Michael Crabtree, Jason Hill, Vernon Davis, Chilo Rachal, and Nate Byham on the sidelines... apparently not in a game that they won.
Midway through the season, the 49ers find themselves at an unfathomable 2-6, and at the bottom of the NFC West. Many have high hopes that they will turn it around. Frankly, that wouldn't surprise me. However, the team has some serious issues that it needs to overcome if this is to be the case.
Last season, the 49ers won only three games outside of the division. If they're aiming to equal last year, they've won two of those three already. Of the eight games remaining, five of them represent divisional matchups that were won by the team last year.
This week's showdown at home against the St. Louis Rams will shine more light on what the 49ers might-or-might not be able to accomplish this season in relation to last year. If the 49ers lose to the Rams at home, there is a good chance they will also lose on the road, which puts the team at 8-8 for the year as a best case scenario.
With the team coming off of a bye week, it will have had a chance to really look at areas that it needs to improve upon. Hopefully the collective team, coaching staff included, will rise to the occasion.
The 49ers have remaining home games against the Rams, Buccaneers, Seahawks,and Cardinals, and away games against the Cardinals, Packers, Chargers, and Rams. With the level of competitiveness the 49ers have shown in several games, most of these are achievable wins. But depending on which team shows up, all of them potential losses.
Olindo Mare kicks a field goal against SF in the opener
I keep hearing the optimistic fans saying that San Francisco will finish strong because it has five games in the weak NFC West. That is the NFC West that the 49ers are 0-1 in and currently at the bottom of.
While no team in the NFC West currently has a record capable of garnering them a sentence of praise, the 49ers have lost their only inter-division matchup in blowout fashion. The 49ers lost the same game last year, and swept the rest of the divisional games. But dare I say that last year's team was playing better than this year's?
Last season, the 49ers defeated the Rams 35-0 at home and 28-6 in St. Louis. It is a far stretch to say they will win in that fashion on Sunday. The Rams have already won more games this year than they did all of last year. Sam Bradford is having a relatively good rookie season, and appears to be the leader of a Rams team that is determined to finish significantly better than the 3-13 mark they had a year ago.
Last season, the 49ers only loss within the division was a 20-17 letdown in Seattle. This year, that is the only division contest that has been played, with them losing in a far less competitive fashion with a final score of 31-6.
At this point, I think there is firm ground to stand on to say that 49ers fans shouldn't worry about playing games against NFC West opponents. However, the outcome of this matchup will deliver a base for comparison.
Troy Smith scores on a bootleg against the Broncos in London
This was supposed to be Alex Smith's year. Then along came Troy Smith. For now, Troy Smith is the starter, with a caveat to "not count out Alex Smith yet". My guess is that few fans are heeding this advice at this point. Alex's record as a starter entering Week 10 is 1-6, Troy's is 1-0. That is hardly comparable considering that Troy Smith prepared for his start with one week notice, while Alex has had the entire offseason.
At this point, Mike Singletary is in for some controversy over this situation no matter how he handles it. If he picks Troy Smith to start after Alex heals, and he succeeds, the question will be posed why he didn't wait to give all players a chance sooner.
If he's wrong about Troy, he will take heat for not getting Carr off the team and promoting Nate Davis back into the lineup.
Regardless of the outcome with Alex back in the starting lineup, if he succeeds for the rest of the year, it will not remove the label of inconsistent.
49ers OC Mike Johnson
I say adjustment, but what I really mean is improvement by applying common sense with a dash of ingenuity. The 49ers offensive play calling has not risen to the occasion and utilized the potential of star players. Is it toned down to accommodate Alex Smith? Is Mike Johnson just a puppet continuing in the Jimmy Raye ways of doing what Singletary tells him to do? Time will tell.
I am going to leave it at this, because I think every 49ers fan knows exactly what I'm talking about here.
The 49ers defense is severely underachieving, and I think a lot of blame goes to the schemes. The soft zone defense that the 49ers consistently play leaves opposing offenses known ways that they can consistently gain small chunks of yardage. It also makes the 49ers extremely vulnerable to screens and the short passing game.
San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky needs to read the writing on the wall and change up his defense a little bit. With the caliber of personnel he has, the 49ers are well behind the defensive statistics they posted last year, both in rushing and on the scoreboard. The latter is obviously where it counts most.
Brian Westbrook on one of his few touches this season
Troy Smith obviously stood out in the Week 8 win against Denver, but so did Delanie Walker. Walker's five catches for 85 yards against the Broncos nearly exceeded his prior production all season. Furthermore, Vernon Davis was not in for most of the game, which is usually his counterpart in helping create mismatches.
In London, the 49ers tested Troy Smith's deep ball early to see if opening up the playbook was warranted. But his throw was errant enough that the coaching staff decided to stick with safe plays. That may change after a bye week with some time to work with his receivers on some deep routes.
Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon have been on the sidelines for most of the season. When Brian Westbook came to San Francisco, I think he knew he would have a backseat to Frank Gore. However, I don't think he realized that meant the backseat on a school bus.
Nate Clements's turnover to the Falcons lost the game.
This perhaps speaks louder than anything. Several individual miscues have cost the 49ers dearly. I'm not a big fan of saying that, if one play in the second quarter happened differently, the outcome of the game would be different. If the game is different, the play-calling is different.
That being said, if Nate Clements took his fourth quarter interception out of bounds with under two minutes to go, the 49ers could have won in the victory formation against the Atlanta Falcons, who are currently the top seed in the NFC.
Phillip Adams had a key fumbled punt in a close, hard-fought Monday night game against the Saints.
The list goes on, but in general, the 49ers need to avoid these mental errors and individual mistakes to have a chance to finish strong.