H/T to Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory).
Albeit, the 49ers last two losses were far closer than the score indicated.
Nevertheless, the 49ers currently stand at 1-2 with a short turnaround game against Sam Bradford and his St. Louis Rams (1-2) this Thursday night. The double whammy is that the 49ers have to travel to St. Louis on a short week.
Is this end of the San Francisco 49ers? Of course, if you were to ask me that question, I would just point to Sheldon's beloved quote above.
Look, are the 49ers struggling? Absolutely.
The 49ers will be fine; however, the Niners do have some issues to fix if they intend to compete for a championship this season.
Let's get started!
Offensive Line Is Struggling
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Statistically speaking, the 49ers offensive line is about middle of the pack three games into the season. However, if you watched this line thus far, statistics don't tell the whole story.
This line can struggle pass protecting at times, but it is troubling to witness opposing teams overpowering this front five. The opposite usually happens.
The 49ers rank No. 18 in rushing yards, a far cry from the top five rushing attack they exhibited last season. Of course, some of this can be attributed to the play calling, which I'll get into a bit later.
Against the Seahawks, this front five for the 49ers played its worst football since a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Baltimore Ravens last season. If you don't remember, the 49ers offensive line gave up nine sacks that night.
The Seahawks defensive front seven dominated the 49ers offensive line at every turn. This wasn't a fluky day for the Seahawks. Their front seven just overpowered the 49ers hogs up front.
It was simple football, and the Seahawks beat the 49ers at their own game. If the 49ers improve upon their 1-2 record, it will have to start up front in the trenches.
Despite facing a tough front seven in the Rams this Thursday night, the 49ers will have their opportunities in the run game. In their loss to the Dallas Cowboys, DeMarco Murray ran roughshod on this Rams defense.
Young and Inexperienced Receivers
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
This isn't a secret, but the biggest weakness on this team is playmakers at the wide receiver position or lack thereof.
Anquan Boldin was a fantastic pickup by GM Trent Baalke, but it seems the veteran receiver is struggling without a consistent complement on the other side. The eye test says it all, but if you want some statistic proof, I have several alarming stats.
Against the Indianapolis Colts, Anquan Boldin was the only receiver at halftime to record a reception. Anquan Boldin has caught almost half of Kaepernick's 53 completions thus far in the season. Anquan Boldin can juggle three footballs, while also doing the salsa.
The last stat might be false, but the first two are pure facts.
Simply put, the 49ers receivers struggle to create separation. Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton have little game experience, Jonathan Baldwin has yet to see major playing time and Kyle Williams seems to be inhabiting another planet right now.
The 49ers miss both Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. While I'm still not 100 percent sure if Crabtree will return this season, I think it's safe to say Manningham will reappear as a starter when he comes off the PUP list in three weeks.
Lack of Adjustments
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
I still firmly believe that the 49ers have one of the best coaching staffs in the National Football League. However, if you watched the last two 49ers losses, it seems opposing teams are catching up to this all-star staff.
After being out coached against Pete Carroll and company in Seattle, Jim Harbaugh and his staff looked embarrassing against his former quarterback, Andrew Luck.
The excuse against the Seahawks was "home cooking" for Seattle, but what about this 27-7 defeat in Candlestick Park? This 49ers team was nearly unstoppable at home the last two seasons, but against the Colts, they looked tired, unprepared and undisciplined.
Even worse, OC Greg Roman decided to abandon the running game in the second half of a close game after telling everyone in the media that they need to emphasize Frank Gore and company against the Colts.
After a solid seven carries in the first half, Gore received four touches in the second half of the 49ers loss to the Colts.
Greg Roman will be a fantastic head coaching prospect in the near future, but his play-calling ability at times is baffling.
If the 49ers are to escape St. Louis with a win, the coaching staff must get this team to play more inspired ball. Pathetic effort by the 49ers in the last two games.
Fixation on the Passing Game
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Colin Kaepernick will be a superstar in this league, but why rush the young quarterback? I'm sure Jim Harbaugh has high hopes for his prodigy, but Kaepernick seemed overwhelmed and antsy in the last two losses.
In these first three games, the 49ers are throwing the ball over 31 times a game. Last season, the 49ers threw the ball a shade over 27 times a game. That's an increase by over four attempts.
In these first three games, the 49ers are averaging a shade under 26 rushing attempts on the ground. Last season, the 49ers averaged nearly 31 rushing attempts on the ground.
Do you see the gap?
The 49ers are built to run the ball, but it seems this offense is fixated on proving that they can sling the ball with the best of them.
While many would salivate at thought of having a passing offense similar to the Packers or New Orleans Saints, the 49ers are more dangerous when they have a more balanced approach. The 49ers have been anything but balanced to start this season.
According to Kevin Lynch, Frank Gore was angry at Jim Harbaugh at the end of the 49ers 27-7 loss to the Colts. Should we be surprised, especially since this was still a one-possession game in the fourth quarter?
Stopping the Run
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers are ranked No. 29 against the run thus far in the season. No. 29? You read that statistic right. In all fairness, the 49ers are only allowing 3.9 ypc; however, they are also giving up a ghastly average of 138 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, the past is creeping back into the present. Against both Lynch and Bradshaw in the last two games, the 49ers have given up over 190 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.
Even worse, the 49ers have given up six rushing touchdowns in just three games. They gave up seven rushing touchdowns all last season in 2012. In 2011, they only gave up three rushing touchdowns.
Yes, the 49ers are giving up a respectable 3.9 ypc, but opposing teams are having too much success on the ground and in the end zone.
The loss of nose tackle Ian Williams will hurt this 49ers defense up the middle. Glenn Dorsey is a solid player, but he doesn't get the same push up the middle like Williams. Dorsey is more of a bit player in this 49ers front.
Ian Williams was put on IR after suffering a broken ankle against the Seahawks in Week 2.