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The 49ers' hopes were dashed by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship.
In many ways, the 2013 49ers mirrored the same 49ers teams of the past two years—an elite defense supplemented by a somewhat-conservative, run-based offense that was good enough to win games without necessarily dominating.
Let us take a look at the numbers.
San Francisco finished their 2013 campaign with a 12-4 record, second in the NFC West and another trip to the postseason, ending with a third consecutive appearance in the NFC Championship.
The 49ers defense, so dominant in recent years, ranked third in the NFL in points allowed (17.0 per game) and gave up 1,535 rushing yards, good for fourth. The secondary, once questioned in years prior, actually performed well in 2013. San Francisco gave up the seventh-fewest passing yards (3,536) this season while allowing only 19 passing touchdowns.
San Francisco's defense also generated 30 turnovers.
Beyond the numbers lay additional stories within the 49ers' vaunted defense. Temporary losses to players like Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis were offset by both depth and talent, assets that should help the defense maintain its level of play going forward.
While rookie Eric Reid justified San Francisco's moving up to draft him in the first round of the 2013 draft, it was linebacker NaVorro Bowman who earned the title of the 49ers' best defensive player.
Bowman, who was considered by some worthy of receiving NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors, highlighted San Francisco's defensive fortitude before suffering a horrendous knee injury in the NFC Championship.
The offense however...
That was a much different story.
We shall forget, for a moment, running back Frank Gore who, at 30 years old, proved he still has gas in the tank.
Instead, we shall focus on San Francisco's 30th-ranked passing game.
Wherein does that blame lay?
There are those who would argue that offensive coordinator Greg Roman should bear the brunt of the blame. Clearly, he does have some faults—some of which were pointed out by San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami.
In a results-based league, highlighted by the current emphasis on a having a strong aerial attack, San Francisco's lowly passing game must be addressed this offseason.
More on Roman and the coaching staff later.
Other portions of the blame could be placed on the maturation of quarterback Colin Kaepernick who, despite not having played two full seasons at the NFL level, still received plenty of criticism, especially around the midway point of the season, as described by Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
The loss of wide receiver Michael Crabtree for the first 11 games of the season, paired with a lack of receiving depth, also hindered San Francisco's passing offense.
Yet the 49ers were able to supplement the lackluster passing offense with a potent running game—ranking No. 3 in the NFL in total yards rushing during the season.
There were a number of games in which the running game carried the offense and, thanks to San Francisco's dominant defense, the combination of the two were enough to ensure the 49ers getting a 12-4 record and a wild-card berth.
While impressive, that record was not enough to secure the division crown nor earn a first-round bye in the postseason.
In spite of impressive playoff victories against both the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers on the road, the 49ers were unable to continue the streak against their chief rival, the Seattle Seahawks.