Every year, the point gets brought up that at least one team that makes the Superbowl has some sort of a hangover. This year, however, it may not be the two teams that met in the Superbowl. The San Francisco 49ers were one of the favorites to win the Superbowl for the past couple years. I even picked them to win it all, and who knows, a little more air on the pass from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree, and it may have proven me right. However, this year so far, they have been hit with injuries and their offense has been far from impressive. The pressure may already be starting to get to them.
So far in the preseason, the 49ers have been outscored 57-3 and the offense just looks completely out of sync. Not only has the offense not scored a touchdown, but the defense also doesn’t look like the typical 49er defense. Last year, starting QB, Colin Kaepernick had a chipped bone in his forefoot and a ruptured capsule in the ball of his foot. Both injuries were sustained in week two, but he never complained or or even brought up the injury, playing and starting every game. He says the injury is gone, but he seems to have passed the injury bug onto his teammates.
Backup RB Kendall Hunter is out for the year. Vernon Davis came into camp, but is unhappy with his contract. Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore, two very important parts to this offense and arguably two of the biggest reasons they made it as far as they did lat year, are both a year older.
Aldon Smith, their star pass rusher looks like he may be facing a 6-8 game suspension. NaVorro Bowman, their #1 tackler last year, will be out at least half the year when he ripped up his knee in the NFC Championship game against Seattle, tearing both his ACL and MCL. They also lost their #1 CB, Carlos Rogers, and their hard hitting Safety, Donte Whitner.
When you add up all of these injuries, suspensions, and missing pieces, it leads to a big hill to climb for a team that has been a top contender for the last 3-4 years, which is usually the time when a good team’s window closes. I am already on record for saying I get the feeling they may have a down year, and in the tough NFC West, probably the best division in the league, much less the entire NFC, winning 10 games may not be enough to make the playoffs. Teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, like the Lions, Bears, Cardinals, and Falcons will all be better than last year. A down year will not be sufficient for the playoffs this year.
After the game this past week, reporters tried to see what they could get out of coach Jim Harbaugh, but he wouldn’t budge. Mostly he was asked about the rumors of them opening the offense, but he said he will not comment on game plans and he cannot predict how many times they plan to throw this year. He did mention that Patrick Willis, who has missed the 1st two preseason games, has been “working through something”, so he didn’t think it was necessary for him to play. He did say, “We want to execute. We want to win. We want to stay healthy. We want to get better as a football team. Those are our goals in the preseason.”
Kaepernick also spoke with the media, and he didn’t seem to be anymore open with the media than Harbaugh. Kaepernick pretty much dismissed preseason games, saying, “Well, we don’t game plan for preseason games, So, you go out, you call plays, and you make the best out of them.” He feels that the team needs to start getting a rhythm. However, one thing Kaepernick did say, regarding the offense passing more, was, “We’ll have the opportunity and the personnel to pass more. Now whether we do or not is going to be decided by game plan and coach’s decision.”
So this year will be very interesting for the San Francisco 49ers. Can they defeat the odds an once again prove to be one of the top three contenders in the sport, or will injuries, age, and just a disconnect of rhythm on both sides of the ball, force this team to start retooling instead of just adding on top? I think the rest of the league is starting to catch up to them, but if they can stay healthy from here on out, and can hold the fort down for the 1st half of the season, they could be charging home strong with Smith and possibly Bowman returning. Their journey starts in less than three weeks, and what a show it should be, enjoy the games.
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