The San Francisco 49ers’ season didn’t start the way the team had hoped it would. After a Week 1 win over the Green Bay Packers, head coach Jim Harbaugh and Co. fell into a rut against the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts.
Defensively, the Niners couldn’t force turnovers and get off the field on third down. And offensively, their passing attack looked dismal. Outside of Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin, third-year signal-caller Colin Kaepernick had trouble finding a consistent pass-catching option during that two-game stretch.
Tight end Vernon Davis had a nagging hamstring injury, and wide receivers Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore, Quinton Patton, Jon Baldwin and Kassim Osgood failed to separate from opposing defensive backs. This, in turn, meant the Seahawks and Colts zeroed in on the 49ers ground game, which ultimately left San Francisco’s offense hapless for the better part of eight quarters.
Adjustments needed to be made in the worst way if the Niners wanted to avoid a three-game skid. Lo and behold, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio both stepped up to the plate in response to a two-game losing streak. Over the course of the last three weeks, this team has seemingly hit an unprecedented groove on offense.
49ers scored 7 points vs. Indy when Vernon Davis was out w/a sore hamstring Sept 22. Since he's been back, they've scored 35, 34 and now 32.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) October 14, 2013
Roman’s unit is averaging 3.6 touchdowns per game, 181.6 yards rushing and 165.3 yards through the air. Sure, the passing totals are a bit low, but that’s OK because it means the 49ers are back to doing what they do best, pounding the rock and controlling the clock.
Moreover, San Francisco’s offense is limiting its mistakes by taking care of the football. Through three games versus the St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals, the Niners only turned the ball over four times. Of the four turnovers, three of them were fumbles and one was an interception.
However, the biggest storyline in regard to the 49ers offense has been the re-emergence of Kaepernick. Despite not being where he was statistically at the end of the 2012 season, Kaep has done everything in his power to shake off an early-season slump. In addition to an improved rushing attack, Davis’ return to full health has been a shot in the arm.
Ever since the St. Louis game, Davis has been an absolute monster. Neither the Texans nor the Cardinals had an answer for the 250-pound receiving target. In Weeks 5 and 6, he combined for 268 yards receiving on 11 receptions. Additionally, he added three touchdowns and two backbreaking catches of 64 and 61 yards, respectively.
His back-to-back 60-yard-plus touchdown receptions in consecutive games was the first time a tight end had accomplished such a feat since 1969, according to Taylor Price of 49ers.com. Furthermore, Davis’ 180-yard showing was the third-best outing from a tight end in the past 20 years, via Bill Williamson of ESPN.com.
It’s evident that Kaepernick is only going to get better as the season progresses. When you take the time to fast-forward to the end of November, you realize wide receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree will both be healthy and back in the lineup.
Once this happens, the 49ers will remind us that they are a very dangerous team offensively. As it stands right now, they are still dangerous thanks in large part to the ground game, Boldin and Davis. But as the great Frank Sinatra once sang, “The best is yet to come.”
Come November, there’s no question San Francisco will be singing. In the meantime, the Niners will have to stick to their current plan of attack. And by no means is that a bad thing. Adverse times for good teams early on in the season often make teams more potent down the stretch.
Adversity also teaches young players like Kaepernick invaluable lessons. Let’s not forget, unfortunate situations weren’t exactly thrown in Kaep’s face during the 2012 season. From the moment he took over under center, he took the league by storm.
Yes, there were a couple of top-notch teams that caused some growing pains, but overall opposing defenses failed to answer the call when matched up against the first-year starter. At 4-2, Kaepernick and the 49ers offense are starting to hit their stride.
After this week’s win over the Cardinals, San Francisco’s schedule from here on out gets a whole lot easier. From now until Week 13, the organization plays one team with a winning record. Aside from their game with the New Orleans Saints, the Niners square off against the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins and the Rams.
No game is a guaranteed win in the NFL, yet one has to think the Niners will be favored more often than not. The Seahawks are the class of the NFC and the NFC West, but we all know things can quickly change overnight, which is exactly why it’s a good time to be the 49ers. This team is starting to get healthy by the week, and the coaching staff appears to finally be on the same page as the players.
Undoubtedly, things are on the up and up in the Bay Area.